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The Human Body as a Canvas- Interview with Alicia Cobb, Visual Artist

I was first introduced to Alicia Cobb’s work through poet Jamaal St. John, when I was working on a new segment of Canvas of Words. I began following her Instagram page and was mesmerized by her work.  I reached out to her to be part of the show but previous commitments wouldn’t allow her to. She recommended a colleague but I was set on working with her, so I changed the visual art theme of the show.

Fast forward to 2016 when first discussing the vision of Elephant with poet Elisabet Velasquez I suggested body painting as part of the video which initially would include about 10 women of different walks of life body painted. As I  pulled out my phone to show her the artist I had in mind for the job,  to my surprise Elisabet knew Alicia and had worked with her in the past and without much discussion we both decide that she was the artist we needed to bring to fruition the visual art of the video. The rest is history…

“The art of painting bodies is quite unique because you are literally working with a living, breathing canvas.”

WA: Who is Alicia Cobb? Who are your inspirations?

AC: Alicia is a visual artist and body painter born and raised in Stamford, CT. I am the only girl of four children. My biggest inspirations are my children and nature.

WA:  I’ve read in your blog about the moment you realized that you had to follow your passion: body painting. Can you share with our readers about it and how by doing that your life has shifted.

AC: I have many passions, art and helping people are the two biggest ones. Body art came to me at a time in my life that I was just getting to know myself. I was healing from a heartbreaking divorce and emerging from a very sheltered existence. Body painting was therapeutic for me, it had a healing effect like nothing else. When I made the decision to pursue my passion in art it was one of the easiest decisions I ever made because I knew it was part of my purpose. It was also a very tough decision because I knew that life as my children knew it would change. This leap of faith has forever changed mine and my children’s lives and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

WA:  Can you tell us about the creating process of body painting, how long does it usually takes?

AC: The creative process of painting a live canvas isn’t easy by far.  It usually takes me an average of four to six hours for full body paint but that is never set in stone.

WA: You joined the Elephant Project from the very beginning, why was important to you to be part of this project?

AC: When Elisabet contacted me and share the vision of the project I couldn’t decline my participation. This project is important to me because it gives voice and a visual to an issue women including myself have been dealing with for years.

WA: As a woman, what does it mean to you to reclaim your power?

AC: It means everything in a world that is dominated by men. I’ve been cat called and inappropriately spoken to by men since I was a young girl. Knowing and understanding that I have a voice and can help other women find theirs is very important to me.

WA: This project not only represents womanhood but also diversity, describe what it means to you and how it is represented in Elephant?

AC: Street harassment affects women and people who identify as women from all different backgrounds and cultures. The women involved in this project all come from very different backgrounds but we worked effortlessly together to create something to empower all women. I love the fact that Elephant is so diverse in its meaning, appearance and production.

WA: When joining the project, did you imagine the response it has had and how has it changed your life?

AC: When I joined the project, I didn’t know what to expect. I just really wanted to be a part of it because I loved the poem and thought the idea of creating a visual to go along with it was really cool. The response has been amazing and overwhelming. I’ve worked on a lot of projects but none that have drawn this much attention. I think that goes to show the message’s impact and that is necessary. The project was truly magical and my life hasn’t been the same since the day we shot it. The ladies involved have maintained communication since that day and some of us didn’t even know each other prior to that day.

WA:  Being an all women project, what did you learn about sisterhood and working with women?

AC: The way we came together and worked so seamlessly to create this piece was simply beautiful. When I was younger, I didn’t have many female friends but I’ve gained so many more as I’ve gotten older. I feel like society has a way of pinning us against one another which causes separation much like racism and sexism. I love working with women, especially with like minded women who all want to make the world a better place. There is strength in numbers and women are powerful beings.

WA:  At the beginning of the interview, we discussed your courage and determination to go after  your passion: body painting.  All passions began as dreams we want to achieve. What advice would you give to the dreamers?

AC: If you are a dreamer you need to stop dreaming and start doing. I know that wasn’t the answer you expected but it’s the truth that I’ve experienced. Dreams are beautiful and whimsical and not real until you actually put them into action. I never dreamed that my life would be where it is right now. I simply decided that I wanted to live on purpose and serve a purpose. Art has been the catalyst to finding purpose for me. It has become a healing and inspirational platform for those who choose to pay attention. Each and every one of us has a gift and passion. That thing that sets your soul on fire will find you. It is up to you to use it as fuel to keep going while you develop your wings.

WA:  What is next for  Alicia?

AC: I am going on a much needed vacation in the beginning of October then I am heading to Greensboro, NC where I will be a professional competitor in the North American Body Paint Championships. Last year I placed in the top ten, this year I plan to place higher! I am hoping to get together with the Elephant crew again soon to celebrate and perhaps plan our next project.

Photo credit: www.photoart.com


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About wendyang

Wendy Angulo is a New York City born Latina, raised in Caracas, Venezuela. Wendy is a mother, writer, lawyer and the founder of Wendy Angulo Productions, an organization whose goal is to support, encourage, and promote poetry and visual arts in the borough of Queens. Wendy, re-discovered her love for writing in the summer of 2011 after attending a spoken word event in Queens. She then joined the New York City Latina Writers Group where she has been an active member and has taken on the role as the organization’s Program Director. Wendy is an essayist who is currently working on her Memoir. She has read her work at several venues throughout New York City, including Nuyorican’s Poets Cafe, East Harlem Cafe, Sankofa Sisterhood, Camaradas and has been published in the online journal Mom Egg Review; she is a 2016 VONA alum and the sole creator/curator and producer of Canvas of Words, an art and poetry showcase that birthed of Wendy’s desire to bring the arts back to her beloved borough of Queens. Wendy continues to scout for new talent and build new connections to perpetuate the arts and strengthen the literary community.

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