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Octavia Cook exhibition opens at The Dowse

Dynasty: Works by Octavia Cook | 28 July – 22 October 2012 | FREE

Forget Alexis and Krystle's cat fights, Auckland jeweller Octavia Cook has her own family dramas to tell in a new solo show at The Dowse. Dynasty: Works by Octavia Cook, from 28 July, tells the story of Cook's fictitious family jewellery company Cook & Co, a play on global jewellery brands like 'Tiffany & Co'. The exhibition features over 60 works from 2005-2012. It includes Cook's new collection, and latest alter ego, Cocoa Vitako, invented to 'kill off' Cook & Co and move her work in a new direction.

'Since its founding in 2003, Cook & Co has become a global phenomenon (in my mind anyway), spanning hundreds of years of appropriated history', says Cook, 'In 2007 my obsession with grandeur and global domination grew and I extended Cook & Co to include selected members of royalty and people of historical significance.'

In Accoutrements for the Entitled, 2007, Cook 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 in cameos; her own version of the Crown Jewels. In 2008, Cook's marriage, and a trip to Japan in 2008, spawned a new figurehead for Cook & Co. 'Madam Kokku Kaisha', the Japanese version of herself came complete with the traditional hair-style of an edo-era married woman. However, all grand empires eventually collapse and in 2010, the glamorous connotations of the ´& Co´ suffix were replaced by the more abrupt label ´Cook Brand´. This was the voice of Octavia Cook´s new alter ego, the anarchistic younger sister, creator of cheap and cheeky knock-offs for the tourist dollar.

The final blow for the Cook dynasty took place in January last year in Amsterdam during the exhibition Coup de Grace at Galerie Rob Koudijs. The brand was burned, exploded, imploded, drowned at sea and contacted beyond the grave to clear the path for a new way of working. Just two months later, rebirth came in the form of the Auckland exhibition, Shangri La. The show consisted of photographs of the works made exclusively for Coup de Grace, re-invented as new items of jewellery.

Octavia Cook graduated from Unitec in 1999 with a Bachelor of Design in Jewellery. She has exhibited widely in New Zealand and internationally, in art, craft and design contexts. Cook's work is represented in the collections of Te Papa, Auckland War Memorial Museum and The Dowse. She has also produced jewellery collections for New Zealand fashion designers. In 2005 Cook was the recipient of a Creative New Zealand grant for new work that allowed her to develop the first Cook & Co monographic publication; 'Cook & Co: The Family Jewels.' Along with Jacqui Chan, she was selected among just 65 other successful applicants, from 27 countries, to showcase work at the prestigious annual international jewellery exhibition SCHMUCK in Munich, March 2012.