Orly Cogan: Don’t Call Me Princess

"POW" (2018), hand-stitched embroidery, applique, and paint on vintage bed linen [detail] 84 x 72 inches

"POW" (2018), hand-stitched embroidery, applique, and paint on vintage bed linen [detail] 84 x 72 inches

Installation views (2) from the exhibit

Installation views (2) from the exhibit

Orly Cogan: Don’t Call Me Princess

New York-based fiber artist Orly Cogan, whose work is currently on view at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) in the exhibit "Don't Call Me Princess," will give a free artist talk at BMAC on Saturday, January 19 at 2 p.m.

The night before "Don't Call Me Princess" was slated to open at BMAC last fall, Cogan's tapestries were in place and their labels were affixed to the walls. Then Cogan asked the installation crew to take down one of the tapestries, so she could make some last-minute alterations.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee had just voted along party lines to advance the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court to the full Senate, and Cogan, an ardent feminist, wanted to address the matter. Her nine-foot-high tapestry entitled POW already depicted a montage of iconic, powerful women -- Harriet Tubman, Frida Kahlo, and RBG, among many others -- but Cogan had two more she wanted to add – Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who bravely accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault. As visitors arrived for the next day's opening, they were treated to artwork that could not have been fresher or more relevant -- in terms of both its fabrication and content.

Cogan says her quest as an artist is "to tell a story about the role of women in our ever-changing society, while honoring the labors of the past." She does this by embroidering, painting, and drawing contemporary feminist imagery directly onto vintage printed and embroidered fabrics laden with connotations about women's historical roles in family and society.

"I aim to provoke certain questions within the context of constantly shifting boundaries that define our relationships and our identities," she says. "What role do women want to play in society today? Who do we want to be? What kind of relationships do we want to have? Who are our role models? What are we teaching our children?"

That last question is central to the exhibit at BMAC.

"Whenever I went out with my daughter, people would call her 'princess'," says Cogan. "It was meant as a nice thing to say, and for a while she and I took it as such. But as she grew older, she rejected the title. She would frown and respond, 'I'm not a princess, I'm just a regular girl!'“ The exhibit title is taken from a Kate Evans poem that expresses a similar point of view:

Kate Evans, "Don't Call Me Princess"

People call me 'Princess' every time I wear a dress.
They ask me if I like it and expect me to say 'yes'.
Why is it always 'Princess'? What could they say instead
If they stopped looking at my body and they thought about my head?
Call me 'Astronaut' or 'Journalist' or 'Brain Surgeon' or 'Teacher'
Or 'Carpenter' or 'Pastry Chef' or 'Play Worker' or 'Preacher'.
Women do all kinds of things while wearing lovely clothes
But please, don't call me Princess, cos I'm never one of those.
My mom is not a Queen, you see. My dad is not a King.
Instead of being a Princess … I can be ANYTHING!

Orly Cogan's "Don't Call Me Princess" remains on view at BMAC through March 2.

Founded in 1972, the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) presents rotating exhibits of contemporary art, complemented by lectures, artist talks, film screenings, and other public programs. The museum's galleries and gift shop are open every day except Tuesday, 11-5. Regular admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $4 for students. Members and children 18 and under are admitted free of charge. Located in historic Union Station in downtown Brattleboro, at the intersection of Main Street and Routes 119 and 142, the museum is wheelchair accessible. For more information, call 802-257-0124 or visit www.brattleboromuseum.org.

Major support for BMAC is provided by its members and Allen Bros. Oil, Brattleboro Savings & Loan, C&S Wholesale Grocers, the Four Columns Inn, Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, and Whetstone Station Restaurant & Brewery.

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