In order to navigate Numina, the 6th dimensional Swamp of Meow Wolf Denver’s Convergence Station, there’s a unique path often overlooked. It’s a cavernous stairway embellished with party jewels, bright geodes and a plethora of glimmering surprises that will take you from the second level of Numina to its peak. This is Shayna Cohn’s “Sparkle Cave.”
“Sparkle Cave” is like a historical landmark frozen in time, a time when mother nature and her rocks decided to wear drag and throw a massive party. Upon first entry, you notice a pinkish gold hue adorning its meringue-like rock walls, but when you zoom in to look at the details, you’ll discover even more delights through gemstones and marbles, all created by Shayna, a 5th-generation Denver artist.
Although “Sparkle Cave” is the largest and most permanent piece Shayna has ever made in her career as an artist, some of her smaller pieces would fit right in with Meow Wolf’s earlier pop-ups, like 2010’s “GEODEcadent”. “Sparkle Cave” is not only an explorable mythical wonderland, but also an ode to Meow Wolf’s love for the beauty of immersive DIY spaces.
“I wanted to make ‘Sparkle Cave’ really playful, and I wanted to evoke the natural world, but with a tinge of humor and a tinge of light playfulness,” Shayna explains. “So, it's never going to be just a vista or a cave, truly. It’s meant to be a caricature of one.”
Shayna’s work has transcended smaller sculptures like “Rock Lamp” and “Kitsch Emporium” to short term pop-up installations like Inside/Out DiscoBall at RedLine Contemporary Art Center in Denver, and finally to massive, permanent installations like “Sparkle Cave” in Convergence Station. Growing up in Denver, Colorado, Shayna has always been an artist. She remembers her earlier years as a child, always being motivated by her parents to create, but it wasn’t until her college and post grad studies where she began to bring her ideas to life.
“The simple fact of working on something for two to three years and having the support to execute on a big, permanent project, really does wonders for one's work,” Shayna says. “It gave me a lot of opportunities to explore new materials. My other projects were just installed very briefly. A month is a long time for an installation, but sometimes my past pieces would come up and down in a matter of a few days”.
In terms of projects that really catalyzed her practice, Shayna says that her grad school thesis called ‘“womp womp” was one of her favorites. It was an installation featuring a huge rotating disco ball platform, party lights, soft sculptures and a seemingly contradictory soundtrack featuring disco music, a Mariah Carey song, and monks chanting (the abrasive sound of the motor of the moving platform would also shine through in between songs). It was a hilarious commentary on how we perceive failure in the form of a sparkly mound of banal party objects.
Shayna elaborates, “This was really a moment where I was like, ‘I'm interested in immersive environments, but also kind of simultaneously showcasing their failure and the humor in that. And the juxtaposition, or the contrast, between our desire for a transcendent experience, but also our day-to-day reality of banality. That tension has fueled much of my work going forward.”
“Sparkle Cave” has been in the works for over three years, and now that it’s complete it has allowed Shayna to think about her work on a larger scale. So what’s next in the glittery world of Shayna Cohn?
“My mind is open to a lot of possibilities. I think after executing something of this scale, I'm definitely intrigued by public work, and I'm definitely intrigued by large-scale installations. I'm excited to see what the next opportunity is.”