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Sheltering in Place, in a Bigger, Dreamier Place
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Sheltering in Place, in a Bigger, Dreamier Place

Sandee is the arts and culture editor at the Jewish Week.

"Romy's House of Dreams," from Gal Cohen's "Quarantine Dream House" series. Courtesy of Gal Cohen
"Romy's House of Dreams," from Gal Cohen's "Quarantine Dream House" series. Courtesy of Gal Cohen

Painter Gal Cohen is tapping into the dreams of people in quarantine.

In the summer of 2018, Cohen was exhibiting large paintings that beautifully recalled lost worlds — she was depicting the architectural gems in her hometown of Hadera, Israel, that were in the process of disappearing, due to gentrification.

Her new project, “Quarantine Dream House Machine” looks forward, conjuring the idealized homes people imagine while sheltering in quarantine quarters.

“This is about utopia,” she says in an interview from the fourth-floor walk-up in Hamilton Heights that she shares with her wife, an architectural conservator, and their toddler daughter.

She was inspired to initiate this project as she thought about the space she would prefer, which would have a garden, a studio and outdoor space for her daughter. Through Instagram, Cohen reached out to her community of friends and beyond for descriptions of where they’d like to be. From their responses — whether detailed, abstract or poetic — she made digital mixed-media drawings in full color and posted them.

“I let my imagination go free,” she says.

“Talia’s House of Dreams,” from Gal Cohen’s “Quarantine Dream House” series. Courtesy of Gal Cohen

So far, she has completed 20 images. They are wildly lovely, with abstract patios, cloisters and gardens, mountains and lakes, baths and an outdoor shower. One respondent said her dream was based on a house her father designed before he passed away; another wanted a home “with a clear ceiling, or no ceiling.”

Cohen, who graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Art & Design in Jerusalem and completed an MFA program at Parsons School of Design in Greenwich Village, moved to New York in 2016. Her respondents are in New York, Israel and around the world, although the majority are, like herself, Israeli-born apartment-dwellers here.

“As an Israeli living in New York, I am always thinking about where is my home, not on a daily basis, but an hourly basis,” she says. “I am in between. I have a home here and a home there, and in a way not at home anywhere.”

She hasn’t yet painted her own Dream House, but admits, “When I’m the one dreaming and imagining, my dream house is in each and every home.”

The project can be viewed on Instagram, @galshugon. Her website is galcohenart.com

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