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Margaret Cogswell

37-28 85th Street, #2
New York, NY 11372, U.S.A.
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Margaret Cogswell is a mixed-media installation artist in New York City and recipient of numerous awards including the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (2009), New York Foundation for the Arts (2007,1993); Pollock-Krasner Foundation (1987,1991) and Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant (2014).

Cogswell was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and raised in Japan where she lived until she was 13 years old.  She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in English literature from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.  In 1982 she received a Masters in Fine Arts degree in sculpture from Mason Gross School of Art at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

 Since 2003, the main focus of Cogswell's work is an ongoing series of RIVER FUGUES projects that explore the increasingly politicized role of water. RIVER FUGUES is a series of individually unique site-specific installations which utilize the musical structure of a fugue to weave together sculpture, video, sound and drawing components into site-specific installations which explore the interdependency of people, industry and rivers in post-industrial cities. RIVER FUGUES began in Cleveland, Ohio with Cuyahoga Fugues, a mixed-media installation inspired by and incorporating generations of stories reflecting the life and dreams embodied by the Cuyahoga River.

All River Fugues entail regional research, recording images and narratives that are later edited into fugues and integrated into mixed-media installations. The harnessing of a river’s waterpower for the development of industry and commerce uncomfortably links the idealized rural landscape with urban industry and technology. Dreams of prosperity become mixed with disillusionment as terms are redefined and both river waters and climate are compromised.  Given this complex history, in following rivers, I am tracing memories and loss in the landscapes they cut through; landscapes filled with haunting histories of beauty, violence, nostalgia and possibilities. 

While the initial process for gathering materials parallels that of a documentary filmmaker, the work upon completion does not follow a linear descriptive narrative.  Instead my mentors are found in composers and poets whose use of intervals, sounds, images, and words challenge me to explore visual parallels in the development of my own “fugues”. Often poignant elegies, these works reflect the complex and changing relationship of a society to its industries and rivers, and strive to be a contributing artistic voice in a larger conversation addressing issues related to water.

River Fugues projects have been exhibited nationally and internationally. Moving the Water(s): Croton Fugues Fugues at the Mid-Manhattan Library, NYC, NY is the third in a series of research-based projects that focus on New York City’s water supply system and the sacrifices people in the Catskills and elsewhere have made over the years to insure that NYC has the water it needs. Croton Fugues is inspired by the celebration in 2017 of the centennial anniversary of New York City’s aqueduct system, and the location of the Mid-Manhattan Library across the street from the site of the former Croton Distribution Reservoir.  (Solo exhibition, February 8 -May 3, 2017)

Moving the Water(s): Ashokan Fugues was presented in two stages of development in solo exhibitions exploring the NYC water supply at the Kleinart/James Art Center in Woodstock, NY in 2016 and at the CUE Art Foundation in NYC, NY in 2014.

RIVER FUGUES projects have since been commissioned by museums and art centers for exhibitions nationally and internationallySome of these exhibitions include: Soundings: Margaret Cogswell and Ellen Driscoll at Kentler International Drawing Space, Brooklyn, NY (2-person, 2015); Water Soundings, Zendai Zhujiajiao Art Museum, China (solo 2014); Moving the Water(s): Ashokan Fugues and Wyoming River Fugues at CUE Art Foundation, NYC  (solo 2014);  Wyoming River Fugues at the Art Museum, University of Wyoming, Laramie (solo 2012); Mississippi River Fugues, Art Museum, University of Memphis, Tennessee (solo 2008);  Hudson River Fugues at Tang Museum, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY, (group 2009-2010); River Fugues at BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium, Monaco Ministry of Culture and Chicago Field Museum (traveling group exhibition, 2007-09); Buffalo River Fugues at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo, NY (solo 2006); Hudson Weather Fugues at Wave Hill, NYC (group 2005), and Cuyahoga Fugues at SPACES Gallery, Cleveland, Ohio (solo 2012 and 2003).

Cogswell's professional career has also included teaching studio art at Purchase College School of Art and Design of the State University of New York; Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island; Kansas City Art Institute, Missouri; Parsons School of Design in New York and Kanazawa, Japan; the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Middlebury College, Vermont; The College of Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine and the University of Hawaii-at-Manoa, Honolulu.   From 1999-2011, Cogswell was Program Officer for the Visual Arts with the Asian Cultural Council in New York City.

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