We at Miri Gallery are honored to be exhibiting work from Professor Harold L. Cohen during our upcoming exhibit, “Welcome to My World: Mental Health Awareness Through Art.” Professor Cohen resides in Buffalo, New York, where he was the Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at the State University of New York at Buffalo. After retiring, he turned to his love of art and printmaking, and over the years has created an impressive portfolio of over 450 prints (collagraphs, drypoint etchings, intaglio, linocuts, plastic engravings, wood cuts, wood engravings) plus drawings, paintings and sculptures in several media. Professor Cohen has been kind enough to answer a few of our questions about his incredible
••Tell us a little bit about your background. What made you interested in art? Who were your early influencers?
When I was 8 years old, my mother bought me some tempera paints and paper to use when I was in the house. I was hooked. I have always loved art since. I grew up learning to see the world differently.
••How is your personality reflected in your work?
I am an explorer. I explore what I am interested in; and then express whatever I feel. It may be violence, such as when experiencing the holocaust, or a fast or fleeting emotion. With the Intalgio print “Struggling #3,” it expresses the fluidity within humans and the mental health situation. I used a dropper to draw the resist directly onto the metal plate. This gave the image movement.
•• What is your current medium and why have you chosen to work with it?
In addition to printmaking, I am a painter and sculptor. But printmaking is my major field. I produce many different types of prints including collagraphs, drypoint etchings, intaglio, linocuts, serigraphs, wood cuts, plastic and wood engravings. These printing techniques enable me to share more of my art. When I paint, there is only one image.
•• In your viewpoint, what does it mean to be an artist?
I have the ability to use different techniques to express how I feel and what I want to say. I have no limitations.
••Please tell us a bit about your piece that is being exhibited at Miri Gallery. How does it fall into the theme of mental health awareness?
I experienced a lot of bigotry in the US Navy where people were anti-black and anti-Jew. I used my experiences with antisemitism to show my displeasure for the anti-human aspects of society. “Struggling #3” represents how individuals respond to bigotry and live with mental illness.
•• What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
I have no creative patterns. I do not use the past to explore the future. Each idea or concept can be new and expressed through a different process and technique. The process selected depends on the emotion I am trying to communicate. All of my prints are inked by hand and then pulled by hand on my Vandercook press. Only the serigraphs are different which I produce on screens that I made myself.
•• What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever created?
I do not have any favorite pieces of my art. As I have many prints, paintings and sculpture, each is unique. Each subject and each process is special. Even when following a theme, each print or painting is new and different.
••What are you trying to communicate with your art?
The beauty of the universe and the emotions I feel as an artist are expressed through my work. My art is a recording of what I see and feel. Thus, each piece expresses the emotions I experienced differently. “Struggling #3” represents the complex feelings of instability and the isolation often found with mental health patients. Sickness can also be represented through the pain of isolation. The inhumanity of our society is evident when we see young people suffering from AIDs; dying alone in hospice.
You can view Harold L. Cohen’s artwork in person at Miri Gallery from September 16 – October 7, and more of his artwork on his website at www.haroldlcohen.com.