Artist Sandy Cohen is reimagining pop art with her bold artworks which have recently featured pop culture iconography. The author Tilman Osterwold defines pop art as, “a collective term for artistic phenomena in which the sense of being in a particular era found its concrete expression”. Cohen uses multiple mediums to express herself both artistically and politically. One cause which she is passionate about is holding medical institutions and companies accountable for their actions. This is inspired by Cohen’s ongoing battle with Dysautonomia and ME/CFS. These illnesses forced her to take a 20 year hiatus from the art scene. She re-emerged in 2017 and worked extremely hard to make her mark in the New York Art Scene.
Interview with Sandy Cohen
What inspired you to become an artist?
Cohen: I can’t say that I was actually inspired to become an artist. I was just born one. It came with the software. There was never a time that I knew life without art. Similar to eating and breathing.
Who is your favorite artist and why?
Cohen: I love so many works by so many different artists. Even artists that are not recognized that I’ve had the opportunity to be exposed to. If I had to name a few off the top of my head they would be Bernardo Siciliano, Victor Castillo and Ron English. I just love their aesthetics.
How did you teach yourself the technical skills of art creation?
Cohen: It must have come from practicing almost every waking hour of my youth. I was an endless sketch machine.
How would you describe your style?
Cohen: Not sure if I have just one style. I create what I feel and at any given time the technical or esthetic style can change. I don’t believe in being bound by one style. I don’t always control the style, it just invents itself.
What messages do you hope to create with your art?
Cohen: Most of my works have messages or are meant to evoke certain emotions. The messages depend on the current state of my mind and are direct reflections of my experiences. In a way they are like painted journals of my life.
How did you successfully re-emerge in the art scene after your illness?
Cohen: It was not easy to re-emerge. I had everything going against me. I didn’t have money, or even a studio, let alone the physical health that most people had. It was my sister who gave me the advice on how to start. It seemed impossible and I was incredibly frustrated. The best thing I did was listen to her. Her words seemed tough at the time but she pushed me to go and get it done no matter what. Five months later I found myself working from the studio space at the World Trade Center. Only a handful of well known artists were personally invited by Larry Silverstein to use the space. I worked harder than I was physically able and then pushed some more. Knocked on all the doors and slowly made a name for myself.
What advice would you give to other women and LGBTQ+ individuals looking to
Cohen: There is no advice I would give LGBTQ+ people that would be different from advice I would give anyone else. Being an artist is not easy, it’s a 24/7 type of job. It’s both blue collar and white collar. It doesn’t pay well at first, sometimes ever… if you want to pursue art then it has to be because you can’t imagine doing anything else. If that’s the case. Go get it.
What made you decide to start creating NFTs?
Cohen: I started creating digital art when I was just around the age of 10 or so. That was when some computer programs started showing up. I was so obsessed and fascinated by them. I didn’t have my own computer until I was 19. So I had to go to my neighbors house and sit for hours on end creating. They didn’t mind because they were amazed at the art I created using a mouse. This was before electronic pens came along. The only issue with digital art was that it was not taken seriously by the art world. So when NFTs hit the scene I couldn’t be happier!
Have you always wanted to develop a clothing line?
Cohen: I was never into fashion. I never cared about clothes. Looking back I remember painting on shirts when I was 8 years old but never thought about it past my own hobby. Now I realize how many people enjoy wearing my images. It makes me so excited to create items that people enjoy so much. That’s my main motivating factor for starting a clothing line.
How did you get your work featured in high-end collections and are there any stories you can tell about this process?
Cohen: To be honest, I’m happy that people love my work so much. It seems to speak to them and make them feel and connect to something internal. That is a language that transcends age, race, class, culture, age and so on. It’s a universal human language. Same way all the kids and teachers in my schools growing up loved my works and took many for themselves, the same thing is happening now with collectors of all kinds. Some of the collections I’m in include the Royal families of Morocco and Qatar. My pieces can also be found in the collections of celebrities like Andrew Schulz and billionaires like the Stern family. At the end of the day that is the true measure of an artist’s life’s work. The ability to touch people.
Is there anything you would like to change about the art industry?
Cohen: I would love to see the art industry become more inclusive to a wider variety of artists. Bringing more emphasis on talent and less on politics.
Where would you like to see yourself in the future?
Cohen: I would love to have my work reach as many people as possible. I want anyone who loves my work to be able to own it in some form. Be it clothing, paintings, NFTs, prints and so on.
Cohen is a hard working and talented artist who has reemerged and reimagined. She managed to open her own door into the artworld by pushing herself harder than she thought she could. She has also recently launched a collaboration to bring her art out as a clothing line which she enjoys for the pleasure which it brings others. Additionally, her lifelong passion for digital art now has a platform which can be effectively monetized through NFTs. This will enable her to make more artworks and to continue reimagining what art can be.