Wearing a flowy ensemble she made from deconstructed clothes, the inimitable Coco Gordon recently slipped into the St. Vrain Market with a slightly tipped orange cap that was attempting to contain her silver mane. Although we had been having email conversations about her recent trip and art experience abroad, it was the first time I had seen her in person since her late February return from the small island of Campo del Ghetto Novo, off the coast of Venice, Italy.
Ghetto Novo was where the Jewish population of Venice was relocated in 1516 due to the era’s imposed restrictions. By the 17th century, the acre and a quarter became a secure but segregated enclave and forced “home” to over 5,000 Jews from the Ottoman Empire, Germany, Italy, France, and Spain.
Today, amid the jammed alleys, courtyards, synagogues, and ever-upwardly expanding housing is situated Visioni Altre, a gallery proclaiming to be about “contemporary art, aimed at promoting artistic research, supporting creative activity, enhancing and redeveloping spaces through art, creating a design system that promotes the development of ideas and works unrelated to market conditions.”
This gallery’s long narrow space is where SuperSkyWoman (aka Coco Gordon) was invited to create her most recent artistic installation experience, including impromptu improvised collaborations entitled Fresh Cuts (Tagli Freschi), featuring “lived, loved and let-go re-interpreted cut books from my collection,” Gordon explains.
“The show itself was a blockbuster success,” professes Gordon, despite some health challenges. Gordon has been, for the most part, in isolation since her return, suspecting that she had a form of the global virus that began with “what felt like something from outer space inside my body searching for a place to set its roots.” On March 29 Gordon reported, “I am suddenly free of all symptoms of any kind; peaceful as if I’ve chased off an enemy invader!”
“Gordon is among the most significant American “intermediary” artists,” according to the gallery’s website. Her work has roots in the Fluxus movement which, in essence, is the co-mingling of global social problems with ecological awareness. This avant-garde art movement originally emerged via a group of disenchanted and anti-elitist artists in the late 1950s inspired by Dadaists, such as Marcel Duchamp and John Cage, who used found everyday objects and the “element of chance” in their creations.
Her show included over 100 creations, including “one handmade piano keyboard with legs made onsite of red paper over wire, five giant animal feet, a large SuperSkyWoman self-portrait, and the title of the show above the entry created with carrots,” Gordon details.
In 2009, just after she formally moved to Lyons from Tribeca, New York, Gordon created a local assemblage of Fluxus writings, art, and an interactive performance entitled Dislodge/Reconfigure at the Estes Park Library following a three-month “abundant adventure” Italian residency sponsored by the Emily Harvey Foundation.
Gordon has more upcoming shows on her docket, including an expansive art show in Providence, Rhode Island, designed to show three other aspects of her art, including “handmade papers, large iron-on panels and ‘rags to high style’ outfits from my Stylista Salon – part of my ArtBox Studio productions here in Lyons,” she reports.
Gordon’s poetry, paper making, and performance work is internationally appreciated and appears in private collections and museums. She has participated in several large-scale International Art Biennale contemporary art expos and is the author of numerous books. Gordon also teaches “Permaculture DBOM” (design, build, operate and maintain) living systems.
According to The New Museum of Networked Art website, Gordon widely uses the moniker ‘SuperSkyWoman,’ a “super heroine with an ‘action plan.” Gordon explains the origin of the SuperSkyWoman alias as being the result of reading the book of indigenous myths Grandmothers of the Light by Paula Gunn Allen while working with Sandra Semchuk. Semchuk is a Ukrainian videographer / photographer in Canada who often collaborates with other artists.
Among other things, Gordon and Semchuk worked on the ‘Paddle to Seattle’ project, helping tribes save their reservations. Through this and other hands-on experiences with such things as traditional talking circles and women’s pipe ceremonies, Gordon became familiar with varying myths surrounding ‘Sky Woman,’ the celestial Karionake mother goddess who fell to earth through a hole in the sky. Gordon saw herself as the descending Sky Woman in a photograph taken by a colleague. Due to indigenous protocol she had to modify her persona to SuperSkyWoman, which Gordon uses to “powerfully solve all kinds of things in life and art.”
Gordon has lived, worked and traveled widely. She is a native of Genova, Italy, with Italian as her first language. She has created art for as long as she can remember. “By six I was a student at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and at Teaneck High School I didn’t have to attend art classes, only bring in my portfolios each semester,” she explains. Gordon went on to extensive post-secondary studies with many masters of printmaking, sculpture, and paper making, experienced varied artist-in-residencies, and recently attained certifications in Interactive Eco Social Design and Permaculture.
“I continue to empower myself as a woman who is aging to make deep cultural research visible, and to create an impact on the ethics of thought / behavior and on the mind-body-spirit integration of our modern structure,” says Gordon. She sees her performances as illustrating her desire to restore the natural processes of artistic origins, to protect them from economic exploitation, and as a “detachment from subjective dependence on the negativity of material consumerism.”
According to Gordon, the highlight of her recent Fresh Cuts undertaking was “seeing the installation changing, taking shape; performances becoming something new through interactions; many students learning, well-known artists discovering, and young critics writing; musicians writing music for me . . . Like the bowl of water I stirred, they captured my reflections.”
Gordon confesses, “I was not accustomed to being asked by so many for my autograph.” With her signature “walking piece of art” look, I believe just getting to see Gordon around town is her visual SuperSkyWoman autograph.