Coorain Devin – Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

coorain headshot

Photo by Samara Pearlstein

Briefly describe the work you do.

First and foremost, I think critically about the world. I spend much of my time reading essays and trying to engage with as much material as I can. My work is partially my fantasies brought to life and partially my critique of the world. My hope is that there is a balance between the fantasy and critique. Too much fantasy and I feel complacent; too much critique and no one wants to listen.

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.

I think my parents gave me two things that are indispensable to who I am as an artist and as a person. Firstly, they just believe I can do anything and that has really boosted my self confidence. Secondly, they exposed me to different alternative culture. They really don’t have much interest in the mainstream, which pushed me to look deeper to find what interested me. Thanks to them, I know I like “Space Disco,” which is musical genre as almost as ridiculous as I am.

The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

Well, this actually relates to a project I’m working on, called “Coloring Coorain.” One part of it is that I have a television show built around this persona I’ve created, but I really want to expand the project to include product lines, modeling shoots, essentially I’m creating a celebrity personality as an art project. In a lot of ways, I’m taking inspiration from Kim Kardashian. Obviously a traditional studio doesn’t have room for this kind of art, where I’m making things about 20% of the time and otherwise the art is a personality.

The other big projects I’m working on, Salad Magazine, and Queer Dreams, are both collaborations with other artists. With both projects there is a business side that can’t take place in a studio.

Video still from "Coloring Coorain" video, 2014

Video still from “Coloring Coorain” video, 2014

What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

Well I certainly never thought I’d need business cards! But really and truly I never realized how much business I would be doing. For Salad Magazine, I’ve had to do so many tax forms! I also never thought I’d have to buy so much gelatin. Seriously, if Jell-O ever starts a grant for artists, I will probably have funded myself.

I never considered making art a public act, which looking back is extraordinarily naive. In many ways, I think that I am still naive.  But what separates artists from people who make art is that they share their work with a public.

When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can? 

It depends on what you are working on, but I find myself most efficient during the morning. I have  a couple small collage and embroidery projects I try to work on whenever I have free time, but for my larger projects, I try to set aside one day a week when I can really get into the studio and make things happen.

How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?

Wowza, my work has changed so much! I’ve really loosened up and become much more honest with my artwork. I’m no longer embarrassed to take inspiration from celebrity culture.

I’ve really stopped thinking about mediums in art as anything more than tools to send a message. To that end, I don’t really consider myself tied to any particular medium, although I do identify collage the technique I most often employ, but not necessarily in the traditional sense. One thing that hasn’t changed is that I collage ideas together, so even when it doesn’t look like a collage, I think every work I’ve ever made is really, at it’s heart, a collage of different things.

Video still from "Coloring Coorain" video, 2014

Video still from “Coloring Coorain” video, 2014

Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?

Well, I have a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, so that list could go on for a while, but to keep it short, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Stanley Cavell. Looking to pop culture, it hurts a little to say, but I cannot deny Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian have made more than a small impression. Apart from that, I’ve been heavily influenced by film, especially John Waters, Todd Haines, and Douglas Sirk.

If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?

Since being an artist isn’t financially viable, I’ve actually worked in various libraries in some capacity for the passed 7 years. Being a librarian is one of the few vocations that really allow you to be interested in everything, and I do truly love reading and thinking about problems.


Born in Australia, Coorain studied at Tufts University and the School of Museum of Fine Arts, receiving a BA in Philosophy and a BFA in Fine Arts respectively.

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.


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