Octavia Cook’s fictitious family jewellery company ‘Cook & Co’ was founded in 2003 and has since become a global phenomenon spanning hundreds of years of real and appropriated history. Since the company´s inception Cook has immortalized her family, deceased pets and herself in large scale jewels of plastic, metal and wood.
Cook´s obsession with grandeur and global domination grew to include selected members of royalty and people of historical significance in the Cook & Co ´brand´. She has borrowed the hairstyles of Queen Elizabeth II, Captain Cook and Tsarina Alexandra Romanov (among others) and attached them to her own facial profile to create a new lineage of personalities to use as cameos within her own version of the Crown Jewels.
All grand empires collapse eventually and 2010 saw the glamorous connotations of the ´& Co´ suffix replaced by the generic and abrupt ´Cook Brand´ label. This was the voice of Octavia Cook´s new alter ego, the anarchistic younger sister of the Cook family who makes cheap, cheeky knock-offs of the couture label to sell out of car boots in back alleys to tourists who want the look but don´t want to pay the price.
The final blow for the Cook dynasty was enacted on the other side of the world. ‘Coup de Grace’ was shown at Galerie Rob Koudijs, Amsterdam in January 2011. The brand was burnt, exploded, imploded, drowned at sea and contacted beyond the grave to clear the path for a new way of working.
Rebirth came in the form of ´Shangri La´; Cook’s reflective exhibition held at Anna Miles Gallery, Auckland, two months after ‘Coup de Grace’. ‘Shangri La’ consisted of photographs of the work made exclusively for Amsterdam re-invented as new items of jewellery. These were accompanied by dark photographic portraits of the artist wearing the spotlit Dutch jewels; a symbolic fading away of the face of Cook & Co while bringing the jewellery to the foreground. Perversely the portraits make the unnattainable jewels bigger and glossier than in real life. As usual New Zealand viewers may only buy the copy of the real thing while Europe gets to keep the originals.
Octavia Cook currently lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand