My abstract watercolor paintings are concerned with space, movement across ground, and with the ground itself. Often the natural world is a departure point, such as light slanting through a window, or the street at sunset, but my abstract work has not focused on representation. Rather, I’ve tried to develop a lexicon, a vocabulary of tones, shapes and marks, all used to convey movement and mood.
This work relies on careful placement, the nature of the mark, and attention to edge. The ground is often white, creating a vast sea of space where color, mass and line can reflect one another. A blank page might suggest tranquil waters, the mind in meditation, or the quiet of held breath.. Breath leads to heart beats, which lead to unexpected rhythms and to poems. Poems always circle below the surface of my paintings, vying for attention.
After years of painting abstract watercolors primarily, I found myself embarked on a new project this year– portrait painting. Perhaps it was due to my turning 60, the birth of our first grandchild, or the marriage of our daughter to her beloved. I felt compelled to make paintings of family and friends, those whom I connect with in work, adventure, memory, challenge and love. I began with women in my life, planning to turn to the males next. No doubt, though, my initial focus had much to do with my own identity, projections and sense of time passing.
The medium of watercolor affords immediacy, quickness, and an ever-present light that emanates from the paper. Darks and lights are key in figurative work, just as in abstraction. White space continues to be intriguing, similar to how line breaks function in a poem. Indeed, I often write poems inspired by these paintings.
Alice Neel, a master of psychological portraits, claimed to be a, “collector of souls,” like Checkov. It is a challenge to paint someone’s portrait, to depict the play of the emotions across a face or the gestures of a body. But it is a privilege to sit quietly with someone for a long time and attempt to capture their likeness.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Ph.D., Learning Disabilities
Teachers College, Columbia University,
MA, Learning Disabilites
The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
2001 – present
Education Director, ArtWell
Anne Elliott / Cathy Cohen / Tilda Mann, Soho20 Chelsea Gallery, New York, NY
Savoir Fare, New Hope Arts, New Hope, NJ
The Philadelphia Foundation, Philadelphia, PA
Lankenau Hospital Exhibit: Am I My Brother’s Keeper?, Annenberg Center, Philadelphia, PA
Poetry and Art Exhibition, Chestnut Hill Academy, Philadelphia, PA
Realism in Paintings and Sculptures, Sherry French Gallery, New York, NY
Morpeth Gallery, Hopewell, NJ
2004 – 2012
Riverbank Arts, Stockton, NJ
2004 – 2005
Rosenfeld Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
2010 – present
Soho20 Chelsea Gallery, New York, NY
Awards and Honors
Cutt/Samak Prize Special Notice, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Deena Gu Award, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Estelle Barenbaum Rubens Painting Prize, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Susan Carlen Brown Special Notice, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
First Prize, Kaiserman JCC Painting Competition, Wtnnewood. PA
Children’s Village, New York, NY
Images copyright © Cathleen Cohen
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