ALEJANDRA HIDALGO : The Natural Installations

 Interviewed and Translated in English, French and Spanish by Séverine Grosjean, Edited by Yoon Joo Lee

 After studying geography, international relations and sociology in different countries (France, Spain, Portugal, Ecuador, Peru),  Séverine Grosjean works as a freelance cultural journalist. She has published articles in  french, Canadian, British, Mexican, Chilean magazines. She is preparing to inaugurate her  first photography exhibition as curator in Paris in october. 

“Alejandra has insisted that her work was a tribute to the Guatemalan culture…..”

 Alejandra Hidalgo entered the world of creation by different doors like poetry, performance or photography. After much time and perseverance, she seems to have found in the installation what resonates with her.

Alejandra Hidalgo

 In 2003 she was asked to live in a house where she would also create. This will be called “In another time …” After  two months of work, research and 7000 baked (tortillas). It is a monumental installation without specific forms, but whose branches play and spread out  in every inch of the space. This work has created some controversy. In a country like Guatemala, where 40% of children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition, some people did not understand the use of this staple food in Guatemala, exposed for a moment and then thrown away. Alejandra has insisted that her work was a tribute to the Guatemalan culture and thousands of women daily cooking tortillas. Right or wrong, that is the question…

Alejandra Hidalgo 1

  It will inspire her,again in 2015 in an installation titled “Dreamlike” in an exhibition suggested by the G & T Foundation, “The interrupted dream.” Taking the form of a spiral from the ground up, dreams are transformed, they transform us and keep us constantly in motion, leaving one point and developing. She redefines the structure, the experimental barriers in a limited space giving the shape of a tree and it unconsciously as she says. In Christianity, the tree is the symbol of knowledge of good and evil and the Mayan culture by the Ceiba, the sacred tree, the pride of the Mayan civilization.

Alejandra Hidalgo 2

 With her work, “Footprints in the three times” composed by 5100 baked (tortillas) representing the number of pregnant girls aged 10 to 14  after being abused, most of the time by a parent, the work is much more committed. She carries a sociopolitical act giving shape to daily violence but unfortunately remaining silent. She allows a reflection on this issue but also on solidarity between the victims and the people fighting with them. This work is a metaphor linking violence and tortillas, food every day for Guatemalan. Activism and aesthetics of Alejandra’s work exposes the issue of commitment.

Alejandra Hidalgo 3

 In other works, Alejandra offers environmental awareness. Indeed, in an installation called “Acidosis”, she uses orange peels to recreate a space and reclaiming it. She creates forms and guide the viewer’s perception, walking with this natural material in a built landscape. There is an interaction, a mutual exchange, an atmosphere where the public may feel confused by this accumulation merging art and life.

Today, Alejandra Hidalgo continues this reflection on what it means to be Guatemalan, and the relationship between our individual consciousness and our collective consciousness.

Lean More about  Alejandra Hidalgo here. Check out her Facebook page, too!
Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.


 

 Interview in French

Alejandra Hidalgo est entrée dans le monde de la création par  différentes portes comme la poésie, la performance ou la photographie. Après beaucoup de temps et de persévérance, elle semble avoir trouvé dans l’installation  ce qui lui correspond.

En 2003, il lui  a été demandé d’habiter l’espace d’une maison de deux étages. Ce qui s’intitulera «Dans un autre temps…” lui prendra deux mois de travail, de recherche  et 7000 tortillas cuites. C’est une installation monumentale sans formes bien précises, mais dont les branches jouent, sortent, se propagent dans les moindres  recoins de l’espace. Ce travail a créé une certaine controverse. Dans un pays comme le Guatemala, où 40% des enfants de moins de 5 ans souffrent de malnutrition chronique, certaines personnes n’ont pas  compris l’utilisation  de cet aliment de base au  Guatemala, exposé pendant un moment puis jeté à la poubelle. Alejandra a insisté sur le fait que son travail était un hommage à la culture guatémaltèque et aux milliers de femmes  cuisinant quotidiennement des tortillas. Valide ou non telle est la question.

