In the Studio with Mina Cohen

September 6, 2021

The artist must drive to the heart of every answer, and expose the question the answer hides. — James Baldwin

I visited Mina Cohen in her large, high-ceilinged studio. It is on the end of her house in an open space in a forested area, and feels high up in the sky. The day I visited was slightly overcast, but the studio was light and airy.

There were tools and materials everywhere, and finished paintings stacked in a tall rack, but the large space allowed for it all without a sense of crowding.

"I used to work in a tiny shed. When we built this house, this whole end of it was designed to be a studio. I’ve been 27 years now in this space. I love it."

This view is out past the deck toward the yard. 

"My work is very personal. I do things that interest me. That’s how I decided on what to make and show in September. Some things I never show, but I feel if I get something out of what I’m painting, then other people may get something out of it for themselves. It's something worth sharing. I try to give people tools for looking at the work, sometimes with titles. And I always work in series, or on a topic." 

"I work with something I’m interested in learning about, so I do research on that subject I want to explore.”

One of the series you are showing is called "Snakes." Can you talk about that?

"Both of these current series are related to the times we have just experienced. For this one I used pieces of snakeskin given me by a friend—snake for its suggestions of wickedness and treachery, and also for possibilities of change. A snake sheds its skin. This painting below I called “Skin in the Game.

You are showing another series too in September?

"The other series I am showing I’ve called Amulets. 

Amulets are for protection, aren’t they? Good luck?

"I heard a teaching by a rabbi about amulets. It’s controversial, because we are not supposed to rely on images…but it can be a reminder. The hamsa is a stylized image of an upturned hand, and represents a priest’s blessing. It says: “near me.” It felt like support for going forward. I did some research and designed a series of paintings using that image."

Mina pages through a book with large illustrations of the hamsa. 

Some of the Amulet paintings can be seen on the wall here.

Your studio is so colorful with paints—and crayons!

“I bought a box of 161 crayons, the largest set. The crayons are mostly wax, and can be melted into a painting. The snakeskin paintings had a lot of crayon for intense color. I started by keeping track of which ones I had used, and in which paintings. I intended to use all the colors. Then my grandkids came! They used them, too, and we lost track. We had a wonderful time."

Miriam Davis
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