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Orly-Cogan-7.jpg // Orly Cogan: Feminist fantasy on ‘forgotten’ fabrics

An avid collector of vintage printed fabrics and found embroideries for over 20 years, New York fibre artist Orly Cogan uses hand embroidery to modernize their appearance, altering their original purpose and revolutionizing the story of the women who created them. Seeing herself as a collaborator with these female makers from more modest eras, Orly uses stitch to incorporate into their work the unladylike reality and wit that she sees as more common to the women of today.

Aware of modern stereotypes which, she believes, must be overcome, Orly highlights the differences between the struggles contemporary women face and those of the earlier generation who would have originally embroidered the textiles to “feminize” their homes.

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ARt talk collective // "artist to watch | ORLY COGAN"

Interview with Orly Cogan

AT: What first interested you in utilizing vintage and found fabrics as the base for your work?
OC: Some of the first materials I worked with in early childhood were fiber based. I went to a Waldorf School where toys found in the classroom were made from natural fiber materials to nourish the senses. I learned to knit and crochet in the early years of grade school. There is a nostalgic kind of intimacy connected with fiber materials. It has a history everyone can connect with and inherently appreciate the human labor that went into the creation.  Growing up my mother collected old samplers and quilts. The samplers often had moral sayings, warning to girls about being polite, tidy, “pure" and the like.  My mother appreciated the labor that went into these pieces by nameless woman and girls and enjoyed the messages ironically.  I majored in painting in art school and years after graduating I happened to take a one day workshop at The Museum of Folk Art which my mother had signed herself up for but last minute wasn’t able to attend so I took her place. That day I created a quilt square fairly quickly and with the extra time I had I embroidered between the seams a little nude figure. As it came naturally to mix yesteryears quaintness and conservatism with my own brand of sex-positive feminism with a dash of post modern perversity. The elderly women in that class were enchanted with my piece and the rest is history. Thereafter I started thinking about connecting my love of narrative with the homey feminine materials I grew up with using the wit of feminist social commentary. As time went on my stories became more political and personal. Some figures are portraits, others are playing rolls within the story line. The layering of thread drawings resemble children’s coloring book illustrations along with areas of dense needle work and complexity. 

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Isreali born artist Orly Cogan has been creating semi-autobiographical feminist fiber art for over two decades, exhibiting throughout the US and in Europe. Cogan’s subversive textiles use contrasting archetypes to highlight society’s constantly shifting expectations of women.


These archetypes come in the form of cotton candy conventions of femininity, crossed with ‘unladylike’, funny and erotic scenes. A woman sits amid pastel-coloured fairy cakes: another holds out a saucepan for a man to ejaculate into. One woman frolics amid blossoming rosebuds, swooping swallows and butterflies: another rides a giant phallus in the manner of a witch on a broomstick.

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Orly Cogan lives and works in Hudson Valley, NY. Born in Israel and educated at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in NYC and The Maryland Institute College of Art, Cogan has been exhibiting her work throughout the US and in Europe for over two decades and has been at the forefront of the fiber arts movement with an emphasis on Feminism in contemporary art.


The Highlands Current News Paper// "Sew Cool: Artist updates the classic stitch"

When Orly Cogan began creating artwork with fabric- cast off sheets and vintage table runners, the words Fiber and Artist weren't often seen together. Today, there is a fiber art movement, Cogan's work is very much a part of. Her latest solo exhibition "Summer Lovin" opens June 10th - July 31st at The Hudson Valley Center For Contemporary Art with large scale narrative embroideries and soft sculpture. 

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Cogan starts with vintage linens decorated with brightly colored embroidered motifs ranging from geometric designs to frolicking kitties and barnyard animals. To these, she adds her own confidently simple, embroidered drawings. The handiwork of stitching, culturally associated with women practitioners and decorating the home, becomes the vehicle for imagery that is run through by the erotic and the intimate. Her work hosts a cast of characters, starring Cogan, a female protagonist; her male consort; and a sprinkling of supporting roles including Disney-esque fairy tale princesses and Alice in Wonderland. 



...Orly Cogan’s works involved pages from auction catalogues that she embellished with wry needlework doodles. A Babar-like embroidered elephant pops out of a window on a page documenting a Peter Beard elephant, for example.  The Cat in the Hat and Lyle the Crocodile make appearances in other works – all pages from auction catalogues, all featuring artworks by men (Saul Steinberg, Robert Indiana, Adam Fuss), complete with pricing information and provenance. Cogan playfully undercuts both the art market and the prevalence of the male artist in that market with her pointed play on traditional women’s work. 

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CHICAGO SUN-TIMES // "Nudes on vintage fabric provide witty contrast"

To paraphrase an old song, Orly Cogan loves being a girl. and her embroidered nudes offer a flip, hip irreverent take on the conventions of femininity. She achieves her signature look by stitching figures on dainty vintage fabrics. These found linens, which once served as table runners, bureau scarves and tablecloths in a. more modest age, were already embroidered once by an earlier and more circumscribed generation of women. Cogan adds to these quaint decorations a layer of attitude that updates old-fashioned womanly crafts with a kind of happy-go-lucky, postmodern perversity.

