• The Exchange

Alone in the Dark

By Anne Cosper


I once heard someone refer to the Lascaux cave painters as “Deviants, deviants, scribbling on cave walls, alone in the dark . . .” I had to wonder how he failed to see the fluid brush strokes of galloping horses, the colors, golden and earthy, and the hands – all those hands, looking so fresh, as if they were airbrushed last week.

It’s the hands that get me every time. There is something so very human about the need to be remembered. I lived. I mattered. Here’s my story. Here’s the proof.


Image from Wikipedia

German artist Albrecht Durer (1471-1525) signed his works with the letter “D” inside a larger letter “A”, an early use of a logo as signature and the subject of conversation with North Central Secure Treatment Unit students working on art projects. NCSTU is a maximum-security unit and a recent addition to the Art Cart venues. Durer and calligraphy, as topics, came to us in a roundabout way. The students, young men ages sixteen to twenty years old, were creating posters depicting historical decades. Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, and Malcolm X were there along with symbols and graffiti-style lettering. Calligraphy entered the mix when one of the teachers found two sets of special markers. The chisel-tipped pens led to discussions about fonts, typefaces, and logos; future lesson ideas; and some very elegant lettering created by the young people.


An example of Durer's signature

My students’ interest in calligraphy shouldn’t seem so surprising. If you look closely, you can see past graffiti tags, advertisements, and German Renaissance artists all the way to the caverns of Lascaux. There is something heartbreaking about our need to be recognized and remembered; perhaps we are all “deviants” scribbling on our respective cave walls, but I prefer the word “human.”


Anne’s own initials in the style of Durer:



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