We had the good fortune of connecting with Gina Cohen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gina, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Informed risk taking is so SO valuable in life. I like to say, “If you feel just as excited as you feel nervous, jump at the chance.” My first major “risk” was choosing to forego my high school classes at age 16 in order to dual enroll at the local college full time. Many of my highschool teachers told me I’d regret it, my credits wouldn’t transfer, I’d miss out on Highschool experiences, etc, etc. I didn’t believe them. Once I switched, I found that my classmates were more mature, the schedule was far better and I graduated with my AA at age 18, still managing to have the highest GPA of my highschool class. The teachers who tried to discourage me were also mad I had such good grades, so there were two highschool Valedictorians that year.
I had planned the “safe” route of going to nursing school. My parents encouraged me to take the leap to go to art school instead. It felt risky to me, but my parents’ faith in me really helped me.
Art school at Florida State didn’t go great. All but two of my teachers hated my work because I liked to create figurative art and they preferred work with nothing figurative at all. I was rejected from the Fine Arts school and graduated with a BA instead of the BFA I came for.
Fortunately, artist Edward Jonas had taken me in as an apprentice and believed that my skills were still worth taking risks for. So I took another leap and applied to a prestigious figurative arts school in New York City. If I couldn’t make it in Florida, I wasn’t sure what chance I had in NYC but, I jumped at the opportunity and to my shock, was accepted. Small town girl to big city life for me. It was an amazing, life changing experience and I don’t regret a moment of it.
After completing my MFA in sculpture, I found a two year training program at he Bronx Veteran’s hospital in facial Prosthetics. The pay was very low but the learning opportunity seemed priceless. It was. That led me to the career I have today.
I was finishing my two years at the VA and was willing to move anywhere to stay working as an Anaplastologist. I moved completely alone to Los Angeles not knowing a soul here to start my career at Aesthetic Prosthetics. 13 years later, I’m still so glad I did.
Continual risk taking has been utterly essential to me pursuing my goals.
I’ve also been a foster parent for five years. There are lots of inherent risks in becoming a foster parent but they have all taught me so very much. I love my children so much and the ways that fostercare and adoption have helped me grow as a person. Loving a child in need of a home is always, Always worth the risk.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’ve been able to pursue my career making realistic prostheses by looking at risks as opportunities. Failure doesn’t mean your journey is over, it means it’s time to dig your heals in and make a new, and improved plan while maintaining and standing by your core principles. Oftentimes, the difference between average and excellent is only 10% more work. I try to always remember that when I feel like throwing in the towel. For my work as a Restorative Artist, I want the world to know that amputees deserve anonymity and privacy if they want it. Realistic prostheses should always be covered by insurance and rarely are. I hope to make top notch prosthetic care more readily available to your average amputee. I love that I’m able to create such realistic work but I hate that the time I put in means many aren’t able to afford it and that so many view realistic prostheses as “not medically necessary.”
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?
I have so much more to explore in California and the world over but in this season, motherhood keeps me from as much adventuring as I did when I was younger. Some of my favorites that I do know about are grabbing some authentic Chilaquiles, taking a drive up the Pacific Coast highway as far as you can go but at least up to Monterey. I love the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, El Matador State Beach and good ol Santa Monica. I’m also blessed to have a hike just behind my house that offers great views, love the local farmers markets and the eternally amazing weather here in LA. The Lake Hollywood dog friendly park is one of the most accessible, epic places to get quintessential Hollywood views away from the hustle and bustle as well.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have had so many valuable, generous and supportive mentors in my life. My Mom, Linda Morris, is at the top top of course. I also must give major props to my mentor Edward Jonas, who sadly passed away in an accident last year and also to his wife, Christine Egnoski Jonas who continues to run The Portrait Society of America that they founded together along with Kim Azzarito. I have volunteered for The Portrait Society of America since 2005 and they are my art family through and through.
Instagram: @aesthetic_prosthetics @why.art.works
Facebook: Aesthetic Prosthetics
Other: If you are interested in using your skills to pursue a career in Restorative Arts, stay tuned to the aesthetic_prosthetics IG for more information as it develops about the Masters Degree Program we are developing at Loma Linda for Fall 2022. If you love figurative art and want to learn more about developing your art knowledge and abilities, I highly recommend checking out PortraitSociety.org