The annual Art Expo, held at Pier 90 in New York City, features artists of all mediums who hail from Spain to Sweden, but one particular artist from Japan is making a splash with his signature works which elicit powerful and poignant messages. This unconventional and self-taught artist, Cookie, who refers to himself as Nikuguso Taro, strives to show that everybody has the potential to be beautiful, both inside and out.
According to Nikuguso, we all have the right to express our inner “kawaii,” meaning cute in Japanese, through our “otomo,” (soul), and he shows this belief with every brushstroke. The artist, who describes himself as “bakemono,” or monster, believes that even those who look like him deserve to feel and look “kawaii.” This sentiment is embodied in his many of his pieces, which portray faces resembling the artist with flowers around him in order to add to this colorful theme of “kawaii.” Other pictures show him with bows in his blonde or brunette colored hair – these works were made for those who are afraid to embrace the “otome,” or young girl which lives within us all. “Nikugusootome” aims to send a message that everyone is entitled to realize the pureness within their own hearts, regardless of their age, gender identity or appearance.
The “Nikuguso” in “Nikugusootome” is the artist’s name. “Niku” is often translated to “meat,” but it can also mean ‘body,” or “what makes up a body” while “guso” means excrement. Humans eat to put meat on their bodies and finally the excrements return to earth and fertilize the food that is then eaten. “Nikuguso” is therefore a term for “human” which accounts for nature’s cycles.
The works in the current collection, which are being shown in the United States for the first time at the expo, are just as out of the box and original as the artist. Cookie, who was born in the Shiga Prefecture of Japan, is part of the Yasei Bakudan comedy duo. From his scripts to his sketches, Cookie puts his whole self and creative side into all of his projects. The theme of his exciting and eccentric exhibit is Nikuguso Otome, or “meat feces maiden.” The artist sometimes even paints his own face in a manner which resembles recognizable figures from both Japan and overseas.
The pieces of this personable painter, which appear both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, have attracted fans of all backgrounds, including celebrities in Cookie’s home country of Japan. He is now showcasing his pieces of unparalleled originality in New York so that he can reach a new audience who will be just as enchanted with his perception of perfect imperfections. In 2018, Cookie had ten commercial contracts, appeared in over 300 broadcasts and was even appointed as an ambassador for the international art competition, Art Olympia 2019. Cookie is currently slated to release a collection of his works entitled Cookism, and is involved with ARTRATES, an association supporting artists aiming for international success. The organization, which was founded in New York, is now based in Tokyo, and is building a bridge between the art world in Japan and the rest of the world. With a successful exhibit at the expo, this artist is ready to unleash his unapologetically unique works and conquer the rest of the country – and perhaps the rest of the continents.
How is your current style similar to what is was when you first started out?
I originally started out making my own self “kawaii” by putting flowers on my own body.
You do so many other creative things including comedy, so what made you decide to dive into painting?
I have an older brother who is an incredible artist, but he’s really good at realistic, traditional, artistic paintings. We used to compete with drawing but then I realized I couldn’t win just fighting straight on so I started doing more original, unique things.
Is your brother still in the art world?
He doesn’t draw anymore but he works at a factory. I guess I won!
Do you hope to expand in the US market?
Yes, this is my first time in America and I would love for more and more. This is really my first shot.
Why did you decide to intertwine the sentiments associated with “kawaii” and “otome” into your artwork?
“Kawaii” is now understood as another word for cute through its popular usage in pop culture and “otome” refers to a young or unmarried woman, but it’s mostly defined as “a person with a pure heart who is moved by “kawaii” things. I believe that “otome” is the feeling of getting excited by seeing “kawaii that exists in everyone’s hearts.
What was your inspiration for this collection?
The main inspiration of the series is that all living things have the right to become “kawaii” or beautiful, no matter how they think they look traditionally and anyone can be who they want.
What artistic pieces will you be working on next?
I want to start making more sculptural pieces. I’ve been sculptural before so it will be in a similar aesthetic – just making a bunch of clones of myself!
What is the message you want to share with your new audiences about who you are and why your stuff should hang on people’s walls?
I’m gross but cute but still gross.