Editor's note: The following essay was written in 2001 and is reprinted with permission of Lee Cohen. The essay is featured in the catalogue for the exhibition "Places: Paintings by Lee Cohen," appearing at The Berman Museum of Art from October 2, 2001 to December 2, 2001. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the The Berman Museum of Art directly through either this phone number or web address:
by Lee Cohen
The title of this exhibition is the subject matter of my work. The paintings represent places where we have lived, or are currently living, as well as states and countries where we have been frequent visitors. Each place has its own particulars, of shape, form, color, light, texture and rhythm.
The paintings are representational, but are not factual. They are what I see and what I want you to see, with all of the beauty present in the landscape, elusive and constantly changing because the "here and now" is never still.
As you walk through this installation, you will see different palettes, different media, different approaches. The earliest work was done in watercolor, experimenting on paper with a medium I enjoyed using because it flowed.
There were many experiments involving papers, ways of putting down the paint and formats. Generally I found I preferred 300 wt. cold pressed paper because it could take much manipulation. Sometimes my format was an all-over design (Vuillard out-of-doors I called it); sometimes the brush strokes were the determinant; sometimes I used a border to be able to include more than one image; sometimes there was a dominant form and everything else related to it, etc.
In watercolor, I often layered the same color, or tones of that color, until it had the substance and brilliance I wanted. I also liked to combine watercolor with other watersoluble materials.
In trying to explain (portray) the strange geological formations of Ein Avdat in the Israeli Negev, watercolor was exchanged for acrylic. This allowed for the portrayal of the needed weight and strength of the canyon walls. The brilliance of acrylic paints also worked well with the deep contrasts of The Laurels in the summer and fall paintings I did there. Also the substitution of museum board for paper helped. The museum board provided a more rigid support than the more flexible paper. The board, if not gessoed, will show every brush mark and I liked that effect.
With my most recent paintings, created in Texas, I have returned to oil painting as the dominant medium, finding a new freedom and richness in its use. Oils suit my direct approach to painting, especially in working "wet" into "wet"
While materials and methods vary, the subject remains - "places." I am "hooked" on landscape. It is a subject I never tire of, never have enough of, always find something new and creative by painting it. With landscapes there is always a tomorrow, an exciting tomorrow, perhaps a tomorrow that will inspire a really great painting.
In addition to the originally published essay, Lee Cohen asked Resource Library Magazine to add the following paragraph:
"There is an urgency to painting landscapes just now because of our relentless encroachment on open space. One can look at the paintings of the Hudson Valley School of the 19th Century and marvel at the landscapes we once had. Now we are looking at other planets, soon it will be other galaxies. This accelerating motion of our world needs some quiet looking, some quiet contemplation, some stillness. That is what I paint - the ordinary places we pass every day, made special by the way the light hits them, or by unexpected shapes formed, or by unusual angles of looking, or simply by the 'rightness' of the entire scene."
(left: Light and Shadow, 2000, watercolor, 37 x 29 inches)
About the author
Lee Cohen received undergraduate and graduate degrees in education at the University of Illinois, Urbana, and is a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia. As of 2001 she has been honored with seven solo exhibitions, and has been included in many other museum and private gallery exhibitions. She has received numerous awards from associations and societies throughout the United States. Her work is included in the collections of the Woodmere Museum of Art, the Berman Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania State Museum.
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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 11/28/11
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