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Michelle Frehsee

Fiber artist Orly Cogan with her installation at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center.

The Arts

Fiber artist Orly Cogan to discuss art and feminism at BMAC

Orly Cogan’s “Don’t Call Me Princess” remains on view at BMAC through March 2. For more information, call 802-257-0124 or visit www.brattleboromuseum.org.

BRATTLEBORO—New York-based fiber artist Orly Cogan, whose work is currently on view at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center in the exhibit “Don’t Call Me Princess,” will give a free artist talk at BMAC on Saturday, Jan. 19, at 2 p.m.

According to a news release, the night before “Don’t Call Me Princess” was slated to open at BMAC last fall, Cogan’s tapestries were in place and their labels were affixed to the walls. Then Cogan asked the installation crew to take down one of the tapestries so she could make some last-minute alterations.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee had just voted along party lines to advance the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court to the full Senate, and Cogan, an ardent feminist, wanted to address the matter.

Her nine-foot-high tapestry entitled POW already depicted a montage of iconic, powerful women — Harriet Tubman, Frida Kahlo, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, among many others — but Cogan had two more she wanted to add — Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford, the woman who bravely accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

As visitors arrived for the next day’s opening, they were treated to artwork that “could not have been fresher or more relevant — in terms of both its fabrication and content,” the release said.

Cogan says her quest as an artist is “to tell a story about the role of women in our ever-changing society, while honoring the labors of the past.” She does this by embroidering, painting, and drawing contemporary feminist imagery directly onto vintage printed and embroidered fabrics laden with connotations about women’s historical roles in family and society.

“I aim to provoke certain questions within the context of constantly shifting boundaries that define our relationships and our identities,” she says. “What role do women want to play in society today? Who do we want to be? What kind of relationships do we want to have? Who are our role models? What are we teaching our children?”

That last question is central to the exhibit at BMAC.

“Whenever I went out with my daughter, people would call her ‘princess,’” Cogan says. “It was meant as a nice thing to say, and for a while she and I took it as such. But as she grew older, she rejected the title. She would frown and respond, ‘I’m not a princess, I’m just a regular girl!’”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #492 (Wednesday, January 9, 2019). This story appeared on page B3.

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