Edie S Cohn
I grew up in the rural Wisconsin town of New Holstein, population 2400. My first exposure to art was on the covers of my mother’s phonograph records. I was considered the town artist by the time I graduated from high school in 1967.

At that point I headed off to California, where I took art classes at Foothill Jr. College and Hayward State University: some of them I loved, some of them I learned from, but I still considers myself a self-taught artist.

My favorite classes and activities at that time involved drawing the human figure in life-drawing classes. But a few years after I came to North Carolina in 1974 and had my first child (Travis) in 1976, I organized a life-drawing program at the Carrboro Arts Center using senior citizens as the models, and that experience turned my focus towards portraiture. Quite quickly, the challenge of capturing a likeness/a spirit on paper became a passion.

I joined the feminist group Center/Gallery in the early 1980s and started to show portraits of elderly people in solo shows at the Durham Art Guild and the Carrboro Arts Center. After having my second child (Rachel) in 1983, I started doing drawings of newborn babies at Durham Regional Hospital: by now I have done about 3,500 baby portraits for Durham families, including some that reach into the second generation.

In the early 1990s I began doing portraits (and then interviews) of homeless people at Durham's homeless shelter, paying each model to sit for me and giving them each a print of the drawing. In 2000 I received a grant from the NC Humanities Council to make a book of these portraits plus excerpts from the interviews. I exhibited this work in many places, including a show at the Durham County Library that involved three forums on homelessness in Durham, which gave homeless people chances to tell their stories and talk with Durham City Council members.

Lately I have become a National Affiliate Member of SOHO20 Gallery in NYC. I work mainly with collage now, using a palette of the brilliant colors that I remember on those record covers from my preschool years.


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