Artist Profile: CAC Artist Naomi Cohn

Unlike many of our other artists at Clay Art Center, Naomi Cohn only started working with clay about three years ago. She had been a practicing painter for fifteen years prior to picking up clay. When she moved to New York from Colorado, she built a house with a painting studio, fully intending to keep up with her painting practice. But between changing her studio setup and moving to a new state, she never really got back into painting.

Naomi Cohn had always believed that she was a sculptor, so in an attempt to find out if it was really for her, she landed at Clay Art Center. Cohn just wanted to play around with some clay and get a feel for it, but from the moment she touched the clay she was hooked. She completely abandoned her painting practice and started attending classes at Clay Art Center. After a few classes, she started taking independent study, and then got a private studio space.

When asked to describe her work, Cohn believes that she has not completely found her clay voice yet. “At my age, it’s really sort of a thrill to be a beginner and just explore and have a great time,” Cohn states. “First, I wanted to learn the materials, and figure out what the clay was asking me to do and what the limitations were.” She comes from a gestural abstraction painting background, which really informs what she creates. She is also very focused on the body, because of her history with dance. 

Cohn is still trying to find her place in the ceramic world, but she isn’t very worried about that. “I don’t know the ceramic world – I know the art world. My whole experience is informed by painting.” She has been inspired recently by sculptors Norbert Prangenberg, Arlene Shechet, Kathy Butterly, Annabeth Rosen, and of course the old greats, like Picasso.

Although Naomi Cohn has exhibited as a painter, she hasn’t had any ceramic shows yet because she sets a very high bar for herself. “I’m trying to create a body of work that I can stand behind,” she states. Cohn believes that she is getting there, as she discovers her voice at Clay Art Center.

“Clay Art Center means more to me than I ever expected,” she states. For Cohn, it has become a place for her to have a true everyday practice, especially because of how incredibly community-oriented Clay Art Center is. She expected clay to be a very solitary endeavor, much like painting was, but “the CAC community is filled with a generous sharing of knowledge,” Cohn states. She believes that it has helped her learn so much faster than if she was trying to pursue clay alone. She comes here every day and just works. “I think I’ve found where I can do what I was meant to do. Working with clay is completely engrossing. It physically keeps my mind alive and creative.”