Orly Cogan: Don’t Call Me Princess

October 5, 2018 - March 2, 2019

Orly Cogan employs vintage printed and embroidered fabrics as the substrate of her work. She repurposes these textiles as vehicles for consolidating her enduring interests in history, culture, and the fine, decorative, and popular arts. Using embroidery along with painting and drawing, she creates work that explores feminism, domesticity, and the constantly changing role of women in society. Cogan’s hand-embroidered alterations and additions imbue the work with both a contemporary and an imaginative slant, creating new narratives and provocative visions that test the boundaries of traditional female stereotypes.

— Mara Williams, Chief Curator

The tableaux I create are inspired by relationships and evolve from personal mythologies. I work with vintage printed fabrics and found embroideries made by women of previous, more modest eras. I act as a collaborator, modernizing their traditional work and altering its original purpose. The fabric becomes the foundation for a fantastical exploration.

Through my own hand stitching, I update the content of the vintage embroidery to incorporate the un-ladylike reality and wit of contemporary women, their struggles, and the stereotypes that must now be overcome. Much of my subject matter touches upon storytelling concerning fertility, power plays in relationships, sexuality, self-image, isolation, vulnerability, and beauty in the mundane.

Ultimately, my quest is to tell a story about the role of women in our ever-changing society, all the while honoring the labors of the past. In the process, I aim to provoke certain questions within the context of constantly shifting boundaries that define our relationships and our identities: What role do women want to play in society today? Who do we want to be? What kind of relationships do we want to have? Who are our role models? What are we teaching our children? American women have grown up with fairy tales in our heads, and somehow that “happily ever after” idea is instilled early on. With my own daughter I saw how strongly princesses infiltrated her play, although she had no direct exposure to Disney movies or theme parks. I edited the few fairy tales we had, changing the sexist stories to empowering ones for my child’s ears.

Whenever I went out with my daughter, people would call her “princess.” It was meant as a nice thing to say, and for a while she and I took it as such. But as she grew older, she rejected the title. She would frown and respond, “I’m not a princess, I’m just a regular girl!” The title of this exhibition was inspired by my daughter, Viva. May she be able to embrace the color pink without feeling that she’s giving up power.

— Orly Cogan

Don’t Call Me Princess
by Kate Evans

People call me ‘Princess’ every time I wear a dress.
They ask me if I like it and expect me to say ‘yes’.
Why is it always ‘Princess’? What could they say instead
If they stopped looking at my body and they thought about my head?
Call me ‘Astronaut’ or ‘Journalist’ or ‘Brain Surgeon’ or ‘Teacher’
Or ‘Carpenter’ or ‘Pastry Chef’ or ‘Play Worker’ or ‘Preacher’.
Women do all kinds of things while wearing lovely clothes
But please, don’t call me Princess, cos I’m never one of those.
My mom is not a Queen, you see. My dad is not a King.
Instead of being a Princess … I can be ANYTHING!


Photo Gallery
Orly Cogan: Feminist fantasy on ‘forgotten’ fabrics


January 19, Saturday, 2 p.m. – Gallery Talk: Orly Cogan