Stella’s art reflects the journeys of her ancestors as well as the mysticism and symbolism of women and their archetypes in other Sephardic cultures.
She has exhibited her work at galleries and museums internationally including:
The Strack van Schyndel Gallery, Rosebank, South Africa (1990)
National Art Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa (1992)
Commissioned by the Sephardi Synagogue of Cape Town, South Africa, to produce 12 panels titled ‘The Twelve Tribes of Israel’ (1993)
‘Bendisiones de Vera’ held by the Yeshiva University Museum and the American Sephardi Federation (ASF), New York (1999)
Oracle Women at JCC in Houston (Sept 2000)
Grand opening and dedication of the ASF Gallery at the Centre for Jewish History. Stella’s 7-metre artwork marking the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 (Sepharad 1492) is the centre-piece of this Gallery and is on permanent exhibition at the centre of Jewish History in New York (Sept 2000)
‘Celebrating the Sephardic Woman’ – Oracle Women II at the ASF (Nov 2000)
A fund raising event for Scleroderma held by Jason Alexander in Houston, USA. Stella donated a painting ‘Sarah’ which was auctioned (Oct 2001)
‘Afrique’ a series of naïve art with rural African themes depicting comical animals were inspired by the birth of her grandchildren (2006)
Sabbath Bride II is on permanent exhibition at the Beyachad Community Centre, Johannesburg (2010)
In addition to creating her own artwork Stella established and headed a new printing division for Cone Textiles, Zimbabwe (1983), creating ethnic African Prints for the sub-Saharan market and was responsible for the design and production of 12 million metres of fabric a year for the following ten years.
Designed glass dinner service sets (1994) with recycled glass, portraying Judaic mystical symbolism, which was exported to South Africa and the US.
About Stella's Art
Stella Cohen's paintings are enormously rich and varied, yet one essential and ongoing search threads its way through all of the stylistic differences. It entails a unique retracing of spiritual, personal and collective experiences and while the artist's techniques differ, her work can be categorized as symbolist in orientation and hermetic in nature. In Cohen's world, then people or symbols often seem to exist in an eternal or a cyclical time scheme where past, present and future blend, alternate and diffuse.
In Mysticism in Exile, 1997, one of the artist's most impressive oils, two culturally different architectural motifs dovetail almost magically. The changing iconography depicts an exchange of Islamic formats with Jewish ones through time. In symbolic form, the imagery suggests the Sephardic displacement from Spain to the Moroccan towns of Fez, Meknes and Rabbat which were to become important Kabbalistic centres. This painting is of central importance in Cohen's work. Movement. Integration. Transformation. Tradition. These are the key aspects in all her work that serve as the template for her vision.
Her mystical work, however varied, is about faith in one's destiny, self-sufficiency, self-discovery, transformation, and compassion. The artist has stated she yearns 'to express the energy of the omnipresent divine, and to connect and integrate the traditional with the mystical and spiritual realms of Judaism.' Yet her artworks are the residue of her involvement with an overriding ethical question that goes beyond the Jewish faith, however central it is in her oeuvre.
About the Critic.
Dominique Hahas is an independent critic and curator working in Manhattan. A former museum curator and director, he writes for numerous art publications including Art in America, Flash Art and ARTNET Worldwide. He is a regular contributor to REVIEW Magazine and is a member of its Editorial Board. He is the New York editor for d'ART International.