Elle s’en inspirera de nouveau en 2015 dans une installation intitulée “Onirique” dans une exposition proposée par la fondation G & T, ” Le  rêve interrompu.” Prenant la forme d’une spirale venant de la terre vers le haut, les rêves se transforment , ils nous transforment et nous gardent constamment en mouvement, sortant d’un point et gradissant, se développant.  Elle redéfinit dans ce travail la structure, les barrières expérimentales dans un espace limité lui donnant la forme d’un arbre et cela inconsciemment  comme elle le déclare. Dans la religion chrétienne, l’arbre est le symbole de la connaissance, du bien et du mal et dans la culture maya  par la Ceiba,  l’arbre sacré, de la fierté de la civilisation Maya.

Avec son oeuvre,”Empreintes dans les trois temps” composée de 5100 tortillas représentant le nombre de  jeunes filles enceintes  entre 10 et 14 ans après avoir été abusées, la plupart du temps par un de ses parents, le travail de Alejandra est beaucoup plus engagé. Elle réalise un acte sociopolitique donnant forme à une violence quotidienne alimentant le pays mais restant malheureusement silencieuse. Elle permet une réflexion  sur cette problématique mais aussi sur la  solidarité entre les victimes et les personnes qui se battent avec elles. Ce travail est une métaphore liant la violence et les tortillas, nourriture de tous les jours pour les  Guatémaltèques. Le militantisme et  l’esthétique du  travail d’Alejandra expose  la question de l’engagement .

Dans d’autres travaux, Alejandra offre une conscience environnementale. En effet, dans une  installation  appelée “Acidose”, elle utilise des peaux d’orange pour recréer un espace et la réappropriation de ce dernier. Elle créent des formes et  guide la perception du spectateur se promenant  avec cette matière naturelle dans un paysage construit. Il ya une interaction, un échange mutuel, une atmosphère où le public peut se sentir confus par cette accumulation fusionnant l’ art et la vie.

Aujourd’hui, Alejandra Hidalgo continue cette réflexion sur ce que signifie d’être Guatémaltèque  et la relation entre notre conscience individuelle et notre conscience collective.

Lean More about  Alejandra Hidalgo here. Check out her Facebook page, too!
Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.


Interview in Spanish :

Alejandra Hidalgo entró en el mundo de la creación por diferentes puertas como  la poesía, la performance y la fotografía. Después de mucho  tiempo y perseverancia, parece haber encontrado en  la instalación monumental  lo que le corresponde.

En el 2003, se le pidió  habitar un espacio en una casa de dos pisos. La que se llamara “En  otro tiempo…”. Dos meses de trabajo, de  investigación, de interrogaciones y 7.000 tortillas cocinadas más tarde, una  instalación gigantesca sin formas  muy definidas, pero cuyas ramas juegan, salen, se extienden en los rincones del espacio. Este trabajo creó cierta controversia. De hecho, en un país como Guatemala, donde el 40% de los niños menores de 5 años padecen malnutrición crónica, algunas personas no entendieron  el uso estropeado  de este alimento  básico de Guatemala, expuesto por un momento y tirado en la basura. Alejandra insistió en que su trabajo fue un homenaje a la cultura guatemalteca a través del consumo de tortilla reuniendo a  todos los guatemaltecos y en especial  rendir un  homenaje a las miles de mujeres que cocinan todos los días tortillas, siendo la base alimenticia de miles de guatemaltecos. Válida o no válida  es la pregunta?

Ella se inspirara  de nuevo de esta acción en el 2015 en una exposición de la fundación   G & T titulado “El Sueno interrumpido”. Se redefine la estructura, las barreras experimentadas en un espacio más limitado dándole  la forma de un árbol y esto inconscientemente porque como lo declara ”no era mi propósito”. Símbolo del conocimiento, del bien y del mal, el árbol representa la vida en la religión cristiana como en la cultura maya por la Ceiba, el árbol sagrado, motivo de orgullo para los Mayas.

