On-campus Starbucks showcases UB alum’s art
Published: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 22, 2013 14:09
Amidst the oversized pictures of coffee grinds, white flowers and steaming cups plastered on the walls of Starbucks hangs two printmaking pieces by UB alum Teke Cocina.
Cocina graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in visual studies with a concentration in print media. Although his senior thesis has already been graded and put away, two pieces hang in Starbucks to be admired by fellow students, professors and patrons of the coffee shop.
The two prints were pulled from a collection of 48 and are inspired by a deck of tarot cards. Tarot cards are similar to a deck of cards numbered one to 10 but with different signs, wands, swords, cups and circles and include a king, queen, knight and page. Tarot cards are “used for divination or as a symbol-system for personal growth and development” and are an inspiration for many artists, according to tarot-decks.com.
Cocina held this inspiration in mind for a few years, waiting until he had the time and resources to create something beautiful. His senior thesis project was the perfect opportunity.
“I think tarot cards are so interesting because they are something people used to take seriously but don’t as much anymore,” Cocina said. “It’s something that requires the participant to put themselves fully into it because you have to invest in it to get something out of it. It acts as a mirror to their self.”
Cocina heard over the summer that the on-campus Starbucks manager was interested in hanging students’ art from his favorite professor, Jeff Sherven, a print media technician, who is a regular at the coffee shop. Sherven mentioned it in passing and Cocina took the initiative to pick his pieces and get them framed.
Cocina spoke to his friends and professors to decide which two of the 48 prints he was going to leave behind as his legacy in the coffee shop. His friends decided the bat in the baseball uniform ready to hit a homerun and the mystical African antelope holding a lantern were the two that could be on display without the rest of the collection and still be understood.
“They are interesting and I’ve never really seen anything like that,” said Nora O’Malley, a sophomore accounting major, who was doing homework in front of the prints. “I wouldn’t understand what they mean unless someone told me. But they definitely make you think.”
Cocina said he isn’t the type of artist who has a set vision for what the observer should think when viewing his work.
“Once I give it up, it’s in the world and they can decide how they feel,” he said. “If I had a choice, I’d want them to see it’s about identity and masking identity. My art is mostly focused on changing who you are so people can see you different ways.”
Abby Romano, a senior biochemistry major, was doing her work at the table in front of the prints last week.
“I think they fit in Starbucks because they are artsy,” she said.
Romano and O’Malley both agree that Starbucks should continue to support student artists by hanging their work in the store.
Cocina hopes to gain exposure by having his work on the Starbucks’ walls, but he thinks of it as more of an honor than a way to jumpstart his career.
To forward his career in the printmaking world, he is taking a gap year to apply to graduate schools around the country and Canada. The Rochester native wants to leave the Buffalo area and go to graduate school in Texas, Minnesota or Ontario to continue his study of printmaking.
When he was an underclassman, he hoped to attend graduate school at UB, but he said he was told the Department of Visual Studies graduate program won’t accept students who attended UB as undergrads because it want students to gain a wide variety of experience. He added it’s not a hard rule.
“At first, I was upset,” Cocina said. “But I realized I have learned everything I can possibly learn from the professors here. It’s time for me to move on and learn from someone else.”
Cocina is working at Gap and as a lab monitor at UB to save money for graduate school. It’s been a month into the school year, and he is already bored. He wishes he were still in school.
Cocina attended UB because he didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. He wanted to keep his options open and be able to go into other programs if he wanted.
But he always knew he wanted to be involved with the arts.
Both of his parents were artists in the past and encouraged him throughout high school to continue making and exploring art.
While at UB, Cocina fell in love with printmaking.
“I like the repetition of the processes and I like that it’s not painting or drawing, but elements of both,” he said. “I fell in love with the faculty and environment of the studios.”
In the future, Cocina hopes to continue with printmaking by working in or owning a print studio.
His art will be displayed in Starbucks for at least a year, and Cocina encourages people to view and interpret his work.