About the Artist: Clara Cohan 

  
Curriculum Vitae   Contact


The Early Years:

 

 

There was something very different
about this young woman from the beginning. 
As a child, she had the energy of a wild cat,
the mind of an inventor,  the determination
of a gentle mountain stream  on its way to
the Ocean, and a heart as vast as the universe.

 

 

 

As soon as I could grasp tools, I learned to take my tricycle and "kiddie  car" apart and put them back together...many times.  Scrapes of wood were nailed together to become miniature houses. Stalks of tall Black-eyed Susans were woven into an "african" hut.  As my physical strength grew and I realized that I could shape the environment around me, I started building more complicated structures. I found that saplings could be fashioned into "log" cabins. Inventing and building things would occupy most of my play time.

It was during my growing up time that I was taught the foundations of drawing and painting.  My mother, who was an artist, spent many afternoons teaching me about drawing, the anatomy of light, color theories, and oil painting.


Teenage Years (1968 - 1974):

There was the search for the Self.  And there was art class.  The perfect place to explore different painting styles and to begin to express what I felt about the world. 

 

 I was most influenced by the Surrealists; Tanguy, Dali, Magrette, and M.C. Escher.  Paintings during this time frame came directly from the inner landscapes and intellectual wandering of my mind.  With my early training, I found I could easily paint what I saw with my mind's eye and create worlds that were very different from "reality". (see Surreal Paintings

In 1971, I had an opportunity to broaden my experiences with summer classes at the Chautauqua Art Institute, Chautauqua, NY.  This experience put me into a studio setting where I felt very much at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1971.  Clara in the sculpture studio at the Chautauqua Institute.

 

 


Early Adult Years:

1974 -1976
After spending two-and-a-half years at college pursuing a teaching degree in art and psychology, I left the academic world.  This was a major turning point, deciding not to become a teacher, but to develop and gain experience in being a professional artist.  In 1976, I spent part of a summer in Germany, Austria, and Amsterdam, exploring the arts of this region.

1977 - 1985
The most defining time period for me, were the years between 1977 and 1985.  Knowing that I wanted to be a full-time artist, and knowing income would be fairly non-existent, I chose to develope a life-style to support my goals and financial challenges. A self-sufficient living situaltion is what I needed to create. I purchased five acres of wooded land in upstate New York and built a small cabin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hired and worked side-by-side with a young man, who was just starting his own construction business, and his grandfather, who had been building for years. In this fashion, I learned the basics of construction.

 

I lived here for eight years, growing my own food, fishing and foraging wild greens, heating and cooking on a wood stove, choosing to not to hook up to the electric company.  (see more photos) With a few hours dedicated to daily chores, the rest of my day was filled with drawing and painting.   I co-founded the Battenkill Art League which provided stimulation from a community of artists. A mix of commercial art work and art festivals provided enough income.

Also during this time frame, I would make many sojourns to the desert southwest,  Inspired by the color and forms of the landscape, and the spiritual aspect of the wide open spaces, I created the "Mandala Sandpainting" series.  This was another expressive form that showed me vividly that symbols are the language of the unconscious, the inner self, and that symbols speak in universal ways.



NEW YORK CITY

It was during the later part of the cabin years that I began visiting New York City.   I was drawn in by the intensity of what the city had to offer me personally, and as an artist. Thus began one and two month long stays for the next 16 years in order to study at the Art Students League, draw daily from the works of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History, contact galleries, and spend hours drawing from the surrounding street scenes.



 

 Pages from sketchbook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



1986

Feeling the need to expand my marketing experiences, I moved from my cabin in the woods, to Albany, NY.  I opened a studio/gallery and exhibited in local galleries and cafes.


 

1986 - 2000

In 1986, I developed a workshop utilizing the Mandala, bringing people into closer communication and relationship with their inner selves.  I held workshops in Albany and scheduled a many-city tour that eventually led me to Sedona, Arizona.  For the next 14 years, I would become involved in the arts community of Sedona, Cottonwood, Jerome and Scottsdale, AZ. 


 

 

 

 

 

 

From 1990 - 2000, my life partner,
Sharon Balzer, and I, built a passive solar
2300 sq ft home, complete with twenty-two
fruit and nut trees and a half-acre of gardens.

Everything was hand made.
The home became a living sculpture.


More photos.


 

During the desert years, I created several distinct styles of paintings.  I experienced the desert in a way that only through the medium of airbrushing, could I translate what I felt.   The paintings becames the"Mythic Reality" series.

 

At the same time, my street drawings of New York City, became the oil paintings of the"Humanity" series.  


During this time period, I created Cosmic Turtle Creations, a home-based industry, sandblasting contemporary petroglyphs onto flagstone, which developed into a thriving nation-wide business.

    


1979
I had my first exhibit in NYC, showcasing 26 paintings from the "Humanity" series. 


Building the desert home was ten-years of very hands-on building that brought me to the realization of my abilities, and joy, to create in 3-D.  This dove-tailed perfectly with a journey to Italy, sparking and awakening my desire to become a sculptor. It was in 1998, that I began a year-and-a-half apprenticeship with Daniel Newman, a stone sculptor, in Sedona, Arizona. 

  Stone Sculptures


2001 -2007

Having had a full experience of living in the southwest, Sharon and I decided it was time to experience living by the Atlantic Ocean.  In 2001, we sold our desert home and purchased a 1910 Cape in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Just over the Casco Bay Bridge, is Portland, Maine. I found the city to be extremely supportive of the Arts.  I found representation/exhibitions with The Gallery at the Eastland Hotel, run by Nancy Davidson; Accosisco Gallery and owner, Andres Verzosa; and the Daniel Kany Gallery.  I have been with the Harbor Square Gallery, Rockland, Maine, since 2003.

