When it comes to how local artists create their art, the medium used knows no bounds. Paints, wood, marble, and trash may all be used, but those that Ann Cofta employs are particularly singular, at least, it seems, around Greenpoint. Ann sews, embroiders, quilts and collages to give a colorful and softened look to beloved items, from ice pops and rotary phones to typewriters and gum ball machines.
But New York City herself also is a major motif in Ann’s work, and now she will enjoy her first solo show at Brouwerij Lane (78 Greenpoint Avenue), which doubles as a beer hall and a monthly exhibition of an artist’s work. That solo show, Then, highlights Ann’s more urban work, where cityscapes, water towers, and brownstones are all created from fabric, paint, batting with hand quilting, appliqué, and more. With their bright colors and softer textures, the works give a playful spin on the sleek, hard, and tough facades that helped so much of New York architecture endure across decades and centuries while also calling out — and giving a megaphone to — these buildings’ inherent charm and whimsy.
The work is up now through February 14, and below Ann discusses the blessings of having her work shared in her fourth solo show.
Greenpointers: The scale of your work is interesting to consider here. Am I right in remembering that a lot of your textile work is a little smaller in scale, but that this project is a larger undertaking, literally? Is the scale something you decided on because you had more time for this project?
Ann Cofta: The size of my work significantly changed when I started renting a studio space in Greenpoint, four and a half years ago. Prior to that I had been working on art at home, where smaller works required less workspace.
At that same time, I inherited fabric scraps from a friend. Many were long strips that resembled buildings and smokestacks. I pieced together what would become cityscapes with these remnants.
The studio space accommodated bigger works of art and gradually the size of my work shifted and grew significantly larger. I still enjoy working small at times, depending on the project.
I love that your work for “Then” is an ode to New York City. How did you choose the buildings you depicted in your show?
Long walks before and during the pandemic allowed me time to visually ingest the industrial scenery between my neighborhood in Queens and studio in Brooklyn. The character and feel of older edifices appeal to me. These pieces, dotted with water towers and smokestacks, all pay tribute to urban structures, monuments from another era that have endured.
The buildings depicted in the show are a combination of imagery from different locations. For the purpose of composition, I make a sketch based on photos from my walks. They are never a replica of one actual view.
What is your relationship to Brouwerij Lane? Have you had shows there before, or how did they come to know your work?
The owner, Ed Raven, had seen my work and invited me to do a show. He is a big fan of art and likes to promote local artists. The work changes there every month.
What excites you most about this show, your fourth solo one?
I’m thrilled to be able to show work that I’ve just completed. When you finish a piece, you want to share it and see how people respond to it. To have it up and enjoyed in person is ideal.
I love that Brouwerij Lane is a place where people have not chosen to come to for the art. They may be gathering with friends for a drink, or just picking up some beer on the way home, but they notice and appreciate it. Quilts of old buildings in an old building, it just fits.
This might be a broader question, but how does New York continue to inform your art? Your work has such love imbued in, well, every stitch, and New York feels like a core element in many of your pieces. How does the city continually inspire it?
What a lovely thing to say! I believe I share a sincere love of the city with so many people. That seems to be what resonates with folks who see my work.
There is also something very grounding in the familiarity of the city and its structures. I think because I walk and travel around so much, and because I’m an artist, I naturally absorb my surroundings. They become a part of my visual language. And the city is always evolving, so there is something new to see no matter what neighborhood I’m in.
Anything else you want to add?
It’s so nice to have a show in real life! It’s wonderful to meet up with folks and have a place to go to see art. I am grateful to Brouwerij Lane for this opportunity to exhibit, and for their support of local artists.