FEATURED ARTIST: Geri Cohen, Parsons School of Design

Noa Baker, University of Pennsylvania 

Geri belongs on the front of some tropical island beach postcard. On this postcard, she is surfing and somehow her sunglasses are still on and not even wet which is annoying because she’s also really pretty and cool looking in her surf suit. I would call the “surf suit” what it’s actually supposed to be called, but I am so ignorant about these sportsy things I literally don’t even know what to name it.

Swimsuit-with-sleeves-and-pants.

Scuba costume.

Whatever.

On this postcard, Geri is actually surfing on a surf board that she herself has painted and adorned. She doesn’t realize that this is wildly cool, which only completes this picturesque and carefree greeting card. She only did it because she was bored at home and took out her cans of spray paint and by accident created a masterpiece that I would pay two million dollars to hang in my living room on her day off.

I am sure that you all, like me, are torn between complete awe and a strong desire to immediately run to the gym. Where we will all arrive, panting and breathless and unattractively already sweaty, only to notice Geri and her hip hop dance squad already practicing in the studio.

Geri is hard to sum up in an introduction because Geri is not only a visual artist—Geri lives and breathes creativity almost by accident, and doesn’t seem to realize.

I asked her, when I met her, where she would be attending school in the fall.

“Oh haha, this small art school.”

Me: *!!* *internal screaming at coolness standing in front of me* *maintains outward composure* oh cool, where?

Geri: New York City?

*As though I hadn’t heard of that small town?*

Geri: It’s called Parsons.

Me: *fireworks explode in my head* *I cough to hide my enthusiasm and try to match her California personality* *compose myself* *remember that I am also cool* *I exude this cool as I respond calmly* OMG IM ALSO STUDYING ART HAHAHA WE ARE THE SAME DO YOU WANNA PAINT TOGETHER SOMETIME AND ALSO GET SUSHI AND JOIN A DANCE STUDIO TOGETHER AND BE BEST FRIENDS AND SKIP CLASS TOGETHER AND DO OTHER BEST FRIEND THINGS TOGETHER LIKE HAVE MATCHING NECKLACES HAHAHAHA YAY.

Geri: *supremely unconcerned* yeah. *whisks long beachy hair messily into perfect messy bun.* Sure.

Me: YAY GREAT *forces Geri into hug*

When I think of Geri, I think of her flawless dance choreography at our studio in the center of Jerusalem, shakshuka and milkshakes at least twice a week, every week, all year, and walking into her apartment to find her finger painting on the floor on canvasses scattered across the room. Geri is not simply a talented student artist, but a creative soul that constantly makes art out of anything she can get her hands on. Scrap metal? Surfboards? Blank walls? Notebook margins?

Meet her for yourself.

***

N: hi bb please give me an interview please please I write for Or and it is so amazing.

G: Haha! Ok! Or is great.

***

N: First, tell me a little about your art! What styles and media do you work in?

G: My artwork involves a lot of painting on odd materials. I’ve done work on scrap metal from broke car parts, surfboard art, paintings on wood…honestly anything I can get my hands on.

I don’t really feel like I have a specific style—I’m still dabbling in many different types of art! Anything from abstraction to photo-realistic landscape. But what I think brings my art to life is the alternate forms of canvas I like to work with. I have recently begun working a lot with making paintings out of spray paint, and testing its viscosity when combined with other types of paint. That texture really intrigues me.

N: Does any particular artist inspire you to work with spray paint, or when you’re playing with different art forms?

G: My favorite artists are definitely either Mr. Brainwash or Banksy. I have a strange fascination with street art and graffiti—how something so accessible can be so powerful.

N: What inspires you to create, besides those artists?

G: I am strangely inspired by sadness. When I feel something is wrong, or am haunted by a particular memory, I like to recreate my negative raw feelings into something beautiful. For example, I got into a pretty bad car accident, so I saved the car parts from my totaled car and created paintings on them to tell a different story.

N: Would you say that the artwork you create is for you, or for others? How does the idea of an audience influence your work?

G: When I create art, it’s mostly an extension of introspection. I don’t create with the intention of influencing anyone through my work. I feel if I created with the conscious thought of affection others, I would lose my authentic connection to my piece.

N: How would you say Parsons has affected your journey as an artist?

G: Parsons has been amazing in the sense that the professors push my boundaries to use new art forms or materials. I feel more well rounded in my creative skills and understand how to take critique to guide my work successfully.

N: How has being surrounded by other student artists at Parsons affected your work?

G: It made me want to experiment with different forms of art and media because I was so inspired by the work being created around me. But it also made me proud of my own work—I feel I’ve finally developed my own style.

N: What is your favorite thing to paint?

G: Probably moving water. I think it’s so interesting how every millisecond it changes and the flow of it will never be exactly recreated in nature.

N: What do you do when you’re not in the studio?

G: When I’m not creating art I love to surf, exercise, dance, and ski. I think these hobbies influence the type of art I create and also inspire me by creating a calm headspace for me to get my creativity flowing.

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