Time-traveling wildlife artist Josh Cotton is a joy to have as a contributing artists on the Dinosaur Crate! We caught him during one of his stays in the anthropocene and asked him to fill us in on some details about his work.
1. Who is someone you admire, and why?
I really look up to a good friend and mentor of mine, Cliff Miles. Not only was Cliff was one of the founders of the North American Museum of Ancient Life, he's very kind and generous, always looking for ways to give people meaningful gifts and opportunities. I think of his example often and try to be generous and kind with what I have the way he is. I also appreciate the way he thinks for himself, and does what he feels is right no matter the outside social pressure. Last, he chases his dreams. He's always followed his passions and made his dreams happen, rather than settling for the humdrum ordinary. He and his team built one of the largest dinosaur museums on the planet, he's produced several beautiful stop motion films, written and published books, created massive collections, and every year makes time to explore nature and go birding. All of this in the face of major health and life challenges. I hope that when I get to the end of my life, I can say that I lived as kindly and passionately and as all-out as my friend Cliff :)
2. Do you have any skills or talents that most people don’t know about? (Other than the obvious!)
Hmmm ... I love to create music and write songs. Some of theme are dinosaur songs for the kids at the museum where I work, others are love songs for my wife, and others are just goofy and fun :)
3. If we went to happy hour, what would you order?
A chocolate malt. Or a hot chocolate. Chocolate :)
4. What’s a goal you have for yourself that you want to accomplish in the next year?
I have dreamed since childhood of living in a dinosaur museum. I've always built small exhibits to put on display in shelves at home. This year, it is our goal as a family to move into a new home with enough space to devote an entire room to exhibit space :)
5. What are some causes you care about?
As a transgender person who grew up in a religious conservative environment, I am passionate about trans rights, and especially about helping my church and others understand trans people, let go of prejudices, and learn how to support them. I try to be visible and engage in support communities, and I am currently working hard at developing tools and materials for individuals and their loved ones dealing with gender dysphoria.
Additionally, I am passionate about the world's neurodiversity. My wife has a dream, in which I am her partner, of developing a new paradigm and toolset for psychology that better diagnoses and treats people with mental/emotional conditions, and allows them to healthily harness their gifts and potential.
6. What would be your personal motto?
My motto is "Vince odium curiositas," or "Overcome hatred with curiosity." There is so much hatred and prejudice in the world right now, between left and right, between races, certain religions and sexual minorities. It's said that people hate what they don't understand. They also don't want to understand what they hate. However, there is an old proverb that inverts this logic, and I believe it is true; it says, "To understand all is to forgive all." To understand and therefore to love, first we need to desire to understand - which desire is curiosity. It's difficult to jump directly from hate to love, but it is possible to jump from hate to an honest question. It can start with "what on earth would possess someone to act that way!?" and move to "I can see how that person's life experience would bring them to this place," and ultimately, "maybe we're not so different." I want to cultivate curiosity in people with my work. My hope is that visitors practicing the curious mindset in my museum exhibits will learn to be curious in other places, and particularly about people they consider to be enemies. Vince odium curiositas.
7. Tell us three pet peeves.
People leveraging hate to obtain power
Paperwork, especially recurring paperwork ;)
8. What’s your favorite superpower and is it the one you’d want for yourself?
I grew up reading Katherine Applegate's Animorphs series, in which the heroes could turn into any animal they were able to touch. I always thought that was really neat, in part because it's a million superpowers rolled into in one. Want to fly? Turn into a bird. Super-strength? Morph into an elephant or gorilla. Invisibility? A boxelder bug on the ceiling is close. Super sight, super hearing, super speed, and being able to experience life from the point of view of millions of different creatures - morphing, that's the power I'd choose.
9. If you could be anywhere other than here, right this minute, where would you be? (Don’t overthink it!)
There is an imaginary museum I've explored in my head since childhood. I would go there :)
10. What’s your favorite Dinosaur?
Most of my life it's been Allosaurus, but occasionally another critter cuts in– most recently Styracosaurus.
You may find out more about Josh at his website: WWW.JOSHCOTTON.COM and you can own an exclusive piece of his art by picking up a Dinosaur Crate!