Alicia "Decoy" Cosnahan
Washington, D.C. based street artist Alicia Cosnahan paintings under a single moniker, DECOY. Deeply involved in the public art and art education spheres in the District, Cosnahan sees her role as more than just a teacher but showing the children living around Sursum Corda a world beyond their neighborhood. In this latest series Sursum Corda: Lift up your heart, Alicia Cosnahan provides a visual story about her own experiences, the children, their neighborhood, and this community that has all been brought together by art within this small quadrant in D.C. The idea is, not to copy life, but to express my memory of it.
Alicia “Decoy” Cosnahan provides a visual narrative of the many shared experiences and the people who have considerably influenced her as an individual and as an artist. Through the eyes of the artist, we see the people, the places, and senses of the Sursum Corda neighborhood. Cosnahan works with students at the Perry School Community Services Center, an after-school art program she runs in the Sursum Corda neighborhood in Washington. The program is more than just teaching kids art and art history; it is about sharing the history of the Washington, D.C. street art and those artists whom significantly influenced her artistic process. Cosnahan’s students study an artist’s style, the mediums they use and what moments in history played a role in that artist’s journey. The students then take their interpretation of the artist and create their paintings. These qualities evident in her latest work, “Perry School Trist,” which depicts one of her students working on his piece, emulating the style of DC street art legend Cool Disco Dan and go-go culture. Tristian, the subject of the piece, first starts with painting the red brick, referencing the street, where Cool Disco Dan worked. Then using a stencil, he paints on “Cool Disco Dan” iconic tag. Furthering the connection to the city, the kids, and the street, Her paintings celebrates not only the local art legends from the past but continues this discourse on supporting the contemporary local artists within our District.
Cosnahan captures the strength of a child’s spirit, their eagerness to succeed, and the joy of a child’s imagination through these life-size works on canvas. From a street corner with abandoned toys, a girl roller skating on a hot summer day and a ten-year-old girl with an oversized yellow bow each piece further the emotional connection between the artist and the children. As a street artist, her style utilizes the significance of symbolic imagery to convey the story with simplicity and frankness. Depicting a flat rendering style and rudimentary expression of perspective, Cosnahan provides a visual documentary of this community, “It is about celebrating DC and the individuals who
The iconology of the quilt harmonizes notions of family traditions and communal bonds. It can be viewed as a marker of an individual family, a storybook while carrying secret messages like the quilts that lined the path of the Underground Railroad. Painted on wood paneling, Cosnahan draws a connection between the various neighborhoods of DC, each with their unique personality and design, to a small piece of an elaborate quilt. Like cities, each quilt is made up of different blocks, connected by blocks or streets, similar to that of the cross stitching and intricate patterns that bind a quilt together. This series of work began as a street piece which was posted on an abandoned building. Over time people added their graffiti tag or marking, deepening and furthering the connection to the individuals within the community. Cosnahan continues the narrative through this new work that incorporates red, black and white paint, the colors of the DC flag. Each quilt can be viewed as an anthropological study of the diverse and unique neighborhoods that make up the District, particularly the Sursum Corda neighborhood. Cosnahan explains it when the communities are all put together, “we eventually become a quilt or, in actually, a city stitched together by our own hands and with our memories, love, and respect for D.C. as a whole that make it so great,” she explains. These stories are what make Cosnahan’s DC experience so unique.
Through abstract representation of this neighborhood and street scenes, she captures the spirit of the community and those cherished moments shared. Cosnahan received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Berry College in Rome, GA in 2001. In addition, Cosnahan has studied at The International Studio Arts Centers and Fuji Studios both located in Florence, Italy.