Glovebox Film Festival

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Creating with Coco

Interview With Brooklyn Artist: Coco Papy
Find out how Coco funded her art project, "She Keeps Wandering" 

GLVBX: As a collage artist how would you sum up the story you are trying to tell with your art... If your story had a title it would be....

CP:The Wrong Kind of Gal.

GLVBX: You seem to be touching on self perception with women with a sort of trans-being pinup collage style, lets talk more about this.... what is it about self-image you are trying to portray?  In other what does it all mean?

CP: I identify myself as making feminist work and pushing the boundaries of what that exactly means at this point in time in art and culture. There’s a lot of push and pull. I’m externalizing what I can’t always express verbally when it comes to my evolving feelings towards these images and how they play into visual culture and feminine culture. I like the contradictions and the urgency they present.

I don't like to throw out statistics, but one of my favorites comes from the National Media Report that 97 % of media (printed and entertainment) is produced by men and in male dominated environments. 97 %! It definitely brings up issues on both male and female perspective, having deemed what bodies are “ visually valuable “, and the consequences of not falling into that physicality, as well as the language and dissection of female bodies. On the other hand, I can be so attracted to certain ad campaigns and how distorted they can become based solely on how they are constructed – have you ever seen any of the Ralph Lauren Polo ad’s? The models are usually so whittled down by Photoshop it reminds me so much of the Ingres painting “ La Grande Odalisque “ in the way that it’s so distorted.  But it’s also an issue where women seem to be getting thinner, smaller, whiter, and blonder. We want them to be sexy, but expect them to take up so little space. They are disappearing in the sense that we don’t seem to be interested in women of color, with bodies over a size 4, anything that deviates from the norm. Even the critique of thinness can sometimes get skewed, opting for something like, oh eat something, and I think there is a larger dialogue behind that. . People are susceptible to visual stimulus, especially when that stimulus is highly regarded by predominant culture.

So with my work, again it's the push and pull – I feel like I am making these hybrids that celebrate their absurdity and outrageousness.  I want them to scream, “ Look at me! This is what you want me to be!  I want attention! “. They are made up of parts and pieces of what you are supposed to look like, but taken into excess. But it’s also a form of armor, like creating an army of these hybrid girls who adorn themselves and wallow that contradiction. These worlds that I’m trying to create are an escape from the ideal. It’s like the island of misfit toys. The mixing of beauty and decay and grotesque all becomes something of a blurred boundary. Moreover. I want the viewer to feel the same gaze from the images that is projected on these images.

GLVBX: What is the process of your work?  how do you begin and end your constructions.  Do you have any self-governed rules that you follow? 

CP: I usually think of something at 6 in the morning that I might want to pursue, sketch it on whatever little scrap of paper is beside my bed and go back to sleep. I almost often throw that out as soon as I get into my studio, but work around the idea of it. I really love flexibility- and I think it is crucial for how I am working. There’s a real childish delight in it. I usually just put a mixture of paint and whatever filler I have down and smush it around and then work around that.  I love the element of surprise to whatever shape comes out and working around it, tweaking small details of the amorphous shape. There is a lot of urgency that informs the process, and I feel like it reflects with the way these hybrids look. It’s as if they are just reaching out to grab hold of something tangible or hold on to pieces of themselves, lest they lose themselves.  I have a big wall of collage pieces of things that I’ll pick out of a variety of magazines, usually big faces, long legs, and animals. I go to the oddball scraps on the floor as well; sometimes the best shapes come from things I’ve taken apart. I want movement – the feeling of being swung around in the air or flailing around like a chicken with their head cut off. The end usually comes from that feeling when you just know. It’s funny, its so typical sounding, but it really is- you just know after a certain time.  As far as rules go, I try to make myself okay with failing, moving on and not being self-conscious. This is usually harder than I would like it to be.

GLVBX: What artists inspire you and why?

