Jim Cogswell: Cosmogonic Tattoos

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'Cosmogonic Tattoos' is a two-site public window installation on the glass walls of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA), created by the artist and professor Jim Cogswell. The gallery exhibition at the Kelsey is a portal to the process of designing that project and a link to the objects in the museums upon which the project was based.

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Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Window 2

About the Artist

Jim Cogswell is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Professor of Art at the at the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art & Design, where his teaching has focused on painting and drawing. His work can be found in numerous public collections around the country. His 11,000 square foot vinyl window mural 'Enchanted Beanstalk' occupies eight floors of windows on the Mott Children’s and Van Voightlander Women’s Hospital at the University of Michigan Medical Center.

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The joys and insights this project have brought me are a product of the network of human relationships through which it has been realized. I could never have done this alone. That would be neither humanly possible nor desirable. It is, after all, an exploration of humans constructing a world together.

Cosmogonic Tattoos was initiated in memorable conversations with Terry Wilfong who first encouraged me to propose a project for the Kelsey and who has supported it through multiple stages of development. I was constantly nourished by studio visits and stimulating dialogue with Terry, and with Catherine Brown, Karl Daubman, Laura De Becker, Elaine Gazda, Daniel Herwitz, Dawn Johnson, David Porter, Christopher Ratté, Margaret Root, Ray Silverman, Carla Sinopoli, Laurie Talalay, Maryann Wilkinson, and Claire Zimmerman, and by informative exchanges with many others, most notably my Fellows cohort at the Institute for the Humanities. My excitement at doing a project with the Kelsey was first prompted by reading Leonard Barkan’s Unearthing the Past: Archaeology and Aesthetics in the Making of Renaissance Culture. I am grateful to Leonard for his friendship and support, as well as the intellectual challenges he has constantly thrown my way through his work.

I extend my sincere thanks to the entire Kelsey Museum staff for their enthusiastic contributions to this project. I am especially grateful to Associate Director Dawn Johnson for insightful leadership, a keen eye, and a firm hand on the rudder. And to Sebastián Encina, Julia Falkovitch-Khain, Michelle Fontenot, Paul Koob, Scott Meier, Sarah Mullersman, Cathy Person, Emily Pierattini, Carrie Roberts, Lorene Sterner, and Lisa Rozek.

I am grateful to former University of Michigan Museum of Art Director Joe Rosa (now Director at the Frye Art Museum, Seattle) for inviting me to extend this project to include UMMA. The exchange of objects between UMMA and the Kelsey became the core of my design and the key to its content. At UMMA, I am especially grateful to Matthew Casadonte and Todd Berenz for their adept installation assistance, and to Kristian Cho, Roberta Gilboe, Katharine Derosier, Dustin Dewitt, Pamela Reister, Ruth Slavin, Nettie Tiso, Bruce Glazier, David Lawrence, and to Interim Director Kathryn Huss for their support. My conversations with Associate Curator of African Art Laura De Becker were amazing and very helpful.

I appreciate the indulgence and good humor of the security staff at both museums during my lingering visits and long hours of installation.

I relied upon Stamps undergraduate Victoria Essex for many essential tasks over the past two years, and Sam Bertin before her. MFA student Jon Verney’s brilliant hunch that my ink paintings on mylar could be used as darkroom negatives led to my calling upon Stamps undergraduate Sarah Posner’s darkroom expertise to print all of the photographs in this exhibit. My sincere gratitude to them all.

My thanks to Patrick Young and to colleague David Turnley for their brilliant photography and to Levi Stroud for his video documentation. Karl Longstreth generously made available the facilities of the Clark Library for us. Mary Alice Bankert has provided support and encouragement throughout the process. I can hardly believe my good fortune that sister-in-law and fellow artist Margaret Couch Cogswell volunteered two weeks of her time to help me with the Kelsey installation.

A catalog for this project is being realized through the extraordinary contributions of my colleague at the Stamps School Professor Franc Nunoo-Quarcoo, from whom I always learn so much. I am profoundly grateful to Franc and to the other contributors to that publication: Karl Daubmann, Daniel Herwitz, Kathryn Huss, Stamps School Dean Guna Nadarajan, Christopher Ratté, Ray Silverman, Terry Wilfong, MaryAnn Wilkinson, Claire Zimmerman, and our editor Lisa Bessette.

This project could not have become a reality without the creativity, skill, and persistence of Dave Michalak of Imagecrafters, Inc. who fabricated all of my adhesive vinyl designs. I am grateful to him and to the team at Imagecrafters, Vickie Peterson and Katlan Michalak, for our twelve years of work together.

Overall funding support for this project and the accompanying catalog was provided by Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, University of Michigan Office of Research, U-M Bicentennial Activities Fund, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan Office of the Provost, and Stamps School donors Richard and Odette Maskell. I am profoundly grateful to the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities for the Faculty Fellowship that made it possible to devote myself to realizing this project over the past year.