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Coveted Interviews

Inspiration: Orly Cogan

Orly Cogan’s “Wonder of You” show at Steven Wolf Gallery. The show is a series of embroidery on vintage fabrics, natural and fantastic scenes of sex and cake and other things. The subject matter articulates the post-modern feminine condition (which is at best a confusing paradoxical mess) in an honest and whimsical way. It’s so refreshing.

The Coveted: Tell us a little bit about yourself… what does your average day look like?

Orly Corgan: Every day is different. It depends if I am creating work for a specific exhibition or working out ideas, concepts & methods in the studio for future projects. Usually I try to take care of what I call business stuff in the morning at home. Then I hop on the subway & head over to the studio for the rest of the day. Some times there are days where I just take care of errands related to my work, like looking for new materials, supplies to work with, looking through books (researching topics I’m interested in) to translate visually. I deal with frames, mounting issues & so on. I try to be home around the same time as my fiancé so we can have dinner together! I often bring work home so I can continue to work on it late into the night.

TC: Let’s talk about your work. You have several re-occurring themes; nakedness, near-nakedness, sex, drugs, cake, self portrait. How did they find themselves into your work?

OC: Most of the figures are people from my life or they are people I know that are playing a character within the world of my work. My love, my parents & friends mingle with storybook characters creating a kind of public intimacy. Using people that I know is interesting, intimate, challenging & fun for me. It’s unabashed yet very vulnerable, in either case , it’s a way I can stay close to them all day with out actually spending physical time together. I cheerfully try to mix things up, collapsing time & history as I combine the past with the present.

My work is an irreverent yet gentle take on the conventions of femininity. Many themes I deal with include, art history references, psychology and gender dynamics ,tradition, mythology, fairy tale, nature, humor, irony & relationships.

I add to these salvaged fabrics a layer of contemporary attitude (such as hand sewed long pubic hair or blatant indigents of sweets & drugs) that updates what was once considered an old-fashioned craft in a more modest age- with a kind of “happy-go-lucky postmodern perversity”. (that’s a quote I love from a past review by, Margaret Hawkins). The fabric becomes the foundation for a fantastical, exotic dialog between the old and the new. My life as it is mixed up with the fantasies of how it might be through a haze of innocents & precociousness that is my own inner reality.

My figures, often female heroines allude to their anxieties, insecurities, vanities & desires through visual narratives. These narratives have both a tactile and symbolic presence, transforming “women’s work” into something beautiful, evocative and unexpected.

TC: How did you learn to embroider?

In art school, my major was painting, so I never “officially ” learned embroidery or even took any fiber arts classes. I grew up going through grade & high school where hand crafts & art were an important part of the curriculum. Growing up, my father was mostly interested in Renaissances art & nineteenth century painting. My childhood home was filled with sculptures & paintings with subject matter that often became part of my make believe play time as an only child. While my mother collected old “samplers”, quilts & folk art which decorated the home I lived in during my high school years. In a way my current work embodies both these influences & sensibilities. (sort of connecting to both my parents on one hand yet simultaneously rebelling!) I think of what I do as drawing & painting in thread.

TC: I think it’s interesting how you use a medium that is classically designated to women. The connotations of embroidery, of lace, fresh linens, bring thoughts of what’s expected of women. Like we’re supposed to smell nice, all the time. Seeing images of girls doing things we shouldn’t be looking at, like having sex with each other and doing drugs… eating cupcakes. I can relate to this gap between expectation and reality, but what inspired you to address the feminine dichotomy the way you do?

OC:In a time with constantly shifting boundaries that define our relationships and our identities, I am interested in exploring some common feminine archetypes and stereotypes. Searching for that odd thing, the Feminist Beauty Queen. I mix subversion with flirtation, humor with power and intimacy with frivolity. I am drawn to dichotomies such as soft and tough, dirty and clean, fantasy and reality, especially as they relate to gender. It’s been said that I “eroticses the very nature of linens and the act of hand sewing”. (Michael Kisner).

Who is your hero?

OC: I dont have one. Maybe wonder-woman! : )

Where can we find you?

  1. www.orlycogan.com.
  2. I am represented by Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago, Projects Gallery in Philadelphia, Steven Wolf Fine Arts in San Fransisco & Byron Cohen Gallery in Kansas City.
  3. I currently have a solo exhibition up at Steven Wolf Fine Arts in San Francisco, titled, “The Wonder of You”.
  4. This summer I’ll have an instillation up at The Hudson River Museum in NY, titled, “I Want Candy” June 14 through September 2. I will have a solo exhibition this fall with Bryon Cohen Gallery .
  5. January 2008 I will participate in a two person exhibition titled “Undomestic” at Peppers Art Gallery, University of Redlands, CA. Last but not least , some work can be seen in the digital archive for feminist art in the Elisabeth Sackler Center of The Brooklyn Museum of Art.

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9 comments for “Inspiration: Orly Cogan”

  1. It is very cool, i love it! Using these subjects in this type of work and combining the contrast between these 2 worlds is just genius!

    Posted by Boaz | May 23, 2007, 6:48 am
  2. Hey! I don’t know if you saw my reply to you on my blog, but by all means have your male friend submit photos!


    Posted by High Fashion Girl | May 23, 2007, 2:37 pm
  3. ::thud:: OMG, what amazing work. I’m completely smitten.

    Posted by StyleSpy | May 23, 2007, 6:34 pm
  4. fascinating work - thanks for introducing me to this artist!

    Posted by joy | May 24, 2007, 10:50 am
  5. WOW! What an artist - she is absolutely amazing! Her work is so unique and I think every woman can relate. Thanks for the great interview - You did an awesome job!

    Posted by JO | May 24, 2007, 1:34 pm
  6. thanks for the lovely comments. i’m really glad you enjoy orly’s work and interview as much as do.
    : )

    Posted by Jennine | May 24, 2007, 1:52 pm
  7. really nice, really really nice, i must say i feel in love. With her and her designs and her needles, and stitches and her world. thanks for letting me know about this artist!

    Posted by Bobble Bee | May 24, 2007, 6:15 pm
  8. oh yeah, these are really awesome. thank you!

    Posted by my love for you. | September 12, 2007, 5:11 pm
  9. [...] grow up or if Hieronymus Bosch were a woman… Who knows? Last year she completed a series of epic scenes embroidered on vintage fabrics, and her new work on paper, she says, “are lyrical and romantic with ambiguous poetic [...]

    Posted by Rights of Spring | THE COVETED | April 24, 2008, 5:22 am

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