Looking at Coco Gordon Moore, it’s easy to see the resemblance between her and her famous parents. But scrolling through her relatively guarded, recently-made-public Instagram profile, it’s clear that the Brooklyn-native is not your average child of alt fame, nor your average artist-turned-model for that matter. While, let’s be honest, most of her peers are busy trying to decide which emoji best fits their social media caption, Coco is focused on finding her place as a creative with a social conscience. For her, that means balancing her desire to uplift minority voices, while also embracing her role as someone with a growing platform. It also means working with diverse brands like Eckhaus Latta and MadeMe. Still, like most 23-year-olds, Coco isn’t totally sure of what she wants to do, especially when it comes to choosing between painting and poetry. One thing that is certain: she won’t be defined by expectation — from us, or anyone else.
Alexandra Weiss: You’re a painter, but you also write poetry. Do you have one medium you prefer to work in?
Coco Gordon Moore: I’m an artist — I’m not really tied down to one specific medium. Visual art was always my main thing, but lately, I’ve been more into writing poetry. Language is really important to me — I connect with it more. So, I’ve been writing a lot, and still doing visual art, but I’m focused less now on doing just one thing and more on finding a way to connect the two.
What themes do you explore in your work?
I explore sexual violence, and I’m really focused on using my work as a way to reclaim my body and women’s desires, while fighting archetypes of femininity. But I recently got really into the idea of selling my paintings and future chapbooks, and having the proceeds go towards organisations that are important to me, like Women of Color Against Violence, Massachusetts Bail Fund and No Means No. I want my work to be affordable for low-income women, specifically because my work is made or them and uplifting their voices.
Is that why you have a sliding scale for purchasing your art?
Right. Historically, art has profited off the voices of women and people of colour, but those aren’t the people who can usually afford to buy it. Artists — and usually white male artists — are the ones who already have money, too. I hate that. But I’m just trying to make work that speaks to women, and is actually affordable for them. And it’s kind of worked out because I sold some pieces to a woman who could only afford to pay a little, and then I sold my work to a man who paid full price.
What does it mean to you to be an activist?
I don’t know if I’d call myself an activist — I feel like I’m doing the bare minimum. But everyone should at least be doing some-thing. I know people are busy, people work, but you should al-ways be trying to help others. Especially for white people — it’s just about checking yourself a lot. That’s what I try to do constantly — analyse my place and my privilege, and the way I think about things. We should all be doing that — keeping each other and ourselves in check and having important conversations. That’s the main thing — we need to keep talking about it and educate each other, so we can hopefully grow to not be so shitty.
Other than donating to political organisations, how do you use your work as a means of political action?
For me, it’s about being honest, open and vulnerable in my work — that’s the most important. Then, hopefully, someone will see or read something I make and connect with it. If I can help someone understand something they didn’t before, or make them feel less alone — that’s amazing. And by donating my work, I’m trying to make people aware of these problems and the organisations that can help them. It’s so easy for all of us to forget what’s happening on a larger scale because of all the little things we deal with in our own lives. It’s like a privilege cycle. So, if I can maybe remind people to do a little more, or a try a little harder — at least then, I’m doing something.
Why is now such an important time for women artists and artists of colour to be speaking out and making art?
With everything happening in the world right now, it’s vital. Obviously, America and the world have been fucked up for a long time, but now it’s coming to a head. People are finally talking about it more, they’re more open. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but art is a really great way to process what’s happening in a different language. It’s also a great way to escape. Of course, you should never forget all of the things that are going on, but it can be nice to lose yourself away from it all for a second. I mean, my art is always going to be political because it’s feminist and about important issues, but it’s also not so in your face that it’s telling you what you should feel.
As someone with a platform and audience, do you feel a sense of responsibility when it comes to what you communicate?
That’s always a struggle for me because I want my voice to be heard, but I also want women of colour’s voices to be heard over mine. At the same time, I want to be an artist. So it’s a balance — trying to figure out how not to take up too much space, but still say something important without being too preachy or not myself. I also have a responsibility as someone that people look at or are interested in, to be like, “This is right, this is wrong, this is what I believe you should do.” There’s not one answer, but I have a platform and need to use it to speak up for what I believe in. It’s more important to say something than nothing at all.
You started modelling with your MadeMe x X-Girl campaign and recently walked in Eckhaus Latta’s NYFW presentation. You also just starred in Proenza Schouler’s new PSWL ads. Being someone who is so socially conscious, how do you choose which brands you’re going to work with?
