Lisa Kokin creates her art with recycled and reclaimed materials she has found at flea markets, thrift stores, and recycling centers. In the past she has worked with buttons, photographs, and other found objects, but now she works mostly with books, the contents of which she shreds, blends, pulps, glues, and otherwise modifies before presenting them to her viewers in various states of recognition.
Kokin’s deft sewing skills stem from childhood; her parents worked at an upholstery company so her spare time was spent sewing unlikely materials together. Her early work involved stitching together found photographs, often resulting in startlingly surgical creations of children, weddings, and other subjects. She later worked with buttons to compose portraits utilizing the colors and shapes of the material. Kokin then began deconstructing books and using the paper and covers as her medium. She uses a blender that was handed down from her family to shred and pulp the paper so that she can morph it into various shapes, sometimes preserving select words or pieces of text, or creating anagrams from letters of the text.
Kokin’s most recent works are composed of cloth self-help book spines and covers, which she brilliantly cuts up, disguises and weaves with thread into bright, colorful wall installations. Only upon close inspection does the viewer find titles and subtitles derived from someone’s unhappiness with their body-image, career, finances, or life in general. The contradiction between the cheery promises of the titles and the books’ current state of dismemberment seems to highlight the futility of the solutions they offer. Kokin’s work offers themes of political and social subversion and commentary while conveying a remarkable respect and delicate tenderness in her treatment of these cast-off and discarded materials.
Lisa Kokin received her BFA and MFA from the California College of the Arts in Oakland, CA. The recipient of numerous awards and grants, Kokin was most recently given the Purchase Award from the Richmond Civic Center Public Art Interior Acquisitions Project in Richmond, CA. The artist teaches a variety of classes and is a mentor to other artists. She currently lives and works in El Sobrante, California, outside of San Francisco.