David Cohen - Cabinets of Wonder
For the last ten years my images and subject matter closely echoed my personal interests in nature and science, books and history. The artworks always seemed to take the form of organized collections of objects and forms with the goal to tell stories long forgotten or help the viewer to see nature in new ways.
The early historical collecting of natural and exotic manmade objects lead to the creation of formal “cabinets”. These were spaces and specially designed furniture that were often found in the homes of the wealthy, whose goal was to inspire curiosity and awe in their visitors. The Kunstkammers, or cabinets of wonder, were also status symbols as well as a visible declaration of sophistication and worldliness. Eventually, as the cabinets grew in size and complexity, more space was required and the first proto-museums began to evolve. This also came at a time when there was a push for more elaborate organizational and classification systems accompanied by a pursuit of the systemic connections between objects. Museums have always been an attraction for me no doubt influenced by my annual elementary school trips to the Museum of Natural History in New York City. Not surprisingly, my career path took me solidly into the world of museums which remain a significant inspiration in my life.
So in a search to create credible visual settings that allowed the viewer a logical vantage point to begin their exploration, I began to use cabinets or boxes as a way to structurally organize the space and create interesting conceptual connections and relationships among the objects. Between the formal compositional opportunities, a chance to play with light and shadow, the references to the early collectors and museums, and the celebration of nature’s wonders, this seemed like an ideal avenue for my aesthetic expression. The cabinets of wonder in this series continue to evolve to allow me to explore not only different subject matter but also to challenge myself compositionally, hopefully provoking the viewer to consider new ways of looking at the world.