I try to do some research on them beforehand and make sure they’re not gross, or have any issues that I should be aware of. But it’s hard, you’re always going into it a little blind. You don’t know what the final product is going to be, you don’t know what’s going to be taken out of context. But honestly, if I’m into a brand, I’ll work with them. And you can kind of just tell when a company is being authentic with who they cast and what they represent. It’s easy to see when it’s being forced or someone’s being tokenised. But it’s still hard. Would you rather have no diversity at all?
Did you ever worry that becoming a model would negatively affect your art career?
Absolutely. I went back and forth for a while because I thought people wouldn’t take me seriously as an artist. But then I thought, “Fuck that.” People who don’t take me seriously be-cause I model to make money — I don’t want them to be into me, anyway. I don’t want those people in my life. I do think it’s incredibly difficult for women in the art world, and in that sense, I will fight for my place as a woman and to be taken seriously.
For a while, your Instagram bio said, “Anyone can be a victim and anyone can be an abuser. This needs to be discussed more. We need to educate both boys and girls to create mutual respect.” How do you think we do that?
The first part of that really is that anyone can be a victim or an abuser. We need to have discussions about women that have abused men or other women physically or sexually. I know way too many people that have been victimised in unconventional situations, and it makes them feel incredibly lonely because it’s not discussed in the way it is when a man rapes a woman. There’s just not one face for either side. And I think it really all begins with educating young boys and girls about consent and speaking up when you see something wrong. It really all starts with education — that’s the biggest issue. People don’t know what it truly means to consent.
I think that’s obvious based on what’s come out about Hollywood over the last few months.
Clearly men don’t understand consent at all! I was just talking about this with my roommate. In communities like BDSM, con-sent is so important because safety is number one. But when it comes to just regular, standard relationships, it’s left at the door. So many people think it’s not ‘hot’ to talk about boundaries. But it’s okay to say what you like or need — it’s okay to say no. These things should be talked about — they need to be.
One place these conversations have started to happen is on-line. Why do you think women are more comfortable having these kinds of dialogues on the internet?
We’re not being talked over. The internet is a space where women can express themselves without a man talking over them or trying to mansplain them, and then trying to re-centre whatever it is they’re talking about around themselves. It’s just a way for us to get our voices out the way we should be able to IRL.
That’s led to a serious increase in people talking about feminism online. Some people think that’s been really good for the movement, in that it’s made it more accessible. Others think mainstream feminism is just feminism watered down. Where do you stand?
For me, this is super complicated and also not complicated at all. Feminism should be open to whoever and there are so many different ways to go about being a feminist. But the issue with seeing women wearing shirts like “This is what a feminist looks like,” is that it’s mostly only white women. And that’s a problem. Ultimately, we want equal rights and equal pay and for our voices to be heard. But there are so many other things to think about when you bring in questions of race and class.
Do you think people expect you to be outspoken about certain issues, like feminism, just because of who your parents are?
It really bothered me when I was younger, because people just expected me to be a feminist. It’s not like I was ever an-ti-women, but I really refused the label for the longest time just because it was forced upon me. Then I realised it was about something much bigger.
Everyone goes through a phase when they rebel against their parents. But when your parents are artists and that’s also what you want to do, it must be confusing.
Yeah, and there’s always been a lot of a pressure as far as being an artist. People just expected me to be a musician, and it was always assumed I was going to do art in some form. That’s what I happened to fall into because I love writing and painting, but for a while, I wished I had chosen something else, and I really hated any advantages it gave me. For the longest time, I actually pushed them away. I only recently started embracing them because I might as well, especially now, when voices matter in a different way.
But unlike a lot of other celebrity children, you’ve stayed pretty much out of the spotlight. Is that intentional?
Totally. My Instagram was private for a really long time, until maybe a year ago, when I changed it while I was drunk. I woke up the next day like, “Oh god, why did I do that? But too late now.” The thing is, I’ve just always been a private person, especially because I grew up really nervous about people wanting to get to know me just because of who my parents are. It really shows you how slimy people can be. I became aware of that at a really young age, so I can read people pretty easily. My best friends honestly don’t know who Sonic Youth is.
Having had parents who have made a big name for themselves in the music industry, what does it mean for you to be a successful artist?
I just want people who see and buy my work to be able to relate to it. I know everyone says that, but because the things I’m writ-ing about can be painful, I hope that other women can enjoy the humour and connect to the darker parts. For me, reading poetry or looking at art is important because it inspires me to make more and do better. I hope my work can inspire others to feel like that.
words Alexandra Weiss, photography Natalia Mantini, fashion Miyako Bellizzi, make-up Caitlin Wooters, manicure Natalie Pavloski, fashion assistant Amber Nicole Alston, production Alexandra Weiss, production assistant Kellylouise Delaney
Originally published in Oyster #113