El titulo de la pieza es “ensueno”,  una espiral que sale de la tierra hacia arriba, los sueños dan vueltas en nosotros, nos transforman y nos mantienen en constante movimiento, salen de un punto y crecen, se expanden. Las tortillas tienen marcado el sueno de miles de mujeres que a diario se paran frente al comal.

Con la obra titulada “ Huellas en los tres tiempos” compuesta de 5100 tortillas.una cifra no  inocente ya que representa el numero de casos de ninas entre 10 y 14 anos embarazadas despuès de haber sido abusadas, la mayoria del tiempo por uno de sus parientes, el trabajo  de Alejandra es mucho màs comprometido. A traves de este homenaje, realiza un acto socio-politico dando forma a una violencia que alimenta cotidiamente  el pais y que por desgracia se queda callado . Ella  permite  una reflexion “ politica”  por la visibilidad de esta problematica pero tambien de la solidaridad entre las victimas y las personas luchando con ellas.  Este trabajo es una metafora vinculando la violencia diaria y las toritllas, alimento del dia a dia de los guatemaltecos. Sin duda, con la relacion del militantismo y la estetica de su trabajo, Alejandra expone la cuestion del compromiso apelando las emociones del publico.

En otros trabajos, Alejandra ofrece una consciencia  ambiental. De hecho, en otra instalación monumental titulada “Acidosis”, utiliza la cáscara de naranja para recrear un espacio y la reapropiación de este. Utiliza el material encontrado en las calles para crear formas y orientar la percepción que tenemos de este objeto natural en un paisaje no natural. Se trata de una interacción, de un intercambio mutuo. Recrea una  atmósfera donde el público puede sentirse confundido por esta acumulación fusionando el  arte y la  vida.

Hoy, Alejandra Hidalgo continúa esta reflexión sobre lo que significa ser guatemalteca hoy en día y de la relación entre nuestra  conciencia individual y la de los demás.
Lean More about  Alejandra Hidalgo here. Check out her Facebook page, too!
Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.

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Interview / Valérie Telesca

My creations reveal my aesthetic emotions as well as my inner perpetual questioning about human identity, throughout existential hurts and the process of constant rebirth.

– Valérie Telesca

Packet8

Packet8

Born in Lille, France, Valérie Telesca lives and works in France. Her plastic project focuses on the idea of packaging in its allegorical meaning of “social ornament”, but more specifically revolves around its paradoxes. Interpreted in its primary sign origin, this packaging becomes alternately the cocoon announcing the birth, the plastic ecstasy of a metamorphosis, or a lure capable of modifying the identity by a change of shape. In her work of art, the matters are exploited as substances which are strongly metamorphic or, on the contrary, exposed in a starkness which makes them sacred.

After having worked for a long time on the colour considered as a second skin which socializes the matter, the artist anchors her approach in an identity dimension : That of the nature of things and of their metamorphosis, in its exuberance and its fragility.

Valérie Telesca expresses herself in the very matter of her object stemming from the packaging of which she modifies the resistance.Contrary to a claim of ephemeral art, her works of art fall within the dynamics of a time which makes them accomplish the challenge of lasting.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Born in France in 1968, I have Italian origins. First a photographer, then a painter, I have worked for a long time on the colour considered as a second skin which socializes the matter. My plastic project now focuses on materials as strongly metamorphic substances.

I was not born an artist. In fact, my calling came quite late and unexpectedly. I have found my own techniques through work and experimentation. Every artist is an alchemist researcher…

Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?

In my artistic career, photography was a first stage. It taught me a certain sensibility as well as a perception of measures. It also gave me a kind of “adjustment” of my vision to the world: its shapes and its colours.
My approach articulates around the concept of “packaging”, in its allegorical dimension, as a social finery distorting the nature of things. My questioning concerns its limits and its contradictions, its capacity to hide, to transform or to reveal the internal material. This came throughout my journeys abroad, observing people…

Package

Package

Which of your artwork pieces is your favorite?

All my “series” correspond to states of my life. I have a preference for the series ” Nude ” which represents what it would remain, once the skin removed. The envelope merges with the internal matter, naked. Reign of the no color or the absolute, ostentatious and assumed color, freed from the codes of the sociability. This series looks like me a little.

