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Career Stories: Liz Cohen, BFA + BA ‘96

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Image of Liz Cohen with text that says SMFA Career Stories

Liz Cohen is a photographer, performance artist, and educator whose work draws on an incredibly broad range of specialized bodies of knowledge, from women’s studies and literature, to car mechanics and body building. Her work addresses themes of immigration, economics, identity, and cultures of resistance. In one of her most recognized series, Bodywork, she transformed an East German Trabant into an El Camino lowrider while simultaneously transforming her own body and documenting both processes. Liz was recently named a Guggenheim Fellow.

We were in touch with Liz, and she shared the latest on her art practice and inspiration:

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Image of Liz Cohen working in a studio
By Aaron Rothman

I continue to think about bodies and labor. Right now, I'm thinking about photographic representations of women's bodies and aging. I'm particularly interested in icons like the famous lowrider model Dazza del Rio. I'm also thinking about Soviet cars and women who work growing, picking, and serving coffee.

I majored in Philosophy and had the opportunity to take several ethical theory classes. The ideas around group membership and responsibility continue to resurface in my artwork. SMFA was an incredible experience. The small community and open curriculum encouraged self-reliance. The art education model at SMFA encouraged students to generate their own projects from the beginning of their studies. The lack of grades and the review board process promoted the value of meaning and discourse. The SMFA was a way of life. I experienced incredible mentorship there.

Above image courtesy of Liz Cohen.