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Juxtapoz Magazine Genevieve Cohn: Carrying Stones

 

You should have answered the telephone! I want to hear more from mom, that’s amazing! Growing up, given you didn’t have a lot of access to traditional art, did you always know you wanted to be an artist? Or was it something you discovered through the process of making?

No, I was late to the game. It’s amazing how I didn’t know. But I don’t think I had examples. It was something I didn’t know I could do.

 

I was always kind of painting and drawing, but I wasn’t really one of those kids that were like, “I knew I was going to be an artist.” I had so many different interests. In high school, I played soccer and I tore my ACL during my junior year. It was then that I began painting. In college, I majored as a culture and communication major. This was an interdisciplinarity major that included anthropology, sociology, and politics. I continued to take art classes because they were so much fun. It wasn’t until my senior year that I had a conversation with a professor and asked, “What should I take my last semester?” And she was, like, “Oh, you need to take yourself more seriously. Have you considered grad school?” And as soon as she gave me permission to see myself, it changed everything. It was the only way I could be in the world. It was wild because it came first for me, and then it was a lot of world-building, understanding, and the world of art. It feels really backward, and sometimes I still have impostor syndrome, where I’m like, “Oh, I didn’t know when I was seven that this was what I was going to do!” But now that I’m here, I’m so glad that I had all of those different formative experiences and ways of thinking, ways of being critical, ways of connecting to people, ways of understanding, and writing. That’s what I believe made my work what it is.

 

I love what you just said about “permission to see myself.” It does often feel when there is someone we adore, or who is a mentor, or we highly respect, that they play this “awareness” role. It’s all about community. They help you to see that even though you may not be able to see it, it was there all along.

Yeah, completely. I am so grateful. I now teach and take my role very seriously. Personally, I know so much about these stories. This gives me a lot of power as an educator to be thoughtful and to take this responsibility seriously.

 

What are the most influential things right now? 

I am developing a new body work for a Hashimoto Contemporary New York show. It’s been really all-consuming for the last few months. The catalyst was a book called Einstein’s Dreams written by Alan Lightman. It’s a collection short stories, where each story is a world where time exists in a different manner. It is so magical. It was one of those books that you can read before and after.

 

I was thinking about the story of how time is set up so that you only live one rotation of light. So if you’re born in the morning, you live 24 hours worth of light—but you live a full lifetime. And I was also thinking about Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, one of his writings, where there’s a group of people who are chained in a cave and can only stare at the wall ahead of them. They can only see shadows and projections of the world around them. One person escapes and sees the world in real life, so there’s the experience of “What is knowledge? What is truth?”

 

There’s also a forever favorite, Italo Calvino. He has a collection of short stories called Cosmicomics. These stories start with some scientific facts regarding the origins and evolution of the universe. He then goes on to create a bizarre, magical, fictionalized story about the universe’s origin. So, in thinking about those things, this body of work is two communities of women—one who was born in the night and one who was born in the light, and they’re trying to record the life that they know. They are chasing shadows, measuring the tides, and trying to understand how the light is leaving. 

 

Genevieve Cohn’s solo show at Hashimoto ContemporaryTracing Shadows will be on display in NYC until December 10, 2022. 

This feature was originally published in the Winter 2023 Quarterly. available here. 

 

 



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