Nude

Nude

What do you think the artist is in society?

That of raising questions in sharing a sensitive perception of the world  that we all compose. Experimentation is a kind of resistance, a resilience. To overtake the limits, open new doors, wonder about what is beyond the experience, to refuse the comfort for a risk which is maybe worth it. The art is for me a vehicle for communication in interacting with the others who express their own emotions and comment on mine. We learn a lot from each other..

What’s the best thing about being a woman artist?

…Would you ask a man what’s the best thing about being a male artist…?

What is the most difficult part of being a female artist?

To be obliged to define myself as a “female” artist…!

In fact, I was the co-founder and of an association of women. The aim was to help women in developing their professional independent activity, considering that women have more difficulty in dealing with their career as they have to deal with many other tasks.

How do you manage in such a situation?

We have to surpass ourselves…

Did you ever feel like giving up?

Everyday! Then everyday makes me understand that art IS my life…You don’t decide to do art. Art snatches you up.

Installation

Installation

How do you look at your previous pieces?

They are part of my process. I consider them a step that made me grow up.

How does your cultural background affect your work?

For me, the “matter adventure” is first of all a perception of the world, a propensity to look beyond the surface, open the dialog which opens the field of the possible.

I am native from a South where the ground, both feeder and engulfing, shapes the aesthetics of the landscape and there the matter dresses an identity dimension. That of the nature of things. That of the vital metamorphosis.

My creations reveal my aesthetic emotions as well as my inner perpetual questioning about human identity, throughout existential hurts and the process of constant rebirth.

Cocoons

Cocoons

What is your dream project?

A monumental installation in the beautiful, exceptional landscape of Basilicata, in Italy, My homeland.

What is up and coming for you, as projects?

I am working on a project with two other Italian artists about the concept of Chrysalis.
I should expose at the Marrakech contemporary museum, then in Trieste (Italy) in 2014.

What do you want to do next?

Sculpture !

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Visit Valérie’s website and Women Artists of the World!

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Presented by International Foundation for Women Artists

Interview / Nancy Cohen

“For many years my work was very body related – thinking somewhat abstractly about what it felt like to be a woman and to negotiate the world.”

-Nancy Cohen

What We Both of Us Touch , 2012, Metal, glass, resin, handmade paper, monofilament

What We Both of Us Touch , 2012, Metal, glass, resin, handmade paper, monofilament

This week we’d love to present Nancy Cohen. Nancy Cohen has been living in Jersey City, NJ for 25 years and making abstract sculpture, site-specific installation and work on paper in mixed materials referencing the figure, our fragile environment.

We adore her artwork so much! We can’t wait to introduce Nancy Cohen and her artwork!

Tell us about yourself.

I am 54. I make sculpture, drawings and installations – right now I am making a piece that combines all three. I was raised in Queens, NY and the suburbs of NYC. I have lived in upstate NY, Montana, Israel and China but for the past 25 years have been based in Jersey City, NJ and have had a fairly steady life – married 30 years, teaching most of that time and with a 20 year old son. My life is focused on my studio, teaching and relationships with family and friends.

I have been making things for as long as I can remember and serious about studying and looking at art since high school. My mother and grandmother were always making things – knitting, quilting, painting and were both serious gardeners so using my hands and bringing visual things to fruition was an obvious way to spend time but choosing to study art in college and make it my life’s work was something I did need to think about. That said, the shift from ‘making things’ to considering myself an artist was a big one and took time.

I started out in ceramics and spent my senior year in high school assisting a ceramic artist. Seeing her negotiate studio time, family responsibilities and finances made the decision to become an artist a fairly realistic one – I saw early on what pieces went into the mix, that they were complicated but that I didn’t need to choose one life over another and it could all be integrated.

Where does most of your inspiration come from?

My inspiration is varied. Often it comes from the work I made before – seeing the unrealized possibilities in one piece pushed to the next. An overarching and continuing theme has been juxtaposing the dualities of fragility and strength. That has been evident over varying bodies of work and in many materials.

