POMEGRANATES TO POSTCARDS
At age six, artist Jocelyn Cohen rebelled against staying inside the lines of a coloring book while coloring a cardinal bird. Not only did she get in big trouble for the bright red crayon strokes she made across the page, she also refused to fix it. This early interaction of "coloring outside the lines" had a positive effect. Though she didn't know it then, color would continue as a dominating feature of her art.
"She's incorrigible" were the words of Jocelyn's first grade teacher as she greeted Toba Cohen, Jocelyn's mother, on her first visit to her daughter's classroom. But Toba enjoyed Jocelyn's moxie. "I believe Jocelyn's assertiveness was an indication of her independence," she says now. "I liked that. I wasn't troubled that at two and a half years old she dressed herself, unlocked the front door and went outside to play at six in the morning. She woke her neighbor and friend David by throwing stones at his window. They both loved climbing trees together. Jocelyn preferred the outdoors to anything else. It was magic to her. I don't know if incorrigible was the word, but I couldn't stop her!"
Jocelyn's artistic talent eventually took her to Indiana University, where she studied fine arts and folklore. An art professor convinced her that she had a gift as a colorist, and urged her to use it, express it, and live it! After two years at IU and another at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, she left school to devote herself to painting.
As luck would have it, Jocelyn met Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro. They had just completed an homage to women artists up and down the West Coast. The isolation they found when they visited their studios led them to start The Feminist Art Program to provide a supportive community for women artists within the safe and prestigious institution of California Institute of the Arts.
Jocelyn introduced herself to Schapiro and Chicago, and asked to study with them. Almost immediately, she found herself at their program (http://www.calarts.edu) in Valencia, California. At CalArts Judy Chicago told Jocelyn her images were cramped and advised her to start painting on canvases five to six feet wide. Jocelyn's first big painting was of pomegranates and figs bursting open. Jocelyn felt her life was bursting open. She thought she would be a painter forever.
The next year, Jocelyn was asked to co-edit a special issue of "Sister" on "Women In Art" with her then lover, Nancy Poore. While still in Los Angeles, Jocelyn painted and published postcards and trained to be an offset and letterpress printer. During a serious bout with pneumonia,the opportunity to move to the Indiana, where Jocelyn's family lived, came up. A long-held dream -- setting up a studio and press in a rural setting -- was about to come true.
Living in the Indiana countryside, Jocelyn and Nancy modeled their lives on Millennium Hall, a semi-fictionalized account of two women building a women's community in the eighteenth century and Helen and Scott Nearing (now deceased), back-to-the-land proponents and what Jocelyn calls "lefties" up in Maine.
Following these models, they ran Helaine Victoria Press and lived subsistantly selling vegetables, red raspberries and postcards. Jocelyn augmented her rural life with what she calls the spices of life by becoming a papermaker, preparing for and living with wolves on Isle Royal for a winter, and spending summers as an active participant in the women's crafts and music festival circuit. She also found time to restore twelve acres of rural countryside into a small ecologically balanced habitat for wildlife. She put in a pond and built animal habitats throughout the property. With the help of her father, Herschel Cohen, she planted over 500 trees.
In 1995, Jocelyn found a permanent home for the press at TheWomen's Rights National History Park, Suffrage Print Shop, 116 Fall Street, Seneca Falls, New York -- the birthplace of women's suffrage (http://www.calarts.edu). Middle-school children visit to experience the development of the free press in America, the suffrage movement and to actually create a hand crafted press publication.
Her dream realized, Jocelyn jumped in a red Toyota pickup truckand headed west to art school,this time to The Academy of Art College in San Francisco (http://www.academyart.edu).
While completing her MFA, she attended the demonstration prototype of an interactive exhibit of Ellis Island. Immigrant oral histories, stories, images and music touched Jocelyn deeply. "I flipped out the same way with this new medium as I had over the work of Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro." It was then that Jocelyn decided to shift from painting and fine letterpress printing to digital and interactive media creation. (Her clients include Warner New Media, LucasArts Learning, StarPress Multimedia, Media Vision Inc., Continuum Productions Corporation, Interval Research and Purple Moon Media, to name a few). Her online and interactive multimedia experience is presented on her website (http://www.jocelync.com).
As Feature and Art Director of "Secret Paths in the Forest," Jocelyn applied a female sensibility to both the look and feel of "friendship adventures for girls" - an on-line CD-ROM series created for girls seven to twelve years old that connects contemporary stories of girls with traditional folk tales. (www.gamesdomain.co.uk/gdreview/zones/reviews/pc/sep97/secpa.html)Jocelyn connected deeply to her own girlhood roots of loving the magical outdoors while establishing the product's painterly "paths" through a virtual landscape where girls collect magical stones. At present she is working on a variety of projects related to the web. She's contemplating postcards again, this time they are coming up virtual and Jocelyn is coming up....
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