Comprised of hundreds of objects fabricated using multiple glass processes, Between Seeing and Knowing is a large-scale, site-specific installation by artists Anna Boothe and Nancy Cohen. The installation is on view now through February 5, 2023 at Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass, Neenah, Wisconsin. Created as part of a collaborative residency that took place at the Studio of the Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG) in 2012, the artwork has been previously exhibited at Accola Griefen Gallery, New York, the Philadelphia Art Alliance, and Philadelphia’s International Airport.
At its core, Between Seeing and Knowing is the result of both artists’ long-standing interest in and in-depth study of Tibetan Buddhist thangka paintings and the integration of their otherwise very separate studio practices. Thangkas are ordered cosmological paintings, often scrolls, created for the purpose of meditation and composed of numerous visual elements. This installation reinterprets the symbolism in the paintings to create new work that reflects the organizational structure and palette of the paintings, as well as the sense of expansiveness and lack of hard resolution characteristic of Buddhist ideology.
Boothe and Cohen state: “Overall, through this collaboration, its subject matter, and our chosen methodology, we seek to understand, both visually and viscerally, another cultural perspective or expression unlike our own, through our dissection and re-assemblage of elements unique to that culture. Just as collaboration brings forth the opportunity for a deep exchange of ideas and the development of sympathetic approaches to doing what one does, pragmatically and metaphorically, this is our attempt at bridging gaps between cultural approaches to explain the unexplainable.”
With degrees in sculpture from Rhode Island School of Design and glass from Tyler School of Art/Temple University, Boothe has worked with glass since 1980. Included in the permanent collections of CMoG, Racine Art Museum and Tacoma Museum of Art, her cast glass work has been exhibited widely, including recently at the Albuquerque Art Museum, Fuller Craft Museum, Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts and the Hotel Nani Mocenigo Palace in Venice, as well as at several villas in Italy’s Veneto Region.
Boothe taught in Tyler’s glass program for 16 years, helped develop and chaired Salem Community College’s glass art program and has exhibited and/or lectured internationally in Australia, Belgium, Israel, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Taiwan and Turkey, as well as at numerous US universities and glass-focused schools. She served on the Board and as President of the Glass Art Society from 1998-2006 and is a former Director of Glass at Philadelphia’s National Liberty Museum.
With an MFA in Sculpture from Columbia University and a BFA in Ceramics from Rochester Institute of Technology, Cohen has been working with glass (among other materials) since 1990. Her work examines resiliency in relation to the environment and the human body. Cohen’s work has been widely exhibited throughout the United States and is represented in collections such as The Montclair Museum, The Weatherspoon Art Gallery, and The Zimmerli Museum. She has completed large-scale, site-specific projects for The Staten Island Botanical Garden, The Noyes Museum of Art, The Katonah Museum, Howard University, and others.
Recent solo exhibitions include Walking a Line at Kathryn Markel Fine Arts in Chelsea, New York, and Nancy Cohen: Atlas of Impermanence at the Visual Arts Center in Summit, New Jersey. Group exhibitions include All We Can Save: Climate Conversations at the Nurture Nature Center in Easton, Pennsylvania, and ReVision and Respond at The Newark Museum. Cohen is a 2022 recipient of a Mid-Atlantic Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. She currently teaches drawing and sculpture at Queens College.
In a review of Boothe and Cohen’s collaborative project, Elizabeth Crawford of N.Y Arts Magazine, wrote: : “Intuitively proximate to Buddhist philosophy, the piece is about the inter-relatedness of things. Each glass part appears sentient and in direct communication with the others. In a Thangka painting, none of the forms are meant to be isolated but work together to invite the viewer to take the painting in at once, as a whole. Similarly, all of the pieces in Boothe and Cohen’s installation contribute to a sense of continuous breath or movement which is enhanced by light reflecting through the glass.” For this innovative work the artists used an astounding range of glass processes including kiln-casting, slumping, fusing, blowing, hot-sculpting and sand-casting.