The Creators of NYC: Artist and Actor Julio Cotto
Josh Wool spent a decade as an executive chef, opening restaurants across the south. But all that changed in 2010, when the carpal tunnel in his hands meant he could no longer work. To keep from going stir crazy, he picked up a camera and found his next calling. Two years, thousands of portraits, and a move to New York later, Wool is documenting the people who inspire him on a daily basis. Welcome to the final chapter of Creators of NYC.
After a long stay in the south honing his craft, Bronx-born artist and actor Julio Cotto recently returned to New York to make a go of it in the art world. Cotto is self-taught; he has illustrated comic books and greeting cards, painted carousel horses, played an Iraqi sniper in Army Wives, and worked as a graphic artist in Greenville, SC. He’s now working on a series of illustrations inspired by encyclopedia pages.I’ve known his work for a decade, but I didn’t meet Cotto until recently, when we spent a day walking around Williamsburg.
You’ve been in NYC for a year now. How has the transition been?Moving here from clean, friendly, laid-back Charleston would have been much more of a culture shock had I not spent the first several years of my life in the South Bronx. Insane things happened to me this first year back in New York. Roommates, rats, pit bulls, cops and robbers, oh, my! I’ve got stories.
Has the city affected your art?Definitely. I believe people, especially artists, are influenced by our surroundings and interactions. If that environment changes drastically, our work changes. We are sponges, soaking in the world around us. I call it “eating with my eyes.” It’s like falling in love. I fall in love ten times a day in NYC.
Is it all love?I never know what I’m going to experience, beautiful or ugly. Last March, my dog and I were attacked by a loose pit bull in Brooklyn — a block away from my apartment. My hands and legs were bleeding, and my dog, Clive, almost died. A day or two later, I painted “Clive’s Mortality Realized.” It was the darkest, most intense, raw piece of work I had ever created. That’s what I felt in those seemingly eternal moments of the attack. Raw. Real. Animal. I devoured that experience, but this time it was not like falling in love. It was like fighting for love and survival, fighting for what I care about. I didn’t fear that it was a vicious dog. I had to make sure that Clive and I came out alive. I changed. My artwork changed. I have a new piece I’m working on entitled “This City Will Eat You Alive.” It depicts a wolf wearing a partially eaten lamb as a headdress with a city/desert landscape. My work has grown teeth in New York.
Acting versus painting: Is one more gratifying than the other?Right now, art is my lifelong love, and acting is my lust. I have passion for both. I come from a large family of artists. I’ve been drawing, cartooning, and illustrating my whole life, and painting since 2001. I didn’t start acting until four years ago. Acting was something I had on the back burner. A secret desire. I decided I wasn’t getting any younger, so I began taking steps to make my dream a reality. I rode my bike down to the Army Wives casting trailer in Charleston. I caught the acting bug my first day on set. I was hooked.
Has social media played a roll in your success as an artist?When I have an art event coming up, I just post it. Tumblr has become my new website. My original website, much like my knowledge of pop culture, is several years out of date. That’s what happens when you get your buddy to build your site and then he moves to LA. It’s a brave, new, weird world we live in. I have a love/hate relationship with the interwebs.
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