Artistic embellishments – Recent LSU grad develops a diverse body of work

What Nicole Cotten’s eyes only hint at through thick lashes, her art shouts at the top of its lungs. She combines her skills in painting and photography to create dream-like works only half-rooted in reality. In one collection, entitled “Gilding the Lily,” Cotten adorns flowers with jewels and gold and photographs them, exploring whether “the embellishment enhances or takes away from the natural beauty.” 

A Baton Rouge native, Cotten graduated in December 2012 from LSU, and she’s already received several accolades in her short career. One of her works was chosen as the winner at LSU’s BFA show. The piece was purchased by the university and will be added to its permanent collection.

During her college career, she received a prestigious painting scholarship to study at the New York Studio School. Some of her photos have been displayed at Magpie Café, where she currently works, and some of her paintings hang at Yogalates. While Cotten is humbled by the exposure, she remains true to her love of art. 

“I found art was a way for me to express myself and the way I view myself and view others,” Cotten says.

Her skills range from watercolor to photography, sculpture, film and even murals. She has completed two commissioned murals with jungle and safari themes at Trinity Episcopal Day School. She also makes her own canvases.

In one of her bodies of work, she employs gumoil—a technique invented by Karl Koenig that incorporates photography and painting. In the complex process, Cotten prints a photograph onto paper coated with a mixture using liquid gum arabic; it’s then exposed to ultraviolet light and dipped in water. The image is coated in oil paint and left to set. Excess paint is removed with paper towels, and the image is then etched in a mixture of water and bleach. The result is ethereal. 

“I got to mix my two loves together,” Cotten says of the gumoil process’s fusion of painting and photography.

Throughout her college years, Cotten taught an after-school art class for kindergarteners, first-graders and second-graders, and her post-grad plan is to continue teaching art. 

“I love working with kids—experiencing them experiencing art,” she says.

It seems the feeling is mutual. Recently, Cotten was offered a job teaching high school art classes at her alma mater, The Dunham School. nicoleacotten.com