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Excerpt from essay by Alison Weld,
Assistant Curator, New Jersey State Museum, 1996
Sculpture by Nancy Cohen


Metaphors for the fragility and strength of life today, Nancy Cohen's sculpture is informed by a richness of substance and material. Cohen contrasts the sense of history embedded in second-hand, found objects with the more anonymous quality of new materials. Her use of materials is both abstract and associative. These works, whether small- or large-scale, are metaphors for emotional struggles. Hand-touched abstractions, they are suggestive metaphors of the human figure, seen at times in just an aspect of its form or at other times as a whole. Sometimes, the figure is seen from an internal perspective and other times is seen externally. Cohen perceives form as male and female, although as a metaphor without literal equivalents. Cohen uses evocative materials such as costume jewelry, plastic bowls and glass recycled from lamp bases, as well as more unidentifiable abstract forms, as symbols for the physical and emotional qualities of the figure, and, in doing so makes a humanist statement.

Cohen makes discrete objects, however monumental or small in scale. Beginning with a basis of found objects Cohen draws from the language of the twentieth century. Found objects are the focus of Cohen's muse, providing associating and starting points for her own language. For most of her career, she has been incorporating found objects into her sculpture. The heritage to which Cohen's works most directly responds is European sculpture of the 1930's. While Cohen is working on a more monumental scale than was predominant six decades ago, her sculpture shares a similar integrity, yet, it is one that is also very much a part of the present.