For many years my work was very body related – thinking somewhat abstractly about what it felt like to be a woman and to negotiate the world. It moved from being more formally related to bodily organs and issues of sexuality to thoughts of how people negotiate their outside physical world.

My grandparents lived on the ocean until I was 8 and I spent much of my summers there. I think that time on the beach – the sand, the water, the sounds — were an inspiration that I didn’t realize until many years later. In recent years I have been making work directly related to water, both my personal experience of it and reflecting on the environmental issues our waterways now confront. I have done two large scale installations based on the Mullica River in the Pine Barrens of NJ and another series of pieces based on the Hudson River. Now I am working on an installation in direct response to a part of the Hackensack River very close to my home. I go back and forth between drawing, sculpture and installation. Ideas and approaches to materials reverberate with each other.

Cascade, 2007, Glass, resin, handmade paper, wax, metal, 14 x 12 x 12 inches

Cascade, 2007, Glass, resin, handmade paper, wax, metal, 14 x 12 x 12 inches

Duct, 2008, Paper pulp and handmade paper, 39 x 31 inches

Duct, 2008, Paper pulp and handmade paper, 39 x 31 inches

Do you have a favorite piece?

No, but I have made some work that has been transformative for me. From my vantage point now I would point to four projects from over the years that stand out in a variety of ways.

The first was “A Community of Shelter” from 1992. It was a temporary outdoor piece made for a park in lower Manhattan in response to the increasing numbers of homeless people sleeping in NYC parks. I would walk by this park and it was a very strange place – kind of forlorn, isolated trees on unattended to grass with solitary but frequent cardboard boxes, often with a person sleeping in them and at times tied to trees to keep them from blowing away. I thought about the lack of shelter the city was providing, the birds in the park creating their own nests and how the park was providing no inviting point of entry to the neighborhood. In response, I created 6 human sized shelter forms (the size that a person might be without a place to enter) five of which were based on shelters in nature (shells, pods, etc.) and the sixth which was based on the proportion of a cardboard shelter. Each sculptural form had a specific relationship to a tree in the park and most were situated with the idea that they might draw passers by in from the sidewalk.

I worked about a year on the forms – they were the largest and most technically challenging work I had done. I needed permission from the parks department and the local community board to install the work. I needed insurance in case anyone got hurt. I was taking on non-studio issues I hadn’t encountered before and had no idea what would happen once the work got to the park. I was worried about vandalism and the work being stolen. “A Community of Shelter” was in the park for 6 months and worked really well – no graffiti (although there were various kinds of human interactions with the work: people hung earrings from one, stored clothing in another and even created an alter with a sacrificed pigeon in front of another, kids played on them and people napped on them) and it did what I hoped – brought people into the center of the park, and raised conversations about the homeless as well.

A Community of Shelter, 1992, Thomas Paine Park, New York, NY Installed in Thomas Paine Park in lower Manhattan from June-November 1992, now in the collection of the Hillwood Art Museum, on the grounds of C.W. Post College, Long Island, NY

A Community of Shelter, 1992, Thomas Paine Park, New York, NY
Installed in Thomas Paine Park in lower Manhattan from June-November 1992, now in the collection of the Hillwood Art Museum, on the grounds of C.W. Post College, Long Island, NY

A Community of Shelter, 1992, Thomas Paine Park, New York, NY

A Community of Shelter, 1992, Thomas Paine Park, New York, NY

A Community of Shelter, 1992, Thomas Paine Park, New York, NY

In 1998 I made “Chariot”, directly inspired by the Chariot sculptures of both Giacometti and David Smith. It launched a new and important direction in my work. It was the first in a series that I think of as conveyances for the body – they are human-scaled sculptures, that the viewer can imagine in some way interacting with, but in the end they don’t supply the support they are otherwise speaking about. The implied but absent figure is constant as is the inherent dysfunction of the work. “Chariot” led to “Wheel Chair”, “Bed”, “Gurney” and “Itinerant Couple” (movable chaise lounges for the homeless). I am still involved with this and hope to have an exhibition of the ongoing series in the next few years.

