Ordinary People

Profile of Ben Cohen.

Profile of Ben Cohen.

Benjamin Cohen is coming to town and bringing his art to the Weber Gallery. He is famous in NYC for his art, but in Louisville he is famous for being the father of “our” Bruce Cohen, the plumber in Old Louisville with a heart as big as his hat.

There is no doubt Bruce is his father’s son. Ben Cohen questions the concept of ordinary people. He has been studying people for 89 years, and he thinks they are all a very big deal. He revels in the ordinary splendor of everyday people, and sees the sublime. With paper and pastel he tells a story, and, suddenly, we are able to see the extra in the ordinary.

He says “I try to make the viewer ‘wake up’ to life as we know it.”

Weber Gallery likes people, too, and so they are packing in a fully loaded effort to provide a wide-angle sampling that does justice to the pastels and watercolors that have been described as expressive realism, impressionistic or even semi-abstract.

People are going about their business, picking out vegetables at the market, fretting about their weight– these minor moments become significant in Cohen’s art, and the wildly exuberant colors become metaphors for the real vitality of their lives.

Cohen grew up in the Lower East Side tenements of New York City in a Yiddish-speaking immigrant household. His rich boyhood included serving as a craps game look-out for Mafia mobsters. He was shocked to learn later that his neighborhood had been considered disadvantaged, saying “We had the best of anything you could imagine.”

His artistic talent was recognized very early, and he was invited to join a grown-up life drawing class at such a tender age that he was embarrassed to look at the nude model.

After the war he settled in with the USO hostess he couldn’t forget and he and Shirley raised two sons. Ben’s art has served him and his family well. He worked as a designer of toys, jacquard sweaters, catalogs, commercial produce and illustrations. But now, he has the freedom to work from his own studio and “do it for the fun of it.”

His credentials include the Pennsylvania Academy and the Pratt Institute of NYC. He is a signature member of the Pastel Societies of America, the West Coast, and New Mexico, and the Philadelphia Water Color Society, among others.

Cohen’s exhibit is titled “Ordinary People” and will be up at the Weber Gallery, 1151 S. 4th Street from June 15 – July 27. The opening reception is June 15, 5:30 to 9 p.m.