2005 was a changing year for me.  Years of heavy physcal labor of constructing my own homes and working years in stone, began effecting my neck, back and arms. Putting all taxing work aside, I was able to stop the deterioration and manage the pain.  Sorting out what I could and could not do, gave me a new start and direction.  Teaching part-time, shifting to sculpting only wood, and being employed as the visiting artist/sculptor in the local Middle School, ( see the "Courtyard Project"), allowed me to continue on. 

A new series of sculptures,"Contemplating Our Place in the Universe" became my major focus. Throughout my career, my deepest passion has been the symbolic language of the unconscious and the transforming effect it has on individuals and in the development of a culture. I have studied the archetypal, primal and symbolic imagery of ancient and modern earth-based cultures and religions. Through travel, I have directly experienced the symbolic nature of such cultures as the Rapa Nui of Easter Island, native South Pacific peoples, the earth-based cultures of Ireland, Mexico, and the Native American, particularly the Hopi Indians of Northern Arizona.

Visual symbols that repeatedly arose in my works, included; the nest and egg, lightening bolts, a single eye, patterns of stars, earth, moon, raven, elephant, whale, human and "cosmic" figures. From re-claimed wood, these and other symbols are carved to represent stories. The re-occuring theme is about connection; to our own self, with others, with the environment, and ultimately, with the infinite cosmos.

  "Contemplating Our Place in the Universe"


2008  - 2010

Then there was the economic collaspe of 2008.  Seeing its approach, I applied for a position of security officer at the Portland Museum of Art. The position has given me a great vantage point, to view, not only the paintings and sculptures of the museum, but to experience the purpose and workings of a museum. I continued creating sculptures for the "Contemplating Our Place in the Universe" series, and also developed the "Inner Workings" Series

Throughout my career, I have primarily focused on being a gallery artist. My years in Portland, have allowed me to meet many new artists at various stages of their career. Through these contacts, I have expanded my view of opportunities presented to artists. I began learning about Public Art, Percent for the Arts, and Biennials, and applying to programs and grants. All the while, creating wood sculptures that speak to the heart of what matters most about our planet and our relationship to all the Beings that we share this speck of awesomeness with.


2011

SIDE NOTE: As a way of sharing what happens in the studio, (this is where most of the joy of creating happens), I began videoing myself working. Nothing fancy. Just set up the camera and begin working. Part One of "Ponder" was 12 minutes long...after editing. I learned quickly that the videos needed to be around three minutes in length. By "Slowly", my editing skill got better.  You can see a variety of my videos, entitled, "Art in Action", at the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/user/ccohan

 

  "Ponder", became the beginning of a new series, in which realistic figures take a pose that reflect a psychological aspect of our being human.   

 

"Slowly" is another realistically styled form.  I found that representing a human form, the viewer has much more to identify with.  The clearer my communication is with others, the more successful the intention of the piece.

2012

And then came, "You Are Here".  Not only did this sculpture demand that I create an infinite amount of detail...

...it also gave me a momentous push to learn about the bronzing process:

This was my first bronze.  I wanted to understand every part of the process. And I wanted to share that process. So I videoed my almost daily trips to the Green Foundry,( Elliot, ME). Every step along the way called upon a new set of skills and tools.  Totally fascinating. After watching the videos, you will understand why a bronze artwork has a high price tag.

The Bronzing of 'You Are Here'; Part One  of 12


EXPANDING SKILLS:
I have primarily used power tools to create the wood sculptures, a carry-over from carving stone. (I just swapped out the diamond blades for sharp wood cutting blades.)  I wanted to experience working with only hand tools.  In October of 2012, I took a workshop at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, Rockport, Maine, with master carver Chris Pye.  Carving with chisels, gouges and rasps, was a delight.  I could feel the wood directly as I shaped the form.  I could hear the rhythmic sound of a sharp chisel slicing through the wood. 

I went from this:

  to this...to this... 

I am enjoying the idea of bronzing my wood sculptures.  The greatest bonus to transforming wood to bronze is that the latter can live outside in nature.

"It Does Matter"


Other sculptures that were created between 2009-2012, can be viewed HERE.


2013

When I am not in the carving studio, I still need to be creating.  Photography  lends itself well to that need.  Wherever I find myself, I can utilize the camera to translate my observations into a form that can be shared.  Over the years, I have documented many subjects, each becoming a photo series. 

From the "TRACES" series.

To explore the diverse subject matter that excites my visual cortex, please visit the PHOTO LINKS page.


EXPLORATIONS

After several years of detailed  sculpting, I am playing with concepts of embellishing found wood.  The forms that are being created, encourage my normally detailed and active brain, to approach these found wood objects with a Zen mind.

"Moon Over Lake"

 

2014-2016

Wanting to exploret the qualities and possibilities of bronze, I took a Lost  Wax Casting course at the Maine College of Art, Portland, Maine.  Starting with wax  as the "original" object...

  ...it gets "lost" as the bronze takes it's place. 

After being invited to a "Let  There Be Light" Menora exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Portland, Maine,  I decided to learn some of the basics of cutting and welding steel.

    

During this time frame, I continued to carve wood and bronzed some of my more significant wood pieces.

  BirdNest Chair 

    Detail of Raven & Whale

 




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