NEW/NOW: Kate O'Donovan Cook

Waldorf 5
Kate O’Donovan Cook, Waldorf 5, 2007, Archival pigment print, 25 7/8 x 30 7/8 in., Courtesy of Stephen Haller Gallery
Trinity: The Ocean
Kate O’Donovan Cook, Trinity: The Ocean, 2007, Archival pigment print, 20 1/2 x 23 1/3 in., Courtesy of Stephen Haller Gallery


NEW/NOW: Kate O'Donovan Cook

Mary & George W. Cheney, Jr. Gallery

Kate O’Donovan Cook is both artist and subject within her works. She creates images in which the lines between subject, viewer, and artist intertwine.

Best known for presenting herself as multiple people within a single image to frame a narrative, O’Donovan Cook plays both the man and woman in her Waldorf Series, three women in Trinity: The Ocean, all the performers in the dressing room in Webster, and a young woman enmeshed in vines and flowers growing out of her fingertips in The Dream.

The Museum recently acquired O’Donovan Cook’s The Mirror, 2008, in which the artist appears as both the male and female subject. The work depicts an assignation in a hotel room. We are left to determine if this is a moment preceding great happiness or a moment of parting and sorrow—a balancing point of ambiguity and mystery.

O’Donovan Cook’s painterly photographs reflect her strong visual and narrative heritage. Her father was the painter Gordon Cook, her grandparents Irish master storyteller Frank O’Connor and actress Evelyn Bowen. She trained in dance, then studied art at Sarah Lawrence College, before enrolling in Maryland Institute College of Art for an MFA in 2010.

O’Donovan Cook’s use of mirror images reflecting her various personas seems a fitting metaphor for today’s world in which there is no escape from the cameras or screens that capture and captivate us. Her work focuses on identity, both personal and sexual. Who are we really? What is our real, true self and what is artifice, superficiality, and self-delusion? How have we become alienated from our “authentic self”? O’Donovan Cook invites us to explore these questions through her photographs and this exhibition.

The NEW/NOW Series is made possible by the generous support of Marzena and Greg Silpe.