Kasoundra Kasoundra, The New York Artist Who Loved Leonard Cohen

Guy Minnebach came across the above illustration in the Oct 1968 edition of an underground newspaper, Other Scenes: The International Newspaper (Vol. 1, No. 7), and his online research identified the artist as Kasoundra Kasoundra. Unfortunately, we haven’t discovered more about the illustration itself. Guy notes the similarities between Cohen’s portrait in the illustration and the well known John Max photo published in Is the World (or Anybody) Ready for Leonard Cohen? by Jon Ruddy (Maclean’s, October 1966). View the photo at this link.

I was able, however, to unearth information about the artist and her affection for Leonard Cohen that merits sharing.

Kasoundra Kasoundra: The Artist

Kasoundra Kasoundra has, in fact, been in the news recently. This excerpt from Kasoundra Kasoundra, a December 11, 2014 guest post by Romy Ashby at Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, summarizes the plight of the artist:

Her [Kasoundra Kasoundra’s] story is particularly frightening because, having been swept into a vortex of legal and bureaucratic incompetence and indifference, she not only lost her apartment, her pets and her belongings, but she lost her very freedom as well.

Ashby presents the tragedy in detail, as does The trials of collage artist Kasoundra Kasoundra (The Villager: April 16, 2015). The latter article, which includes a self-portrait collage and a color photograph of the subject) also provides a succinct outline of Kasoundra Kasoundra’s career:

Consider the case of Kasoundra Kasoundra. This very original New York Underground personality, now pushing 80, has been an avant-garde artist for more than half a century. When she arrived in Manhattan as a Midwestern college dropout in the early ’60s, she boldly knocked on the doors of celebrities such as Hermione Gingold and Bob Dylan simply to find out what made them tick.

Modeling at the Art Students League to earn her living, Kasoundra inserted herself into the urban art underground, making friends with its creative geniuses while she perfected her own considerable talents as a witty collage artist. Brice Marden and Jonas Mekas, among others, collected her artworks, and Maurice Gerodias, founder of The Olympia Press, took her with him on trips to Europe.

Kasoundra hung out with the Alice’s Restaurant crowd at the church in the Berkshires, and acted in Harry Smith’s “Mahagonny.” Her poster of Harry looking at himself in his own eyeglasses is a sought-after treasure.

The Romy Ashby essay. which also includes photos of the artist, notes

The Australian theorist Germaine Greer dedicated her book, The Female Eunuch, to five friends including Kasoundra when it was published in 1970. “For Kasoundra,” the dedication says, “who makes magic out of skins and skeins and pens, who is never still, never unaware, riding her strange destiny in the wilderness of New York, loyal and bitter, as strong as a rope of steel and as soft as a sigh.”

Kasoundra Kasoundra & Her Love Of Leonard Cohen

The following excerpts testify to Kasoundra Kasoundra’s feelings toward Leonard Cohen:

From Avatar Vol. II, No. 5, p. 2. August 2-15, 1968:

Kasoundra, Kasoundra, who has a rabbit named benny and lives in a basement store in the Lower East Side madly in love with Leonard Cohen, poet and lyricist. Kooky Kasoundra running into more than her usual share of ill fortune. In Europe her work was destroyed by non-art appreciating burglar. Back in New York, her pad was boosted of personal belongings. Kasoundra, who models at the league, is a legend in her own time for her old theatrical clothing and eccentric but lovable ways.

From Goodie No. 19:

Kasoundra Kasoundra: Kasoundra Kasoundra was famously in love with Leonard Cohen, which is reflected in her art, of course, but that’s not all. She was close to Harry Smith and Stanley the Turtle. She’s an icon of true bohemia. It’s no wonder Germaine Greer dedicated her book The Female Eunuch to Kasoundra.

From Washday Later by Frieda Artz. Frieda Artz Now, March 9, 2010:

In the 60’s, probably around 1965 to be exact or somewhere around there, I visited my friend Kasoundra Kasoundra off and on. She lived near St. Mark’s Place, 12th Street maybe. She was madly in love with Leonard Cohen, the Canadaian poet, singer/songwriter. Madly in love may be an exaggeration. But she was definitely enamoured by him of him. (no time to check over this)

Kasoundra and I would go to the Chelsea Hotel. Kasoundra would find us a seat in the lobby. I have such a vague recollection of what the lobby looked like. It was my job to call Leonard Cohen, Kasoundra knew him, I think she may have done the art work for one of his album covers, so she had his room number, etc., knew when he was there, etc.

Dutifully, I called Leonard Cohen from the lobby phone, to tell him Kasoundra was waiting in the lobby. The object was for him to come down to have a drink and chat with us, I guess. Or maybe the object was for him to invite Kasoundra up to his room, but I certainly did not suggest that, although I would have suggested that if Kasoundra asked me to. Kasaoundra and I were friends. How we met is another story.

Kasoundra and I would then sit in the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel and wait for Leonard Cohen to arrive in the lobby. I have no idea what I thought I would do if he did arrive. Size up the situation, I guess and play it by ear. Anyhow, I do not remember him arriving in the lobby. I do not remember seeing anyone famous as we sat in the lobby. I do remember him answering the phone, me being polite, he being polite. That’s what I remember about that. Nothing too exciting. It was fun to listen to Kasoundra tell me how exciting she thought Leonard Cohen was. I knew of him, loved Susanne takes me down to the place by the River, etc, but other than that what did I know about Leonard Cohen?

Kasoundra never got to “date” Leonard Cohen, as far as I know, I haven’t asked her recently. Maybe she did “date” him.

More About Kasoundra Kasoundra

Examples of the artist’s work can be viewed at Kasoundra Kasoundra Gallery

Video: Kasoundra Kasoundra – Biography

I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted Sep 29, 2015.

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