On February 8th , my artwork titled ” Syncopations” was dedicated at Central State University. President Dr. Cynthia Jackson Hammond said “Words mean something. They make you think. But art, makes you feel something.”

Here are my remarks from the program:

Central State Artwork Dedication Remarks

As an artist, the question I’m most often asked is-how long did it take you to make that? My answer always surprises people, because I tell them it takes a lifetime.

A lifetime of learning from my mistakes. A life time of changing directions and accepting new challenges. Every project I work on gives me the opportunity to learn about different subjects and to meet inspiring people.

On my first visit here, I met with your President, Dr. Jackson- Hammond who took me on a tour of this beautiful building. I could feel the love she had for this place. She knew the names of all the students who stopped to say hello and she had a warm hug for each of them. I knew, that day, this was going to be a very special project. Her vision for the artwork was to feature Gandhi’s inspiring words and my task was to embellish and frame those words to reflect the rich cultural and artistic heritage of the African tradition.

Before I drew one line on paper, I spent weeks reading and learning everything I could about African art. I was most inspired by the “strip weaving” textiles of the people of Ghana who are considered the most skilled weavers in Africa. Their symbolic patterns are woven into 24 strips of cloth to create textiles for royalty and life ceremonies.

For weeks, I made sketches, and wove paper strips into different patterns. I tried many variations, but nothing seemed to be working. Then one morning I sat down at my drawing table looked at my designs and I knew I had to start over.  Something was missing.  I wasn’t capturing the passion of Gandhi’s words. So, I swept everything off the table and onto the floor.   I stood up and looked at the mess on the floor and saw a new opportunity in the chaos.The scattered pieces overlapped and intersected in unexpected ways. The chaos on the floor had released me from the traditional horizontal and vertical lines. Strip by strip I put the patterns back together to create a free form, unconventional frame for Gandhi’s words. Then the artwork came alive. I could begin to see and hear the syncopations of jazz music, the drumbeats of tradition, and the poetry of rap music.

I made hundreds of handmade tiles pressed with textures to look like fabric and glazed them with rich earth tones. I added African folk symbols that represented strength, humility, wisdom, history and morality. I embellished some of the strips with glass beads made in Ghana using traditional methods that have been passed down through generations.

The black and white pattern on the right border looks like black and white piano keys. It is a traditional folk pattern illustrating that one can make a melody on either black or white keys, but one can make harmony by playing both.

And then, as if completing an outfit with a fabulous piece of jewelry, I added my interpretation of a ceremonial antelope mask. This iconic image was once used as the logo for the Smithsonian’s African Art Collection. I sculpted my antelope out of clay and after it was fired, I covered it with 23k gold leaf. If you look closely you can see her earring!

The installation here took 3 days and was quite scary. It took at least a hundred trips up and down the wall on a scissor lift to put all the pieces together.  I had never been 30 ft up in the air on swaying scissor lift.  I always thought I was afraid of heights. But like I said, it took me a lifetime to realize I could do it.

During the installation, we had many wonderful comments from students and staff. One student said the artwork changed the way the building felt when she walked in.  She said it made her feel like people at this University cared about her. I cannot think of a more perfect complement for anyone in any profession.  A teacher, a nurse, a scientist or even a politician… to make someone feel cared for.

The work may take a lifetime and the work is never easy, but to hear those words from a student fills me with gratitude to all of you. I’m sure every student here knows how lucky you are to be in this place that cares about you.

Gandhi’s beliefs, his thoughts, his words, his actions, his habits and values all say, “I care about you” and I believe that’s what it takes to shape our own destinies.

I’m so grateful, to Dr. Jackson- Hammond and the Ohio Arts Council for giving me this incredible opportunity.

