The colorful and frenetic window installation that stops you in your tracks on Barnard Street is the work of Chatham County artist Tricia Cookson. This work was created for Boxed In/Break Out, Telfair Museums’ newest competition that asked local artists to propose an original artwork installation to activate six windows at the Jepson Center. Although many artists submitted compelling proposals, Cookson rose to the challenge with an idea that demonstrated originality, visual appeal, and resourcefulness in an unconventional space. Guest judge Linda Dougherty, Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art at the North Carolina Museum of Art, stated that “Tricia Cookson’s proposal is a very creative approach to engaging a public space. Starting with a seemingly simple concept—a series of colored strings—her installation evolves into a complex pattern that fully utilizes and activates the space in an unexpected and highly visually appealing way, as it progresses from being boxed in to breaking out.”
Cookson’s work consists of cotton cord in 10 colors that stretch from small hooks across the space in evolving patterns. A chaotically contained design of string fills the first window, with each subsequent configuration becoming more ordered until the colors all unify in the center of the final window. The materials were chosen to reflect the Lowcountry, as the cotton cord represents regional cotton farms and the colors evoke the marshy terrain. Even the number of cords has local significance, with the 5 strands of 10 different colors connoting the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act and the designation of Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District
Cookson’s artist statement reveals that she “draws inspiration from familiar surroundings and daily routine. Exploring the effects of densely scheduled activities and over-stimulation in contemporary life, her work addresses notions of physical and mental tension. Rhythm, repetition, and ritual inform her process. Employing chance elements and time-based procedures, [she] creates pieces that serve as documents of meditative episodes – artifacts of the opposing forces of intense focus and interruptive distraction. She brings order to chaos and chaos to order.” The sentiments of repetition and opposition certainly pervade her work at the Jepson Center, engaging the viewer in a mental dance from randomized tension to ordered release.
Currently, Cookson teaches art at Hancock Day School. She graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2013 with a MFA in fibers and has had several exhibitions in Savannah, most recently Ubiquity and Balance at Desotorow Gallery. Her work Pods is part of the permanent collection at the SCAD Museum of Art.