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Nancy Cohen & Anna Boothe: "Between Seeing & Knowing" from Nancy Cohen on Vimeo.

Nancy Cohen between seeing and knowing nancy cohen installation

Between Seeing and Knowing, 2013
Collaboration with Anna Boothe, Glass  
11 x 20 x 1.5 feet
Accola Griefen Gallery, New York, NY

"Between Seeing and Knowing" is a large-scale installation initiated through the Collaborative Residency Program at the Corning Museum of Glass in 2012. For this innovative work Boothe and Cohen used an astounding range of glass processes including kiln-casting, slumping, fusing, blowing, hot-sculpting and sand-casting. Conceptually the piece takes as a starting point the artists’ long-standing interest in 14th-19thC. Tibetan Buddhist Thangka paintings, integrating their otherwise separate studio practices. The artists reinterpreted the symbolism in the paintings to create a work that reflects the organizational structure and palette of paintings as well as the sense of expansiveness and lack of hard resolution characteristic of Buddhist ideology.

Intriqued by 14th–19th century Tibetan paintings, Anna Boothe and Nancy Cohen launched this project with the challenge of understanding the genre and converting it from a framed flat scroll to a 3D installation. Like the thangka painters, they infused their work with iconography, color combinations, and ethereal proportions. Traditionally, thangka imagery deferred to “rules” established by various Buddhist denominations, geographical regions, and creative styles. Boothe and Cohen took this a step further. They overlapped their individual sensibilities (literal vs. abstracted) to impart visual richness to their collaboration. By creating kiln-cast, slumped, fused, blown, hot-sculpted, and sand-cast pieces, they interpreted their imagery in glass, a media that heightens the metaphoric power of the work. Glass, as we realize, can be reduced to the thinness of a molecule, or sculpted into a profile that bends light. It also engages one’s notions of fragility, strength, utility, and beauty.

Just as the master Buddhist artists did when generating their thangka, Boothe and Cohen’s work expresses their insight and collective experience. Artists, like scientists or theologians, have a profound need to understand particular aspects of life. When they are gifted, their work helps us, as viewers, to discover something new about our own world. When they are enlightened, they help illuminate a worldview that may be new and profound for us — it is, after all, their job to help us bridge the intellectual waters between seeing and knowing.

From the catalog essay by Susan M. Rossi-Wilcox, (former) administrator for the Glass Flowers Collection & Curatorial Associate, Harvard University Botanical Museum