 CP: I really love Nick Cave. His sound suits are amazing .The details! The color! What he makes as a visual, participatory object, I want to make on a flat plane. Also, Wangechi Mutu, Pipolitti Rist, Ellen Gallagher, Rachel Harrison – these women who are working within this context of identity where there is a certain celebration in lushness, vanity, and a mixed identity, yet a real backlash and critiquing of it. It's the tight ropewalk of their approach and how it translates into the way it looks. It gives viewers so much to read from, as well as project onto. I’m also really excited by artists who I consider my slightly older peers, woman artists who are in their early to mid thirties who have been at the game a little longer than I have.  At my most recent show, Lush, I met artists who are incredibly engaged and dedicated to their work. I think you learn more than anything from these experiences because it gives you a compass in what can start out as being a really unknown process. I think there are separate hurdles we all experience that make it discouraging sometimes, but when you realize there are other people out there in similar boats, it becomes easier to deal with. It also makes you want to step up your own game, when your peer’s work has such a strength and gracefulness to it. You want to be able to incorporate that into your body of work and flourish.

GLVBX: I saw your ipod on your workspace desk, to whom do you rock out to whilst creating your masterpieces?

CP: A lot of Scientific America and Edible Food podcasts. Also Lil Wayne. If I can be half as creative as Lil Wayne, I will be okay.

GLVBX: In your blog, there are multiple entries about the "she keeps wandering project", a project that you received funding for through the online non-profit kickstarter.  Can you tell our readers a little about your project and how kickstarter works?

CP: Kickstarter is amazing. It’s invitation only as of now (I have two left if anyone is curious…). You are relying on your faith in people and the internet to help you out, so it’s up to you to hype it, to put it out there  (a good lesson for all artist to learn) – it’s mostly people you know who donate, with a few good willed strangers in between. No one likes to ask for money, but with Kickstarter, it’s a way to make it a sweeter deal and more balanced for you and the backer. Their motto is “ a good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and a large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement “.

My project, She Keeps Wandering, had a 400$ goal-not much in the realm of Kickstarter, but still, it’s like asking for 400$ out of nowhere. I promised my donaters that they would get certain rewards, in this case works of mine, for more reasonable prices than they would be in a most normal gallery settings. If you pledge 10$, you got an artist postcard, $50 got you an artist drawing and a postcard, etc. The whole project relies on raising the original amount asked for- so if you don’t meet it, no one loses any money and you don’t have to string together a $500 project on $250.
So I exceeded my goal, by a hundred dollars, received the money to make new work and sent out everyone’s artist schwag. Now I have new collectors all over the country, which is great. My network just opened up a little more, from this simple action. People feel like they have gotten something out of this by having a piece and knowing what’s happening in my studio, and I can create a new body of work because I have the funds to do so.
GLVBX: Did you find raising the funds for your project difficult?  How did you market your project?  Have you done other projects similar to kickstarter to raise money for your work?

CP: This is the first project I did on kickstarter. I had reached a point where I was working full time and financially unable to dedicate all my resources to art. I needed help and since a friend had sent me an invite to kickstarter, I decide it was time to throw myself in.

As far as marketing goes- it’s up to you. Facebook hype, email blasts, word of mouth, whatever works. Again, it is sort of hard – you feel like you are asking for money, but it really does work in favor of both sides. It forces you out of the artist mode and into the business mode.

I think the greatest tool I had and that artists now have is the internet -that's essentially how this entire project was done. Think of how well this serves us! You can be an artist anywhere and still be vastly connected to the world. You can hawk your things on Etsy, you have multiple artist registries, and you can have relationships with other artists by something as simple as Facebook. I think what being an artist in New York in the seventies and eighties was for artists, is what the internet is now.  Sure, you will always get more out of being in a place that is beneficial for artist. New York might always be a better place to be an artist than say Dearborn, Michigan. But with the Internet, it isn’t that you are so isolated anymore, you are able to move further than you were
GLVBX:  What is your cats name?

CP: Black cat (creativity strikes). I got her at a shelter in Harlem a few years back. She only has two toes on each foot, an overbite and what seems to be a hunchback. She is the studio cheerleader.

GLVBX: Anything else you want to share?

CP: Work hard. Engage others. Play the hand your dealt.

all above photos by CocoPapy of her work and studio.
To learn more about Coco Papy visit:

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