Allegory Hand stitched embroidery,appliqué and paint on vintage print table linen  50x50 inches.jpg

Sedaqa // "orLY COGAN"

An embroidered nipple. Hand sewn pubic hair. Even the words provoke unease and curiosity, the desire to stroke the obscene with a tender hand.

Orly Cogan's manufactured and appropriated linens serve as the cultural backdrop for her ethereal figures, composed of hand sewn dotted lines and embroidered nether-regions. Often appearing like flighty '80s Oui Oui models turned gods and goddesses, each character is caught in the midst of nervous experimentation and ecstasy. Many seem unsure of their new-found innocence, while some take advantage of a another's distraction, sneakily petting a vagina, or holding a penis as though they were nicking a wallet.



Charlie James Gallery is proud to present New York artist Orly Cogan in her first LA solo show, Love Street. Orly works with vintage, printed fabrics and updates them with personal, feminine imagery using embroidery and other sewing techniques. Her appropriation of vintage fabric items puts her in collaboration with her forebears, and her interventions result in unique, contemporary objects in which she is often the subject depicted. The personal tableaux that play across these quilts, table runners, and doilies illustrate different elements of contemporary identity. They ask questions about relationships, sources of emotional sustenance, and feminine archetypes. The juxtaposition of vintage feminine and contemporary feminist is a rich contrast that gives the work much its energy.

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LA times // "orly cogan at charlie james gallery"

...what resonates in the show at Charlie James is Cogan's exuberant faith in sensual indulgence. Her stitchery turns up on baby blankets, vintage printed fabric, doilies and kitchen tablecloths. It depicts images with overtones both religious and pagan -- Eve lolling in the Garden, nymphs fondling frogs who may (or may not) be princes, Mom vacuuming the den in the nude. 


mr. stitch // "Future heirlooms"

Today’s Future Heirlooms interview is with the incredibly talented artist Orly Cogan. You kind of have to have been living under a rock to not know her gorgeous layered figurative embroideries. Orly lets us into her practice and inspiration in this interview and gives us a nice long list of artists that inspire her, some good names to look up. When I first saw Orly’s work at the incredible exhibit, Pricked: Extreme Embroidery at the Museum of Arts and Design in NY I immediately loved and related to it- we both are connected to and use found vintage linens and work autobiographically. It took me a few years to further research her work but the more I did the more I enjoyed it.

mr. stitch // "The Cutting & Stitching edge"

Orly revitalises vintage fabrics with her hand embroideries, spinning contemporary vignettes that mix the erotic with the mundane and create little bits of magic. Her works breathe life back into fabrics and existing embroideries in remarkable ways, and yet the old and the new end up looking as though they were always meant to be that way. Her work evokes memories of Alice Through The Looking Glass, of The Joy of Sex (!), of mystical worlds and private moments between lovers. Truly remarkable.


feminartist // "orly cogan & her personal mythologies"

Orly Cogan is an artist based in New York who works primarily in textiles, using found tablecloths as a canvas. Her intimate, story-like pieces seek to challenge feminine archetypes - drug and cake consumption are some of the unsuspected gems that hide in plain sight within the girlish patterns. Evolving "from the personal mythology of my memories", her use of vintage fabrics extend this mythology back to women in previous generations and give her work a thought-provoking collaborative aspect.


artblog // "a girlie's nudes"

The embroidered nudes of Orly Cogan have it both ways. They express the artist’s exuberant self-possession of her own body in circumstances that are clearly of this moment in time (with cellphones, hair dryers, current clothing styles, etc.). But they refer copiously to the history–art history and archetypal fairy tale roles–of women objectified. So Cogan gets to have her cupcake and eat it, too, by icing her feminist perspective with a little titillation.

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Daily serving // "not quite beauty"

Orly Cogan is searching for the feminist beauty queen. Her strategy involves backtracking, returning to the same matronly craftiness embraced by members of Womanhouse a quarter of a century ago. That’s only sensible. Beauty queens and “the cutting-edge” do not go hand-in-hand. Case in point: this year’s freshly crowned Miss USA may have been the first Arab-American to take the title and the first to unwittingly promote birth control for all, but she still won viewers’ affection with a by-the-bootstraps story—she sold her car to pay for her dream—and still looked like a small-town prom queen in her strapless, wedding-white evening gown. Cogan’s work, in which figures rarely wear gowns if they wear anything at all, does not have the Horatio-Alger-style gumption of Miss USA but it has a homegrown wholesomeness that even its narrative deviance can’t suppress. Its crafty, colorful stitching seems better suited to a 4-H booth at the county fair than a white-walled art space.


blouin artinfo // "orly cogan's irreverent take on femininity"

Artist Orly Cogan discusses her irreverent take on the conventions of femininity through the embroidery of stitched figures on dainty vintage fabrics.