20 Questions (More or Less) For Sandra Cohen

Sandra Cohen’s paintings are mindscapes — their depth and layering suggest memories and dreams (and memories of dreams and dreams of memories).  Some of her pieces on display in the Strata show at MKL GALLERY in Somerville (through November 15th) evoke brilliant French Symbolist Odilon Redon, only updated — with oblique references to artifical intelligence, modern warfare, quantum physics and memes.

Redon’s description of his own work seems apt here: “My drawings inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined.”

Cohen says of hers: “My work is successful when it offers a glimpse of something intangible through its layers of queasy patterns and familiar unreality, something n-dimensional, dumb, and savant. I want the finished work to be luxuriant and seductive. I hope to offer a pleasurable sensuality that eats itself as the experience becomes over-luxuriant… a narcotic, hypnotizing beauty that reveals vertiginous chaos.”

She was gracious enough to answer a few questions about art for me, via email…

Define what art is not in three words, or two words and a symbol or flag semaphore of your choosing.

fixed, predictable, dependable

Name one thing art can’t do, no matter how it tries.

be manifest simply by desire

Briefly: what’s the main difference between art and everything else?

maybe nothing; concept may be its only property

If art were an animal, it would be…

a push-me-pull-you

If art were an animal.

Can species other than humans make art?

some birds do it consciously

Does art need oxygen to survive?


You are a non-carbon-based life-form exploring the universe.  Earth is your first exposure to something called “art.”  Explain to your species back home what it is.

they play this game called ‘art’

Sticking with the intergalactic theme: Earth is about to be destroyed.  You have room for one work of art (not your own) in your escape pod, which will it be?

a musical instrument is a work of art to me, one that begets more art

(Not incidentally, Cohen is a musician as well.)

Provide values for variables in these equations:

a + b = art

particle + wave = art

c – d = art

yes – no = art

Q: What would your withdrawal symptoms be
if you were forced to go without art?
A: I would become criminal or
obnoxious immediately.

Can art ever be evil?


Is it ever art’s fault?


Name a piece of art that scares you.

the people other people create


the artists seem unaware of their creations

What would a world without art be like?

we wouldn’t be there

What about a world with only bad art?  Which would be worse?

in context, ‘bad’ art could become ‘good’ art by necessity or else provoke better art

Can art ever be too fine, too abstract, or too contemporary?


Answer yes or no and explain, substituting “art” for “a tree” in the following and “gallery” for “forest”: “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?”

yes — even a black hole makes a sound (apparently, the sound resonates as a B-flat 5 octaves below human hearing range)

Evil Genius Dr. Hatesart is giving you a choice:  between all the food in a village and all the art in your favorite museum/city/shoebox under your bed.  If you choose to feed the village, the art goes on the bonfire.  If you choose the art, the village with all its inhabitants, goes up in flames.  Choose, and justify.

feed them, they will make new art

Can anyone understand and appreciate art?  Even, say, Dick Cheney?

it’s always possible…

Visit Sandra Cohen online at sandracohen.com.

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