Oreen Cohen makes big and impactful work in a relatively small space. Accessing her studio in the Radiant Hall Susquehanna location involves ducking under a larger than life sculpture that gives you the sense of entering an art cave. Despite it's size, it's warm and inviting. We had more than a few artists suggest we interview Oreen so we were pretty thrilled when she agreed to share a bit of her very limited time with us!
What type of artist are you?
I make sculpture, installation, performance, video. I find ways to make work in whatever medium that fits the message.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Rochester, NY, but spent a lot of my childhood in Israel with family.
What neighborhood do you live in now?
Currently I live in Bloomfield but I am a Northsider at heart.
Why do you choose to make art in Pittsburgh?
I think a better question is, What drew me to Pittsburgh? My curiosity in the post-industrial. I grew up in the Rust Belt, went to undergrad in Buffalo, the entropy and urgency that surrounds those environments drives my work. What kept me in Pittsburgh is more interesting, it’s the incredible amount of opportunity to fully immerse yourself in a community or many, connect the resources that are offered here with the people and actually take action for positive social change through art and culture. I see it as an epic game of connect the dots.
What is your favorite part of being an artist in Pittsburgh?
My favorite part of being an artist in Pittsburgh is the landscape, being able to get in my car and change the scenery in an instant, it keeps me inspired as an artist. I fell in love with Pittsburgh in the Fall of 2015 when I walked all over Pittsburgh collecting rubbings of the architecture, it was a really intimate experience with the city. Also the immense support for artists to expand their practice and the accessibility to resources- especially if you don’t mind dumpster diving.
What would you love to see more of in the Pittsburgh arts scene?
Collaboration. There is so much opportunity that is missed in arts and culture when things are all happening at the same time, or people are visiting that could’ve been accessed but there is no way of knowing. We need some sort of platform, beyond social media to navigate that. I’d love to see more collaborations happening between artists in Pittsburgh, it’s so tight knit, our work is having a conversation with each other so why aren’t we? Also, creative exchanges with other cities and spaces to make large scale sculpture….AH but it’s all in the works, I can feel it.
What’s your favorite music to jam to in the studio?
All depends what kind of work I am getting into, I’m all over the board, recently I’ve been listening to a band from Chicago called Smoker, I bought their entire discography it’s been awhile since I’ve done that. If I'm really trying to do something more focused, I'd say something like Do Make Say Think or The Books. Emily Wells or Lauryn Hill if I need to belt one out in the studio. My music choices have certainly mellowed over the years.
What other things do you do when you are not making art…that is, IF you have any free time?
I hang with my German Shepherd, OZZY, we like to take adventures find new hiking spots and scrap for cool stuff on the side of the road, he enjoys the ride.
What would you tell artists who are just starting out?
This is a quote that I'm still grinding on as I write my Master’s thesis, that has been shared through a past mentor, it has pushed me through the most difficult challenges in working as an artist especially in public space, "Process saves you from the poverty of your intention." It’s about being conscious of approach and situations are navigated with consideration of all aspects and possibilities in each situation, material and context. Being alert, accepting failure and letting generative ideas build possibility for action.
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