Born in Australia in 1941, a child of the desert, Cotton has written that, “water hypnotizes me, rain was so fugitive and unreliable that mirages floating above lakes of dry sand became my source of water. Later I discovered the ocean, and abandoned myself to it, swimming and exploring in what has become, over a lifetime as an artist, an essential element.”
The other side of water in Australia is fire, a constant bass note, tattooed on national consciousness. Cotton remembers bush fires ringing the dark night, blackened gum leaves floating in the surf while huge clouds of smoke and fire threatened Sydney, fire so common it became familiar.
Both these elements influenced Cotton’s work as an artist.
Sebastian Smee described Cotton as, “a passionate observer of the natural world, both in the wilds of America and in her native Australia…long drawn to the lives and movements of animals, plants, fires, floods, rivers and skies – to life in flux”.
Cotton now lives and works beside the Connecticut river and the constant presence of this body of water – fast moving through most of the year, frozen in winter, has influenced and informed her work in different contexts and media. Dr Lowery Stokes Sims describes Cotton’s “Swimmer” series “as miraculous puddles of wax -- that mediate abstraction and realism, capturing the visual dissolution of form seen underwater.”
Passionate about the environment and global warming Cotton addressed the issue at the Lyman Allyn Museum in 2018 with the Exhibition “Hidden Water” using both sculpture and painting to point out the nature of water and its uses, and that the polar ice cap of the Antarctic holding 90% of the planet’s ice is melting.
Internationally recognized Cotton has exhibited in over 38 solo shows and 60 plus group shows, at major galleries and museums in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and China. Her work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Phillips Gallery, the Lyman Allyn Museum, the Florence Griswold Museum, the National Gallery of Australia and numerous private collections. A ten-year survey of her work traveled in Australian museums in 2002-2003.
From 1974 to 1993 Cotton was the New York Contributing Editor for Vogue Australia covering New York, the art world and travel. She profiled a number of important cultural figures including Tennessee Williams and Oliver Sacks.