Chariot, 1998, Glass, steel, paper, cement, 96 x 28 x 9 inches

Chariot, 1998, Glass, steel, paper, cement, 96 x 28 x 9 inches

Gurney, 2002, Glass, rubber, sand, cement, lace, 28 x 60 x 16 inches

Gurney, 2002, Glass, rubber, sand, cement, lace, 28 x 60 x 16 inches

The next significant project for me was in 2006 when I collaborated with Shirley Tilghman, molecular biologist and president of Princeton University on “Sensation: Interior View” as part of a series of collaborations between scientists, artists and landscape architects for Quark Park in Princeton, NJ. Our piece was based on research about how mice perceive smell and our idea was to create an environment that evoked a scientific occurrence rather than illustrating one (as an exhibit in a science museum might do). In the end our collaboration grew to include Jim Sturm, Professor of electrical engineering, a group of his graduate students and A.R. Wiley, a garden designer.

The sculpture incorporated electroluminescent wires designed to appear to move through the piece as neurons might move when sending a message back to the brain. The area was landscaped with fragrant herbs underfoot and fragrant flowers that opened at dusk as the electroluminescent lights first began to be evident. It was a visually, conceptual and sensual environment.

It was a thrilling collaboration where all of us were stretched in new ways. I was stimulated by attempting to understand and integrate a scientific concept into visual form, to work with technology and a wider range of people than I was accustomed and to communicate on a variety of levels – both to a core group of people with whom I had regular contact and to a larger community that would be experiencing my work without me.

Sensation: Interior View,2006, Quark Park Sculpture Garden, Princeton, NJ Sensation: Interior View by Nancy Cohen, Jim Sturm, Shirley Tilghman, A.R. Willey Sculpture: 12 x 11 x 5 feet. Steel, Resin, Wire and Electroluminescent Wires.

Sensation: Interior View, 2006, Quark Park Sculpture Garden, Princeton, NJ
Sensation: Interior View by Nancy Cohen, Jim Sturm, Shirley Tilghman, A.R. Willey Sculpture: 12 x 11 x 5 feet. Steel, Resin, Wire and Electroluminescent Wires.

Sensation: Interior View, 2006, Quark Park Sculpture Garden, Princeton, NJ

Sensation: Interior View, 2006, Quark Park Sculpture Garden, Princeton, NJ

Sensation: Interior View, 2006, Quark Park Sculpture Garden, Princeton, NJ

Sensation: Interior View, 2006, Quark Park Sculpture Garden, Princeton, NJ

Sensation: Interior View, 2006, Quark Park Sculpture Garden, Princeton, NJ

The following year, I was invited by the Noyes Museum of Art to make a site specific piece for their galleries. “Estuary: Means & Modes” (2007) followed a long study of the ecosystem and waterways of the Pine Barrens of southern NJ, where the museum is located. With the help and company of Dorrie Papademetriou, the curator of the museum we met with marine biologists, the head of Forsyth national wildlife refuge and scientists from the local EPA who were involved in oyster re-population projects. As part of the investigation we took a boat ride in the marshes, harvested sea grasses that I made into paper and collected water samples examining color changes from the start of the Mullica River until it reached the Atlantic Ocean.

My resulting project ran 30 feet on the wall and another 30 on the floor. It was made out of handmade paper with flecks of local grasses, it followed the path of satellite photographs of the river and was colored to reflect the rivers changing palette from tea colored to rich blue.

My work grows when I take leaps and chances and that happened here – a larger scale, a broader color palette and taking head on a subject (water) that had been in my work for years but never addressed directly before. I was able to translate the ideas of fragility and strength (in my work since the beginning but always connected directly to the body) to an environment or ecosystem – where the human is a part but not the major player.

