By Riley Hunter –
I met Cody Sanderson (aka Cosa) in 2008 and was instantly brought back to my child-hood years when my mom painted murals on my wall. I wanted to have a whole room, ceiling to floor, painted and Cody was excited to take on the task but said he will likely never do a ceiling again.
Cody and Alex Remen (aka Dr. Fill) are the synergizing partners of Cosa Ink LLC and they both bring very different aspects to the business and their personal lives are just as interesting as their art work. I was excited to tag along as they are donating a mural that is sure to light up the hearts of children and even those children at heart as you bring your imagination to life at the Rotary Lights this year.
Cody is 37 years young, started as a graffiti artist with just doing letters, but has evolved into the professional world of mural art. Cody was born in Waterloo, Iowa. One of his best memories was visiting WI before his family moved to the La Crosse area in the 90’s. Now his favorite place to visit in the driftless region with his two adorable children is Bluffton, Iowa and Niagara Cave. Cody’s reason for painting is trying to build something for his kids. Cody told me how all his son’s classmates now know who he is & once had to take Cody’s ID to the school to prove who his dad was. So, when the rotary light project came along and he could donate to the community, not only did it make him feel good but he knew his kids will be going to see it also and they will say, “my dad painted that.”
I would have described Cody as one of those guys that lights up every room that he walks into with his signature mohawk, tool belt, his boisterous laugh, enduring smile, and who’s always been the life of the party. Cody jokingly reminds me to throw in his piercing blue eyes too and that life has changed a lot, well except for the mohawk that is. He’s a very go with the flow person, yet deals with his ADHD impulsiveness through his artwork and his mural artwork consistently changing the picture if he thinks it doesn’t fit he has to keep going until he thinks it’s right for the mural. Cody explains it as it puts me in the world of whatever I am painting, so it’s a temporary escape.
Cody has always been and outdoors person who loves nature and especially camping on the river. He said he really wants to teach his kids that what they do currently can affect their future because he regrets that he didn’t start this business much sooner. He wants his kids to have an adventurous and fun life while respecting the earth as they play. His viewpoint is to stop destroying the world so his kids can experience the things that he got to experience in nature.
Cody is a self-proclaimed nerd in disguise because he like antiques, history, and science but that has been a lot of self-discoveries. He still collects fossil and coins, He likes to study old maps, expanded his collection of antiques, old coins, bottle caps, and loves the thrill of finding things that have long been forgotten. He used to even sell some things and had an antique booth on La Crosse’s northside.
Alex and Cody met back during the time they were painting at my house through friends but it wasn’t until years later they both learned they liked the same hobbies too. Just like Cody he really enjoys digging bottles out of the dirt, learning about history, more specifically about La Crosse bottlers, enjoys drawing, loves all animals, fish and he even collects Superior agate stones.
Alex is 30 years young laid-back quiet introvert, that is until you can get him cracking jokes and he starts his impersonations which was his previous dream job of doing voice overs for movies and cartoons. But as an artist working with businesses it helps to bring out the extrovert side. Alex was born and raised in Onalaska, WI by his father and grandmother, Doris Remen. He still helps her with groceries, doing chores around the house, and he really wants to make her proud. Alex had always had dreams to become a graffiti mural artist since about 6th grade. He practiced non-stop in note books, took every available art class, even advanced placement art.
Alex says making art into something that financially supports me is important for many reasons.
I asked them to describe one another and Alex explains Cody as detailed oriented, critical thinker, and has a passion for the arts. And in true Cody style, he describes Al as, “he colors things real purdy” with a hillbilly accent. He says “No for real, he brings a different flavor to the mural and I either go with it or expand on it.”
These two really do seem to make the most out of each day, they are constantly having fun but also challenging each other with questions like ask yourself what can we do to make it better? What can we do to wow people? What can we do that sticks out from the rest that makes this mural different from other murals? As Cody continues to talk with Alex they talk about what makes it flow? Alex throws out an idea or suggestion and they continue to play with colors and building upon the previous spray paint so that it adds a depth to the mural and makes what Cody has in his head come to life.
It’s all quite a fascinating process to watch as they change one aspect of the detailing to test it out. For instance, the purple top-hat on the top of the snowman’s head is being changed to red. Cody then stands back to look at it, and quickly says “Nope, I like it better purple.” Cody wanted it to have an effect of the hat coming off the board, but he said he needed to play with it until it was right. But he also felt that he needed to start working on the string of lights around the snowman first to create that lighting effect, and then tweek it later.
I asked if they titled any of their murals and they said no not really, the art speaks for itself. Some will see one thing and another, another thing. They usually know what business people are talking about when they approach them and thank them back for the acclamation.
Their mission is to change the world one wall at a time, and to inspire one child at a time.
“I had to comment that they are trailblazers changing graffiti art to cross over to be not negatively frowned upon, but one that most businesses will want to display that represent the area and their business in a proud display of art sophistication that moves the patron to notice their business and be inspired to want to check out their services.” – Riley Hunter