Cicely Cottingham was born in Brooklyn, New York, and received a BFA degree in 1966 from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York.
After leaving Pratt, she lived for a time in Manhattan, Cambridge Massachusetts and England before eventually settling in New Jersey where she spent her childhood in an old farmhouse surrounded by woods. It was there that she immersed herself in the light that is particular to the New York Atlantic coast. Her childhood environment became her primary creative influence. Other early influences were her mother, Marjorie, who instilled in her a deep satisfaction in the making of things; the first modernist, Cezanne, whose paintings she visited routinely and reverently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (how can a still life composed of mere paint and canvas be so alive and elicit such an emotional response?); and later, the American Hudson River School and Luminist painters. In all of her works the landscape of her youth is never entirely out of the picture.
Cicely Cottingham has received The Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant, a Pollock-Krasner Grant, three New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship Awards, a Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper Fellowship Award and a Hereward Lester Cooke Grant. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Newark Museum and the Institute for Jazz Studies, Rutgers University-Newark. Her print Still Life Design for Living (variation): Beauford is in the permanent collections of the Montclair Art Museum, Jersey City Museum, Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, The Noyes Museum of Art, Newark Public Library, Morris Museum and New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Corporate collections include Prudential, Bristol-Meyers Squibb Co., Johnson & Johnson and McGraw Hill.
Recent exhibitions include Everything is Sky, Lockhart Gallery, State University of New York, Geneseo (solo); The Divine and Sublime, Drawing Rooms, Jersey City, NJ; Cicely Cottingham’s Flags, Gallery Aferro, Newark, NJ (solo); The Marjorie Paintings and Kitchen Table Drawings, Stewart Leshé Collections, Milburn, NJ (solo); Aljira at 30, Dream and Reality, NJ State Museum, Trenton; Subject Matter, The Gallery at Nell Painter's Studio, Newark, NJ; and a drawing invitational Drawn to New York at The Bertha V.B. Lederer Gallery, State University of New York, Geneseo.
Earlier exhibitions include Paintings from True Blue and Cicely Cottingham Drawings, Jersey City Museum, NJ (two solo); Do Nothing at Present, Hunterdon Museum of Art, Clinton, NJ (solo); Bending Over Backwards, Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, Newark, NJ (solo); Recent Acquisitions, Newark Museum, NJ; New Jersey Curator’s Choice, Paul Robeson Galleries, Rutgers University-Newark, NJ; Drawing Invitational, Jersey City Museum, NJ; Selections: Aljira and Artists Space, NYC; and Regular Beauties, La Mama’s La Galleria, NYC. Her work has been included in New Jersey Arts Annuals at the Newark Museum, Montclair Art Museum and New Jersey State Museum. Her work has been written about in the New York Times, New Art Examiner, Review, and Artnet Magazine.
Cicely Cottingham’s significant association with the nonprofit visual arts organization Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art in Newark, NJ dates from 1984 when she was included in their second exhibition. Ajira’s mission is to serve emerging and underrepresented artists. In 1991 she cofounded a revenue generating enterprise, Aljira Design, which provided over 40% of Aljira’s operating budget and helped to facilitate Aljira’s development into a “Major Arts Institution”, a designation of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Cottingham served as Aljira Design’s Art Director from 1996 to 2009.
Cicely Cottingham currently lives and works in West Orange,
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