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Bennington College Receives Cora Cohen ’64 Painting

Bennington alum and notable abstract painter Cora Cohen ’64 donated a large painting to Bennington College before her death in June. The painting was given in honor of Pat Adams, a faculty member teaching during Cohen’s time at Bennington.

“Cora was an exceptional artistic talent who carried Bennington College’s creativity and audacity with her throughout her life,” said Bennington College President Laura Walker. “This is a beautiful gift, and we are truly grateful.” 

The painting, Heart of Darkness, from 2004, was chosen from Cohen’s studio specifically for the Bennington context. Large and almost square, at 69 inches by 71 inches, its materials include acrylic, charcoal, copper, Flashe, oil pastel, pastel, and pigment on muslin. 

Heart of Darkness by Cora Cohen '64
Heart of Darkness by Cora Cohen '64

“I am so saddened by Cora’s death,” said Pat Adams, an abstract painter who taught at Bennington from 1964 to 1993. “Of the many talented artists who came through the school, Cora was a very strong student. For six decades, Cora and I talked of existence and the revelations loosed in painting.”

Adams continued, “This is a marvelous addition to the College holdings. I am touched that she thought to name me in the gift.” 

In initiating her gift to the College, Cohen invited Anne Thompson, Director and Curator of the Suzanne Lemberg Usdan Gallery at Bennington College, to visit her studio in Long Island City, New York, and directed her to select a large painting. 

“Cora was reflecting on her impressions of sexism surrounding women teaching at Bennington during her time here,” Thompson said. “So in honor of Pat, she explicitly wanted to give Bennington a big painting that would claim significant space.”

Cohen, who worked steadily throughout her life, had just received wide critical acclaim for a 2022 exhibition at Morgan Projects Gallery in New York that focused on her work from the 1980s. 

“There is a tendency in the art world, for better or worse, toward ‘discovering’ women painters later in their lives, after they’ve been making decades of serious work,” Thompson said. “This recent exhibition beautifully highlighted how Cora remained true to her vision at a time when her style of abstract painting was out of step with art world trends.”

Cohen was born in Manhattan in 1943. In addition to working with Adams, the artist studied under Paul Feeley and Lawrence Alloway while at Bennington. In 1969, she was Artist-in-Residence in Painting at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1970, she returned to Bennington College for her master of fine arts in painting. Cohen’s first solo exhibition after graduate school was at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, New York, in 1974. She went on to exhibit widely throughout her career. 

Cohen lectured at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Columbia University’s School of the Arts, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her works have been written about in Art in America, Art News, The New Yorker, and New York Magazine. Her paintings are in the permanent collections of many institutions, including the Swedish State Arts Council in Stockholm, the Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch Collection in Berlin, Yale University, and the Neuberger Museum of Art in upstate New York. 

Cohen is the recipient of a 2013 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship Award. She also received awards from the National Education Association, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and a Yaddo Residency, among many others. ​​She passed away in Brooklyn on June 22, 2023.

Heart of Darkness is hung in the recently rebuilt southeast wing of Bennington’s iconic Barn building. 

About Bennington College
Bennington College is a liberal arts college in southwestern Vermont with a long and pioneering history in the visual arts. Bennington College was the first in the country to put the arts at the center of a liberal arts education and one that has long embraced—for more than 90 years—the idea that art can shape our way of thinking about everything, from aesthetics, philosophy, and literature to mathematics, environmental activism, and community development. 

Bennington’s distinguished visual arts alumni have shaped the field of the visual arts as artists, curators, dealers, and gallerists. Notable alumni include Helen Frankenthaler ’49, Kathy Halbreich ’71, Sally Mann ’73, Dan Cameron ’79, Holly Block ’80, Matthew Marks ’85, Andrea Fiuczynski ’85, Tom Sachs ’89, Odili Donald Odita MFA ’90, Carrie Moyer ’82, and Anna Gaskell ’92, among many others. More information is available at