Estuary: Moods and Modes, 2007, Noyes  Museum, Oceanville, NJ 53 x 11 x 18 feet, Handmade Paper and Wire, 2007 Commissioned by the Noyes Museum of Art

Estuary: Moods and Modes , 2007, Noyes
Museum, Oceanville, NJ
53 x 11 x 18 feet, Handmade Paper and Wire, 2007 Commissioned by the Noyes Museum of Art

Estuary Moods and Modes

Estuary: Moods and Modes , 2007, Noyes
Museum, Oceanville, NJ

Mullica River

map of Mullica River

What do you want to say through your work?

It changes with each piece but there is always an overriding idea that I hope the work speaks about conceptually, emotionally and through the specific use of materials.

What is your favorite material?

My materials are constantly in flux though in my current installation (in progress) I am working primarily with handmade paper and glass. I am always looking for new materials to challenge me and to open up my vocabulary. A friend and studio neighbor describes my studio process as being somewhat like a mad scientist – because I am always mixing something new up and trying to see how I can get materials to speak.

What is the most difficult part of being a female artist?

For me the challenge, especially when I was younger, was figuring out how to juggle everything. This is hard for all artists, especially young ones but in a particular way for women artists who also want to have children. My twenties were about figuring out how to support myself as an artist, how to maintain my studio and how to begin to get my work seen. The addition of a child in my 30’s made it much more difficult as all the previous issues remain relevant as well. I have been fortunate to have supportive people around me, especially my husband and parents. My husband is a very involved dad and so child raising and household work was shared and my mom pitched in for years, in the studio when I had a deadline and helping with our son when we were both working.

I have two older women artists friends (the one I assisted when I was in high school and another who was my teacher at Skowhegan), who had children, a job and a very active studio practice that were very much role models for me when I wasn’t sure it was possible to keep it all going.

I have also had great help in the studio from younger artists assisting me when I have large projects and have felt in over my head. I think carefully about those relationships and make an effort to mentor them in ways that were either useful for me or that I might have wanted.

I think it is hard for all artists and women artists have had extra struggles and still do. I am also fortunate to have a large group of women artist friends to share all of this with and it has made a huge and positive difference for me.

Now in my 50’s I am heading into the issues more relevant to ‘older women artists” and know that there are more and unanticipated challenges ahead.

Did you ever feel like giving up? What’s the best advice you’ve been given at that time? 

I never felt like giving up but I have certainly felt overwhelmed. As a young artist finding a job that was satisfying and stimulating was a huge thing. I waitressed and did secretarial work that were both very dispiriting for me. It was during a residency at McDowell that another woman artist helped me get my first teaching job and then taught me how to do it. It was a joy to find paid work that I loved and that felt useful. I have been teaching almost continually since then.

I have also had my share of disappointing career situations – no worse than anyone else I know but hard nonetheless: a gallery that closed owing me money, another that disappeared with my work, appointments for studio visits that were no shows, exhibitions planned that didn’t happen – these things happen all the time. For me being in the studio is centering and nourishing and keeps me grounded.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Find a way to make money that you like and that you can keep doing as you get older. Have artist friends and be open with them. Establish your own community of artists. Expect to have to find your own opportunities – very few will come looking for you. Be open to new experiences. Be flexible. Go places. I have done many residencies over the years – they have all been good for my work and for professional contacts and artist friendships.

A few months ago, you had an installation, “Between Seeing and Knowing”, inspired by Thangka. Tell us about it.

I have a close friend, Anna Boothe, a glass artist who I met 15 years ago when she fabricated a piece for me. Although our personal work is very different we communicate well and had the sense that we could make something significant together. We were both interested in Tibetan Buddhist painting and thought that could be an exciting point of contact to launch a project. Because of her experience teaching glass Anna was able to apply for a special residency at the Studio of the Corning Museum of Glass where artists can collaborate. We applied together to make a piece in some way relevant to Thangka paintings and were fortunate to be selected.

The most exciting part of the residency was we would get to work in a broad range of glass processes and techniques – to get help when we needed it – to have full use of Corning’s extraordinary facilities and to work together day and night for that period of time.

