Nancy Cohen '84 in Solo Show at Kathryn Markel Gallery

Mădălina Telea Borteș
May 02, 2024

In The State We’re In, the latest solo show by Visual Arts alumna Nancy Cohen ’84 at Kathryn Markel gallery, one encounters molded glass matrices resting atop collapsing, translucent landscapes, riverbeds and coral reefs etched into handmade slabs of paper, and thick chains and tufts of wool that, upon closer inspection, also turn out to be wads of paper that have been pulped then sculpted then deftly incorporated within a pane of fibrous, cotton-like paper.  

The glass Cohen uses for works such as “Memory of a Body,” (3” x 23” x 18,” glass and wire, 2023)  is found, recycled, and resculpted into forms reminiscent of limestone caves and seashore rubble. The paper is always handmade. Together, these works evoke a love letter to the natural and hand-made beauty that cleaves a path through the anxiety ever present amidst ongoing environmental degradation. 

“We’re in a state—it’s unavoidable,” opens the monograph for The State We’re In. “We can’t avoid the state of things and we can’t—and shouldn’t—ignore the state it puts us in,” the monograph continues. “And yet, we can reflect on the fragile beauties of the struggle for survival.” 

Nancy Cohen, 'Topography of the Body,' handmade paper

“Cohen describes her process as ‘thinking with her hands,’” the show’s accompanying press release explains. “Concerns outside the studio and challenges within are explored through physically pushing the boundaries of paper and glass.”  

Each of the nineteen new works on view is unique in both material and vision, and they each “come from a memory of place, a moment of observation, the touch of conversation,” the show’s monograph explains. 

Running in tandem with Cohen’s solo show is Drawing on Memory, a group show hosted at the gallery’s second location, curated by Cohen. The show engages the main thread in Cohen’s practice—drawing—and features works “united by the subtle ways that memory played a role in the artists’ development of the conceptual underpinnings.” 

Nancy Cohen holds a BFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology and an MFA from Columbia University. Throughout her career, she has received numerous awards and residencies, including 6 fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Cohen has been the recipient of various awards, such as the Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant and the Yaddo Artist Residency. Most recently she was the recipient of the Studio Residency Grant at Women’s Studio Workshop and a Fellowship at MacDowell in 2023 where many of the drawings in this show began. She has also been an artist-in-residence at prestigious institutions like the WheatonArts and the Studio at Corning. Her work is included in several public and museum collections, such as the Yale University Art Gallery, the New Jersey State Museum, and the Hudson County Community College.