El cielo bajo tus pies
Praxis Gallery, Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Argentina. Text: Ana María Quijano, 2014

El cielo bajo tus pies [The Sky under your Feet], by Ana Martínez Quijano

The inhabitants in Cynthia Cohen’s landscapes—just like Rafael Alberti’s wrong dove that “thought the sea was the sky”—are a metaphor of strange existential circumstances. The world is upside down, it has made a huge turn while characters remain standing, looking straight ahead in their habitual position. The disaster is perceived immediately: earth occupies the place of the sky. However, our look stays with the characters: a bear, a hare, a deer, and a sheep—all floating in the space. They dominate the scene.

The disturbing issue raised by the artist is finally sensed. How is it possible to avoid the disorientation, the confusion, the perplexity of such beings in their distorted environment? Where will they go for shelter at night? Cynthia Cohen’s works make it possible to guess changes in the infinitely large field that accommodates us.

Where are we when we say we are in the world? This is not a new question: Martin Heidegger made it decades ago. However, despite the significance this question may have had then, the current evolution of humanity has given it renewed validity. It rises in a horizon filled with doubts. Are we on earth or suspended amidst nothing, facing an abyss we do not dare to look at?

Cynthia Cohen stands back, shows her animals, lost in thought, evidencing some cynicism, but showing mercy too. The subject’s grace and its astonishment are moving. Thus, the background of the problem is noticed through the absurd: the point of support is—surprisingly—missing, an attack to the law of gravity. Meanwhile, the parody is a game that allows facing a dramatic issue with a smile. Tragedy hides behind the parody.

The fate of these animals amidst a vacuum and with no other support to hold themselves other than the bottomless sky lies in suspense but seems to be appalling. Despite the uncertainty, the color, the surface of the blue skies, the forest intense green, and the ocher-colored snowed mountains make up landscapes that are almost idyllic, oblivious to the darkness of the subject. Cohen has found the right way to recount her story and get the spectator’s attention without relinquishing the conceptual complexity of the meaning.

For starters, the models she paints are small children’s toys. By transporting them to the large sizes of the paintings, these tiny picture cards keep traces of the tenderness arising from the original. Then, the change in the image scale and the difficult incidents that luck has in store for the little toys create a climate of unreality. This is how parody gestures are maximized.

The artist appeals to the spectator’s common sense, it shakes him with basic evidence. Something is wrong. The world is upside down and those living in it do not attempt to move. The victims, though, are not human but simple little animals. It is worth noting that the meaning of the works changes based on the spectator’s perspective, his sensitivity, and, above all, the position he occupies in the universe, in this territory where we should simply feel at home since we are born till we die. If the sky abyss is thought to be immense, there are no limits either to construe these intriguing images.

Ana Martínez Quijano, 2014