The residency had a huge impact on both of us. We worked 6 months in advance of the residency on ideas and preparatory work (wax forms to cast in glass and clay forms to slump over, etc.) and after the residency we worked for a year finishing the forms and creating an installation in my studio. Anna and I pushed each other in directions neither of us would have gone on our own. For myself, I took on more narrative content, more recognizable imagery and way more color. For Anna her sense of finished form loosened up, as did her level of experimentation and her willingness to let forms connect in more open ended ways. It was an extraordinary collaboration for both of us – where almost every decision was shared and most elements were touched in one way or another by both of us.

We were fortunate to show the installation in the fall of 2013 at Accola Griefen Gallery in Chelsea and are looking for other venues for the future. It was my first experience working directly from an art historical source, my first experience collaborating that extensively with another visual artist and my longest ongoing collaboration. We had to be willing to let go of some ideas about what our work was and to let ones that might have otherwise been uncomfortable in. This caused us both to think deeply about who we are as artists, what our work means to us and what we think art should be. Anna and I hope to work together more in the future and have some proposals out for potential future work.

Between Seeing & Knowing

Between Seeing and Knowing, 2013, Collaboration with Anna Boothe, Glass, 11 x 20 x 1.5 feet, Accola Griefen Gallery, New York, NY

Between Seeing and Knowing, 2013 Collaboration with Anna Boothe, Glass   11 x 20 x 1.5 feet  Accola Griefen Gallery, New York, NY

Between Seeing and Knowing, 2013, Collaboration with Anna Boothe, Glass, 11 x 20 x 1.5 feet, Accola Griefen Gallery, New York, NY

BSK detail b

Between Seeing and Knowing, 2013, Collaboration with Anna Boothe, Glass, 11 x 20 x 1.5 feet, Accola Griefen Gallery, New York, NY

BSK detail a

Between Seeing and Knowing, 2013, Collaboration with Anna Boothe, Glass, 11 x 20 x 1.5 feet, Accola Griefen Gallery, New York, NY

BSK b

Between Seeing and Knowing, 2013, Collaboration with Anna Boothe, Glass, 11 x 20 x 1.5 feet, Accola Griefen Gallery, New York, NY

BSK a

Between Seeing and Knowing, 2013, Collaboration with Anna Boothe, Glass, 11 x 20 x 1.5 feet, Accola Griefen Gallery, New York, NY

What is your dream project?

I don’t have that in mind. But I am very interested in continuing to collaborate with other scientists and those with expertise in other fields. I am also interested in making work for public spaces and in working more with landscape architects – on creating environments for artwork where the two are integrally linked.

What is up and coming for you, as projects?

In the studio I am working on a new installation, inspired by a very unusual site on the Hackensack River in Secaucus, NJ. I am trying to capture some of the emptiness and mystery of a very particular marshy landscape by incorporating drawing and sculpture in a way I haven’t done before. At the moment the piece doesn’t have a venue but I expect that will come in time.

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Nancy Cohen has completed large-scale, site-specific projects for Thomas Paine Park in lower Manhattan; the Staten Island Botanical Garden at Snug Harbor; the Ross Woodward School in New Haven, Conneticut; the Noyes Museum of Art in Oceanville, New Jersey; and the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, New York. She has collaborated with scientists and poets, including Shirley Tilghman And Jim Strurm of Princeton University and performance poet Edwin Torres of New York City. Her work has been widely exhibited throughout the United States and is represented in important collections, such as the Montclair Museum, the Newark Public Library, the Weatherspoon Art Gallery, Yale University Art Gallery, and the Zimmerli Museum.

She does have several upcoming group exhibitions in the Spring of 2014.

1. Art Faculty exhibition at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College (where she teaches). 2/13 – 3/29, 2014

2. A group exhibition”Jersey Women Artists Now: Contemporary Visions” in the George Segal Gallery at Montclair State College 3/6-4/19, 2014 and I will be speaking as part of a panel discussion on 4/2/14.

3. “Paper Cuts” 5/3 – 6/1/2014, a show of 5 artists working in handmade paper at Gaia Gallery (79 Hudson Avenue in the Vinegar Hill Section of Brooklyn).

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You can see more in Women Artist of the World and in Nancy’s website. ;)

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International Foundation for Women Artists