Charles Cohen (’16): Committed to the Process

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Charles Cohen‘s studio at Saltonstall looks like a cross between a portrait studio and a props department. A box on the floor contains a bag of peppermints, a spool of white ribbon, a Pillsbury Dough Boy figurine, and a bulbous four-fingered Hamburger Helper hand. A Flash (superhero) face mask lies collapsed on a table. A string of small, colorful, triangular flags winds through the branches of a tree outside and trails through a window into a pile on the floor.

For Charles, the residency is an opportunity to work through as many ideas as possible. There has been a backlog. “I’m just ‘doing’ right now, not editing,” he says. “An unrealized idea is depressing — what’s the point of having one in the first place if you don’t act on it? Saltonstall allows me to be committed to the process and detached from the outcome…and any reason not to act.”

Charles draws attention to contradictions in his work, whether it’s photography or video. A black backdrop pinned to a wall has served a number of different ideas for photographs. He’s drawn to its color and symbolism. “I like the metaphor of this black space,” he says. “It’s endless and finite at the same time. There’s an expanse to it, but it feels constrained. It’s an expanse without the freedom.” He pauses. “It’s not a place you want to be,” he says with a laugh.

(Photo above, a work in progress, courtesy of the artist.)