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The donor wall is installed at the Adler Aphasia on July 12, 2016. Jennifer Brown

BONNIE COHEN’S AWARD WINNING COMMISSIONS SELECTED FOR PRESTIGIOUS

INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION OF CONTEMPORARY MOSAIC ART

The Society of American Mosaic Art (SAMA) has selected two mosaic art installations by Bonnie Cohen, to be included in the Mosaic Arts International Exhibition: site-specific category. This competitive annual exhibition features the best in contemporary fine art mosaics uniting innovative design and masterful technique as explored by some of the best international artists working in the medium.

The juror, Susan Goldberg AIA, selected eleven works for inclusion in the site- specific category to be presented at the 16th Annual Mosaic Arts Summit taking place at The Janice Charach Gallery in West Bloomfield, Michigan The site specific artwork will be represented photographically at the exhibition and online at www.AmericanMosaics.org beginning April 27 to June 15,2017. A print catalog of the exhibition will be available.

Bonnie Cohen’s artwork titled” Steps to Success” was commissioned by Belmont College Health Sciences Center in St. Clairsville, Ohio as part of the Ohio Arts Council Percent for Arts program. The 16’x9’ mosaic illustrates the exceptional technical foundation of the Belmont Health Sciences program balancing human touch with technical excellence. In addition to school colors being integrated into the artwork to inspire and energize students and faculty, figurative and symbolic iconography illustrates the importance of practical skills and expertise through experiential learning. The figures represent the concept of lifespan care and the human touch is creatively interpreted through the combination of the soft edged handmade tiles with the grid-like patterns of the glass mosaic.

Bonnie Cohen’s second work, a collaborative mosaic mural titled’ A Journey of a Thousand Miles” was created for the Adler Aphasia Center in Maywood, NJ, which provides help for those living with aphasia and their caregivers. The 12’x6’ mural  features a winding pathway through a garden of mosaic flowers with the quote, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. During a two-day artist- in- residency, the participants created individual mosaic flower motifs. Most participants were only able to work with one hand so the project was designed to accommodate their physical limitations.  The completed flower motifs were incorporated into the mural.

see a video about the project here:

The donor wall is installed at the Adler Aphasia on July 12, 2016. Jennifer Brown

ARTIST STATEMENT

“A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with One Step”

Adler Aphasia Center, Maywood, NJ

Mrs. Adler’s words said it all…. “It is exactly what I wished for…A HAPPY WALL!”

The Adler Aphasia Center provides help for those living with aphasia and their caregivers. This collaborative mosaic mural was designed to celebrate the 15th anniversary and to honor generous donors.

The design features a winding pathway through a garden of mosaic flowers with the quote, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

During a two-day artist in residency, the participants created individual mosaic flower motifs. Most participants were only able to work with one hand so the project was designed to accommodate their physical limitations.  Adhesive mesh, pre-drawn patterns and some pre-cut tiles helped the participants create their flowers with ease. Prior to the artist- in- residency, the artist created an instructional video with guidance from speech and occupational therapists.

The completed flower motifs were incorporated into the mural and enhanced with the artist’s handmade tiles, calligraphy, leaves, stems and background design.

Executive Director Karen Tucker said,” The artwork says so much about who we are and how we want all those that enter our program to feel as they navigate life with aphasia”.

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ARTIST STATEMENT

“STEPS to SUCCESS”

Belmont College Health Sciences Center

This mosaic artwork illustrates the exceptional scientific and technical education at the Belmont Health Sciences program where students gain practical skills and expertise through experiential training. Three intertwined circles represent lifespan care and the “caring hands” represent the importance of balancing human interaction with technical excellence.
Glass mosaic tiles and stainless steel artfully combined with handmade ceramic tiles illustrate the coordination of different aspects of health care and medical technology with a hands-on, compassionate, educational experience. The artwork illustrates various scientific symbols and medical data.
The Belmont logo and the college name, integrated into the mosaic artwork reinforces the inspiration and energy of students and faculty who strive to improve and enhance the lives of others through the health and science curriculum offered at Belmont College.

photo credits:

Adler- Jennifer Brown photo and video

Belmont- Jackie Elmore