We had the good fortune of connecting with Cosmas And Damian Brown and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cosmas And Damian, we’d love to hear about a book that’s had an impact on you.
I am currently reading a book that my brother recommended to me entitled: Shamanism, Colonialism, and The Wild Man by Michael Taussig. It is a deep historical and anthropological look into the rubber boom in the Putumayo region of the Amazon at the turn of the century, a little known yet terrifying moment in the history of the colonization of South America.
This book is fascinating as it sheds light on this period of violence and enslavement against the tribal peoples of this region, at the hands of rubber traders selling to the European Market, while also delving into a much deeper investigation of the healing practices developed by these peoples to cope with and understand these traumatic events.
The mixture of analytic and scholarly investigation with an almost magical realist style of describing experiences of healing and ritual with the people of the Putumayo region, make this book a really fascinating read.
While reading it I have been thinking much about the the healing properties of art, and it has forced me to reevaluate the rituals around my own practice. More importantly, perhaps, it has me wondering about the deep and generational impact of ancestral trauma, why humans have acted and continue to act in the ways they do, and what we can do to heal ourselves and each other in our everyday lives, whether it is deep ritual healing, or simply a kind gesture of help or generosity.
I will say that this book is very graphic, and it is not easy to read, but for those who are interested in colonial histories, and their impact on the esoteric, and healing practices of the people they impact, I highly recommend it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I consider my art to be very fluid, both practically and conceptually. I think this is my primary method of keeping things exciting and engaging. I am always trying new materials and techniques, always experimenting with new combinations to see what might come out. Although this method of working can be somewhat slow, I find that perseverance through the unknown always leads to new and exciting results. It also allows deep discoveries about myself and how far I am willing to go. My artistic practices always reflect my journey through life, and allow me to remain open and flexible while striving to explore the unknown.
I have a deep appreciation and interest in the crossroads of the simple and the complex. I am always trying to find ways of combining both in my practice. I am interested in looking beyond, and trying to see what lies beneath the everyday experience, what forces are at play, what ancient spirits still roam the lands we now inhabit. I find myself depicting animals and wild landscapes, while living in a city. As i progress I see more and more the symbols of city life creeping into my work. I see this both as my environment having an influence on my imagery, and as a way to relate and connect with my immediate surroundings. I strive to bring into conversation, if not harmony, these two aspects of my of experience, and to see how they can be interlaced, perhaps as a way of coming to terms with my own internal struggles.
Maybe the most important aspect of my artistic practice is stepping aside and letting the art come through me. Many people create from the stand point of being a creator, and consider themselves and the acting agent in their work. From my perspective this view can be problematic, as it creates a dynamic in which the artist sees them-self as the focal point, and the art as a byproduct of their actions. In my work I strive for the exact opposite of this: I want to get out of the way of myself, so that the ideas may flow through me. For me it is the art that comes first, and I am merely a channel through which it materializes. This way of thinking is mostly ignored, especially in the modern capitalist world that we live in, but for me it keeps the practice always interesting and new, and allows me to reach greater depths in my own creation.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Los Angeles is so huge and so diverse, it is difficult to answer this question succinctly.
One of the most important qualities of Los Angeles for me is the proximity and accessibility of nature. Whether walking in Griffith Park, hiking in Malibu or Topanga, going to the beach, or visiting the deserts and mountains around the city, I find that having nature so close at hand makes the city so much more exciting. I would definitely take any visitors on a trip to Joshua Tree or the Mojave, and possibly to check out Slab City and Salvation Mountain out by the Salton Sea. I would also take them to the beach, or at least on a long drive up PCH, and I think that a visit to the Venice boardwalk is a must for people who have never been.
Los Angeles is quickly becoming one of the leading cities in the contemporary art scene, which is a very important thing if you know the history of art in this city. I would definitely take a visitor on a tour of the main art museums, LACMA, MOCA, The Broad, The Hammer, and The Getty. I would also highly recommend the lesser known museums out there, like The Museum of Jurassic Technology, the Velvet Painting Museum in Chinatown (which may have shut down by now), and the Diorama-Museum of Bhagavad-gita, which I have not yet been to, but am dying to go. The contemporary art scene is also really thriving, and I would definitely take any friend visiting to the myriad galleries in Los Angeles.
The architecture of this city is another spectacular aspect, mainly because it is so disjointed and chaotic. I am fascinated with the many historic neighborhoods of LA. I would certainly take a visiting friend to see the last Victorian houses in Angeleno Heights, or at the Heritage Square Museum in Montecito Heights. I think that driving around the different neighborhoods is a really great way to get to know LA, and an important cultural practice in this city that any visitor should experience. On that note, there are some incredible car and motorcycle meet-ups, usually on the weekends, where car and bike enthusiasts hang out and show of their custom rides. As an essential part of LA culture I think these are must-see for anyone visiting the city.
As far as places to eat and drink The Rainbow Bar and Grill remains my favorite bar in LA, not only because it is a landmark of the Sunset Strip, but also because on the weekend you can really get a taste of the Heavy Metal heyday of Los Angeles. I highly recommend Clifton’s Cafeteria, Downtown, for the sheer outrageousness of the place. Also, Pie N Burger in Pasadena, Los Cinco Puntos in East L.A., Papa Cristo’s Greek Grill… Wow, there is just so much. I have lived here for 10 years, and I am still discovering new things all the time.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First and foremost I have to say my family, who have supported and encouraged me to persevere in all my artistic endeavors from the very beginning. I was lucky enough to be born into a family of artists, so I have always been surrounded by people who dedicated their lives to the pursuit and creation of beauty. This has truly allowed me to see my path and my goals as realistic and achievable. My parents always pushed me forward, giving me invaluable advice, and teaching me that life as an artist is not easy, but is incredibly rewarding if you put in the work, stay focused, and persevere.
My aunt Julia has always been a huge inspiration and source of spiritual and technical knowledge for me. She has really taught me that you can be true to yourself in your work, even if it goes against the grain of popular conceptions and success. She has always created her masterful works with uncompromising honesty and truth to her own beliefs, which has always been inspirational to me.
I lost both my parents in a car crash in February of last year, which has forced to reevaluate many things in my life. This past year has been on of healing and completely reconfiguring everything I thought I knew. Despite the grief that this event has brought, I have found myself more inspired than ever by my parents and the life they led. I have learned so much from them in their absence, and their departure from this world has really been a driving force for my determination, for being honest and true to myself and in my work, and for living my life in a good way. They created a life for themselves that has been inspirational to many people, and it is a real honor for me to uphold their legacy.
Besides this, I have to say that having a strong and widely-spread community of artists and creative people, who I am lucky enough to call my friends, has always kept me striving to go further and work harder. I certainly would not be where I am today without this ever-deepening source of energy and inspiration.
Georgianna Chiang John Wolf