We had the good fortune of connecting with Eileen Cowin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Eileen, what role has risk played in your life or career?
As an artist, I want the work to be recognizable as mine. And yet…I always want the viewer to be surprised and challenged; I want to derail their expectations. I also want to be surprised and challenged as I am making the work. When a friend’s wife died, his mother advised him to “accept all invitations”. I also make myself say yes to opportunities that make me nervous- that cause insomnia and stomach aches. It can be a 400 ft public art project or a multi screen video piece. With each piece I think: what would happen if… and then I hope I can go right up to the edge of the cliff without falling off. But right now, in this world, the word “risk” has taken on a whole new meaning and using it to describe my artistic process feels misplaced.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I am a multimedia artist and I work with photographic images, videos, installations and public art. What am I proud of? I am proud that I am still doing it after 50 years; that I am NOT doing the same thing like a performer singing the same song over and over. Working as an artist is a job- you go in to the studio and try to get to work. You can’t always wait for that cartoon lightning flash of inspiration. If I have learned anything it is that you have to keep working whether you get encouragement or recognition. That can be difficult; sometimes the light is shining on you and sometimes it isn’t. I am still working and trying to do challenging work. add:There is always the conflict between making work that is seductive or beautiful yet significant. I thought things would be horrible after the 2016 election but never in my wildest imagination could I have imagined the destruction that followed. As an artist the question is: how do I add to the conversation? But there are times, like now during the pandemic and the riots, that are paralyzing. I know it is okay to take time to reflect on the moment.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would take them to what is left of LACMA (the Resnick and BCAM) and we could stop to eat at Ray’s . Then the next day we could go to The Getty to look at the exhibits and walk in the garden. And one day a walk along the Palisades.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people I can mention over a 50 year career. Besides my husband and sister who have been such an incredible support, Two teachers challenged and encouraged me: Max Schrier who was my high school art teacher. (He is still working as an artist!). He taught a class with the music teacher combining music and art history. It really opened my eyes and expanded the way I experienced art. And Bob Schuler my college mentor. He pushed me to work in all mediums.
Photo of Eileen by Jay Brecker