Essay By Alan Bamberger

May 25, 2015

Gesso Cocteau Essay



Though Gesso Cocteau is a sculptor, her work is much more about language than anything else, body language in particular, and about the silent communications that we continually put out to each other and to the world, whether we're aware of them or not.  While the spoken word can be constricting, confusing and inadequate in so many ways, Cocteau's sculptures speak a single language-- the language of shared experiences, emotions and gestures-- a universal language recognized by all, no matter who we are or where we're from, in its infinitely expressive visual forms that every one of us can readily comprehend and appreciate.  Indeed, her manifestations of beauty signify precious moments in the interactive dance of humanity as we reach out to one another and strive for the necessities of well being such as love, comfort, assistance, stability, nurturing, guidance and support.

Cocteau's current body of work began some twenty years ago as a means for her to communicate and share her personal life journey.  While the overwhelming majority of us document and record life's seminal events in family photographs or in the keeping of diaries or journals, she made the decision to sculpt hers.  Though her earlier works had mainly to do with monsters and super heroes, culminating in a fifty-one foot cast bronze masterwork entitled Endless Celebration, installed at Bellevue Place in Washington State, she felt the necessity for a decisive change in direction.  For her, commercial success was not nearly enough.

During this contemplative period, she reflected on her life and work to that point in time, not simply in terms of day-to-day events, sensations and rudimentary requirements for survival, but from a deeper, broader, more spiritual and psychological perspective.  These introspections primarily had to do with meaning-- hopes, fears, desires, obstacles, opportunities and ultimately, with the potential to experience and actualize life to the fullest.  Influences including great works of poetry, literature and music wove their way into her new vision, resulting in a commitment not only to confront and resolve her own personal travails, at times literally as they happened, but also to materialize and express them in ways that all people can identify with, appreciate and benefit from.

Cocteau's brilliance resides in her ability to reduce complex events and occurrences, the kinds that we are all required to confront and respond to in our lives, to fundamental forms-- open-ended foundations and frameworks that we can readily empathize with.  They beckon and encourage us to complete their narratives with our own personal details, to fill in the blanks as it were, and then essentially to stand back, consider and assess ourselves through their communicative facilities.  The milestones and challenges that this artist has encountered, endured, overcome and ultimately celebrated are offered back to us all, presented in ways that gift us with opportunities to quantify and clarify similar experiences for ourselves and decide how best to proceed according to our own personal aspirations and desires.  From joy and jubilation to grief and despair, Cocteau reveals all in her continuing quest for balance, harmony, accord and understanding, not only for herself but more importantly, for the world.

Alan Bamberger 2012

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