CELEBRATING A LIFE IN ART
Seattle Creative Arts Center’s June Artist of the Month Lael Cohen
A Retrospective and Exhibit
The exhibit features Cohen’s unique photo collage which involves a three-step manual process : 1) Photographs are taken of discrete items: oil slicks on pavement, the undulations of water off of Alaskan Way, prisms glancing off storefront glass, a tattoo on a woman’s arm, thistles in a neighbors yard. 2) The photographs are cut into a variety of shapes and composed into free-form, multi-dimensional pieces, no one of which is like the other. Each piece stands alone as a type of jewel-like paper sculpture, but many are laser color copied in preparation for a third step. 3) The color copes are cut up into squares and assembled in kaleidoscopic variations of symmetrical patterns. All work is done by hand; no computers are involved at any stage of the process. (Although Ms. Cohen’s compositions reveal extremely sophisticated eye-hand coordination, she has never been able to learn how to use a mouse and hasn’t typed in 40 years.)
In honor of Cohen’s 80th birthday in June, the exhibit’s opening reception will also feature a one-time retrospective of her work over the past 60 years. Cohen has created in just about every medium, and a variety of examples will be showcased, from weaving, macramé, and kogin (Japanese) needlework (all free-hand from original patterns and designs) to sketches, oils and pastels; to ceramics and mosaics. Some of Cohen’s work reflects Judaic themes and ritual objects – such as incorporating Hebraic numerology and symbolism into the needlework on prayer shawls or challah covers. A wimple done in needlepoint commemorates the births and bar or bat mitzvahs of three of her grandchildren. It shows the Hebrew alphabet, Jewish holidays (color coded by season), and excerpts from Torah portions coinciding with the children’s birthdates – all in Hebrew. A triptych of mosaics completed in 1963 depicts women of three religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – in acts of devotion. One blesses Sabbath candles, another prays, the third washes her hands.
Photography has always been a medium of choice for Cohen, who calls herself an “image maker.” A percentage of the proceeds from exhibit sales will benefit Alpha Supported Living Services, a Seattle-based non-profit organization caring for adults with developmental disabilities, including Cohen’s grandson, who is autistic