Detail from
Mans Development
Through Time


Throughout her career as an artist, Shirley Cohen has expressed a curiosity about major issues, including the cosmos, religion, architecture, the importance of family, technology, scientific theory, and the fate of the planet. As a young woman she was very much influenced by Roosevelt's liberalism and she studied international economics with Philip Jaffe, an advisor to Roosevelt in the 1940's. Roosevelt wanted a new world order, he was an optimist, a practical idealist, a humanitarian, and a reformer; and it was inevitable that his grand design for a new world order would reflect those characteristics. Shirley embraced these ideals and instinctively wove them into her paintings using a unique brand of imagery drawn from the personal and mysterious well of her imagination and experience.

Early in her art career she was a fashion designer working for the pattern makers Simplicity and, later, Advance. During this time she took three years of evening classes at the then-experimental Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, where she studied fashion design, pattern making, and additional draping. Later she was asked to design a series of costumes for a play by playwright Alden Nash in the 1940's.


For four years, during the second world war, Shirley worked as an airbrush artist in the film making division of the U.S Army Signal Corps, where worked on animation training films for the armed forces. Other influences were classes attended at the Brooklyn Museum and Metropolitan Museum, where she made sketches and studies of the evolution of the different civilizations. In the late 1950's her work began to explore these interests and openly anticipated the evolution of mans exploration in space and his search for a new environment. She also explored the possibility of the creation of new environments here on earth, underwater and underground. Mans Development Through Time. A large four sided mural and ceiling examines various strains of societies and the development of civilization. It explores the link between societies development and the destruction of the earth by man and the need to explore new frontiers for our habitat -- on earth, underground, underwater and in space.
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In the 1960s she studied briefly with Sol le Witt and Donald Stacy at the Museum of Modern Art and produced many beautiful and evocative abstractions such as 'Phoenix'. To some of these paintings she attached gritty textures to add additional dimensionality. During this time she switched her focus to helping her husband with his business and had two children, but she continued painting and attended many lectures at the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art and New York University. She also studied film making with Richard Brown for several semesters during which she gained insights into the development of the world of film.

From then till now she continued to paint and address the themes that have occupied her all these years. Her works continue to reveal the complex intellectual subtleties of her mind paired with visual delight.

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