My work expresses a process of trace and memory.


When I walk, I see traces of squirrels, birds, and other animals on snow covered ground.  Snow stays and shows foot steps of deer, rabbits, and other creatures in the forest.  Animals are gone, but these traces indicate their existence.  It shows a "memory" of their presence.  Some traces, such as footprints on a snowy ground will melt away; some memories, such as the warmth of a handshake, smells, etc. will disappear.  Some traces remains as fossils; some traces stay as a memory in the mind.


I employ traditional Japanese rice paste resist printing as a metaphor in my work.  While using rice paste resist technique (Katazome) with cut out stencil paper, "katagami",  I noticed the empty shape left behind after cutting out forms in stencil paper.  This "negative space" of cut-out stencil indicates the trace of its existence.  Negative space is evidence creating a memory.


Most of my pieces use natural dyes and indigo dyeing.  Flowers are ephemeral and they live only a short time.  Dyes are extracted from live flowers, plants, and roots, such as Marigold, Apple Tree, Osage and Madder.  Silk fabric is then dyed with the extracted dye solution.  The extracted color will stay on the fabric.  Even though the flowers are gone, the color will stay on the fabric as a dual existence.  The color on fabric indicates memory.


Recently, I have developed dyeing Japanese rice paper in an indigo dye vat, and painting with natural dyes, then cutting paper out to complete my works.  It seems to convey my thoughts directly instead of using the stencil paper for printing.


All of the preceding processes contribute to understanding based on my inner observations.


 - Akemi Nakano Cohn






Cohn was born in Yokohama, Japan.  She studied traditional Japanese dyeing techniques for ten years under the master, Haru Izumi in Japan.  She has an MFA in Fiber Art from Cranbrook Academy of Art.  Cohn has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as workshops at Haystack, Penland, Arrowmont, Int’l Surface Design Conference, and Zijdelings (Netherlands).  Her national and international exhibits include the Museum of Arts and Design (NY),  The Bellevue Arts Museum (WA), University of Nebraska, and Gallery Uesuto (Japan).  She has been an artist-in-residence at Anderson Ranch, and Ragdale Foundation.  She was selected scholar-in-residence by SEEDS Arts and Education Program in 2016.  Commissions include Unitarian Church of Evanston, Loyola University Medical Center, At Home Co. Ltd.  She lives in Chicago, IL.



For a full CV, please click here.


© akemi nakano cohn 2020