Yenny Cocq is based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Yenny's bronze sculptures are a firm favourite with both our customers and artists, so we decided to chat to Yenny to find out what she had to say on...
On becoming an artist
I get asked why I chose to be an artist all the time. You are born an artist, it is not a choice. I've been an artist for as long as I can remember, my identity as an artist is pretty firm and deeply rooted.
I’m not saying I never had any doubt, or fear. This is something I had to overcome, I had to tackle family and societal objections, and reject all of the good intended advice 'to seek a more acceptable profession'. Fully owning my identity and committing to myself was the hardest struggle.
My grandmother, who is 101 years old, never doubted that I was an artist. She always knew, and because of her I had the courage to be an artist.
I graduated from the University of Hamburg, Germany with a degree in business and then went on to graduate with an MBA from a fine art college, now called the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. Ironically, I took more art classes there than business classes.
I became a mother, and raised my children in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This created opportunities for new projects, like installing outdoor classrooms at their elementary school.
My professional life led me into creating a marketing company, but it wasn’t something I felt passionate about. It was not until I participated in my first art show with the Santa Fe Society of Artists, that I knew I could be financially successful as an artist.
On being an artist
They say: Follow your dreams and success and financial wellbeing will follow. I do live my dream every day. However, I am not kicking back on the couch.
I moved to Copenhagen and opened a studio gallery in 2005, it was then that I really embraced being a full-time artist. I worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week. I don't waste a minute of precious time. Call me a workaholic, but I would not have it any other way.
Since then, I have always been able to make a living being an artist. I am proud that I never believed in the idea of the 'starving artist'. Too many artists are hiding behind that image and deny themselves success.
The business of being an artist, is by most creatives undervalued. For me, having a business background has been really helpful.
I started printmaking, and after dabbled in encaustics. Then I worked on larger acrylic paintings and was Golden Artist Colors working artist in Scandinavia. I owned several galleries and have participated in countless art shows and exhibits. Now I am streamlining my efforts, and focusing mostly on online marketing.
On the studio
Several different studio locations have been home to my creative space: I've worked in a lithographic print studio, my kitchen, my porch and also set up my easel at an art show. I even tried working in my gallery, and created a mess! I am glad to no longer have my own gallery.
I have recently finished the construction of my dream studio space, in the historical location of Jacona, north of Santa Fe. Here, I create detailed sculpture work indoors, and finish cutting, carving work and metal finishing outdoors. Although it is cold in the winter months, I can work outside most of the time.
Very early on, I would look at any painting or artwork that I was drawn to, and try to emulate its style. Before I started school, I had my first set of oil paints.
I was so lucky to have had amazing art teachers, while growing up in Hamburg. They saw that I had a talent, and were not only encouraging but also very demanding. I owe them everything!
I think I was about 13, when I walked with a portfolio under my arm to a local gallery. It took all my guts to do so. The owner smiled and said I should come back in 10 years. I was devastated. I felt rejected. On my way home, I ran into a classmate and told him about the gallery and the awful feeling of rejection. He took me home to meet his parents. They bought a painting from me and it is still hanging in their summer house, by the sea. This was a pivotal point, their support and love of my work, gave me a huge boost.
Later, I got married, moved to the US and had two children. It took me a few years to get going again. Santa Fe was the absolutely perfect location for me to move to! It’s an artist town, with hundreds of galleries, a town that attracted Georgia O’Keefe and many well-known contemporary masters.
As an artist there are a variety of challenges to overcome. The first is having the commitment to identify as an artist, and the rejection of what others have to say. It is a challenge to believe in yourself and own it.
I definitely have creative blocks, they hurt, they fester, and they become unbearable in the end. The only way to overcome them is to work through the frustration, the anger and actual fear. The deep-rooted fear of failure or success is not just true for artists, but anyone going out on their own.
The latest impairment was an accident. I broke my ankle badly in 2015, and it is only just beginning to heal after undergoing another surgery. The physical labor of being an artist and sculptor should not be underestimated. My hands show definite signs of arthritis and I am chemically sensitive to almost everything. I just work around it.
On other artists
Naturally, I have some famous favourites.
I love the work of Henry Moore, Yayoi Kusama, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore and my new favourite Tara Donovan. I admire how these artists have so much skill and are brilliantly able to navigate the art world.
I admire unrecognised artists and dear friends, they are so pure in their ideal beliefs of how the world works. I admire them greatly, their genius, and great creativity - which is often overlooked by collectors and galleries.
Santa Fe Society of Artists, is a professional organization of artists, who are my support network. This group allows artists to develop in a safe environment, and matures them so they can fly on their own. I have spent lots of precious spiritual time with Dean Howell, Robert Ash and Stephanie Eisenberg.
On role models
My uncle Rolf Berghoff, a master goldsmith in Hamburg is definitely role model for me. I loved hanging out at his workshop, in downtown Hamburg. He was a skilled perfectionist, a true master.
Then there is my ex-husband, a world class theoretical physicist and a very creative thinker. Although he is my ex-husband, he still supported me and inspired me. We had deep conversations about art, science, and living ones dream.
My dear friend, an exceptional fiber artist Kay Khan, is another role-model. She is dedicated to her meticulous work. She is showing in museum collections world wide. Marianne Hornbuckle also is also on Artfinder, taught me the ropes!
I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico which is a hub for artists. By living in this amazing community and being immersed in its culture, I go to openings, follow peers successes and discover lots of invigorating new work. Philosophy, spirituality and camaraderie are necessary for an artist. We can’t be isolated and create in a vacuum.
There was a really pivotal moment in my life; It happened whilst dealing with an attorney, and not a friendly one in an unpleasant scenario. After my divorce, I was asked if I was seeking employment and answered by insisting I was an artist. I was told that being an artist was a lifestyle choice, not a profession. I disagreed with him, and consequently did not receive alimony after almost 20 years.
This experience formed me! It also made it very clear that I knew who I was, and needed to be. You can only respect yourself as an artist if you adhere to being a professional. Anyone can create or sell a few works. What differentiates the amateur from the professional is the attitude towards one’s profession.
I had heard about Artfinder a few times, so I signed up last December. In January 2016, I had so many commissions to finish, that I couldn’t even sleep!
On the future
Right now, I am taking a break from exhibitions and art shows. Health first! I will show my work in the future and have had invites to travel to London. I would love to be represented by a gallery in the UK, and I am currently represented by Galleries in Denmark, Belgium, France, Canada and the US.
My ambitions for the future are to focus on larger, life-size work. A 3/4 life-size family of four, is at the foundry right now! I am anxious to see it finished. Larger public projects and commissions are some of my goals for the next few years.
Do you have any advice for other artists?
Be professional and live your dream. Work, work, work, there is no shortcut! When creative blocks arise, work through them, rather than procrastinating or seeking help elsewhere. Never say “starving artist” about yourself, you run the risk of believing it and it manifesting.