Nancy Cohen


The Work of Time

For a very long time, waterways have figured heavily in my work.  There is something almost human to me in their balance of fragility and strength, the way they persevere through adversity—much of it inflicted by us.  After a long period of focusing on sculpture and installations, using handmade paper as one of many materials, several years ago I began to make large-scale, tapestry-like paper drawings exploring these themes.  These began as a component for an installation based on a contaminated site on the Hackensack River in the Meadowlands of Secaucus, N.J., and evolved into a primary focus. Imagery derives from memories of particular landscapes, primarily waterways in industrialized New Jersey (but at times farther afield), and more personal observations of not dissimilar struggles of human aging.  The drawings are constructed sculpturally.  I begin by making pigmented papers and then assemble them, still wet, in a quilt-like fashion; later I draw on these constructed surfaces with various densities of paper pulp.  The wet pulp on the dried sheets causes a buckling on the surface that appears very much like stitching. The finished works speak to the physicality of the body and simultaneously evoke an intimate sense of touch, in a way akin to being in nature experiencing both vastness and quiet moments of focus.