‘A’ My Name is Alice

‘A’ My Name is Alice…
‘N’ My Name is Nancy…

EDR: would you give us some on the background of your new exhibition “A” My Name is Alice?

As a child growing up in the 1950s I spent many summers at my grandparents home in Brooklyn, though my home was in Philadelphia.  I had my Brooklyn friends, who of course I can no longer remember.  What I do remember  is a ball and alphabet rhyming game we played out on the sidewalk.  The game was played by bouncing a ball, one bounce for each word.

In current time, while I am biking or walking I think about teaching, upcoming conversations with people, ideas for art, and I also play this game. With the Alphabet series I want people to see each image and also be immersed in the experience; much like a performance in scope. Some of the images are political, some provocative, and some fun. I like to engage the audience; take the viewer on a journey.

‘T’ My Name is Tess…
‘I’ My Name is Indira…

The Scream

As a college instructor I always give my students a final essay to write with the following topic: “You have unlimited funds and can purchase any work we studied this semester.  Which would you choose and why?”  This year I am teaching high school students and for the first time 80% of them chose the same image, Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”.  They all said this image resonated with them at this time in their lives.  When students chose The Scream I started the series.

Some images are a bit more unknown such as “X” for Xanadu (which is a glitzy hotel in Cuba), but all the images are related in some fashion with Trump.

‘D’ is for Demilitarized Zone
‘L’ is for Louisiana

EDR: It is interesting that your last exhibition was on election day, and this series feels like a reflection on the intense months of his presidency.

I am going to donate $25 for each of those images of this series on The Scream sold. The purchaser can chose between Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union or National Resources Defense Council.

‘M’ is for Maralago
‘P’ is for Puerto Rico

 

‘U’ My Name is Uma…
‘O’ My Name is Olivia…

 

I also made a lot of alphabet blocks – art for art’s sake. With the blocks scale is important. I enjoy doing them because it is an opportunity to produce 6 intimate paintings at a time. In fact I work on multiple blocks at a time so there is often a visual tie-in because you can turn them to any side. I like to carry something forward to the next show from the previous show. The last show was maps. The blocks are an art practice and the last things I’ve done. I know what I am onto next – my plan is to take those and change them in scale: use the blocks as an spring board for the next show.

The show has a lot of duality and contrast: a childhood game and some fun, somewhat nonsensical phrases with political or social content, a graffiti mural type with provocative content. There also seems to be a duality of past and present in your work. The same as with The Scream: maps, images that contrast with geographic and current event content. Your work could be in many different mediums, not merely that it is mixed media but multi-dimensional and textured.

I am fascinated by patterns and textures. Throughout college the process of creating depth and layers interested me.

EDR: What artists or art works impacted your in your early art life and in current time?

This one is hard to answer- there are so many. Mark Rothko and Morris Louis for color, Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock, Eva Hesse for “paint”, Marcel Duchamp and John Cage for guts.

Picasso’s “Guernica” used to live at MOMA in New York and was always my first stop whenever I went there. It moved me in so many ways and while I was happy for it to go home to Spain I felt bereft for longer than I expected.

EDR: In your studio, what do you do when you get stuck?

I start something else or move to a different work. I always have a number of things going at the same time. I have a regular studio time 5 days a week from 6-8 am which is not a huge amount of time but there is no “down time” as I make a plan what the first thing will be on the next visit to the studio before leaving each time.

EDR: You work quite a bit as an instructor of Art History. What epochs interest you? What surprises or emerging topics capture your attention?

My favorite course is ancient art history (prehistory to the 13th century) because everything that came after that is built on it. I am a religious person and most of the art created from the beginning of time to the modern age is religious and almost all of the world’s religions came into existence from ancient time. I like to teach this because most people know little or nothing about religions that are not their own. I think that might be our biggest problem in the world today.

EDR: How do you see the intersection of the personal and the political in art?

Art has the power to heal, to change (as in propaganda), and to awaken people. An example, is the morning of 9/11 I was in my studio and heard the entire thing unfold as I listen to the radio news while I’m working. Once I realized what had really happened and how the world would forever be changed, I stopped what I was doing, got a blank canvas and painted my thoughts.

Author: mcohen15

I am an artist and teacher who travels extensively throughout the world. I am using this blog to share my experiences with my students and friends.

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