Matteson man’s miniature art carries meaningful message
BY GINGER BRASHINGER Correspondent December 19, 2012 3:32PM
CoRiccio Baskin shows off a White Castle bag that he made to accompany his other White Castle-inspired miniature art at the Illinois School in Park Forest. | Karen Gioia~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 21, 2013 6:02AM
Artist CoRiccio Baskin, 36, is teaching kids to “unlock the original” in themselves.
“If you are a follower,” Baskin said, “you can only get as far as where the last person led you to. That’s what held me back.”
Baskin speaks from experience at the workshops he conducts for young people through his nonprofit organization, “Lil’ Thangz.”
Years before becoming a nationally recognized artist in miniatures, Baskin experienced doubts about how others might view his talent.
“Models were so unique to me,” Baskin said. “I never showed anybody.”
Instead, as an elementary school student, he drew the same types of pictures that his friends drew and allowed what he thought was a more acceptable singing talent to be his outstanding quality, Baskin said.
At home, he continued making models of computers, televisions, video cameras — whatever caught his attention — at first as playthings, and then for the joy of creating.
“I was just making them constantly,” Baskin said.
Even as a child, Baskin was able to re-create to scale whatever object he observed. He said he could “pick up (a one-dimensional object) off the page and turn it around” so that he saw all sides.
Baskin said plying his talent with the right supplies did not always come as easily, however. He found that some of his best discoveries were totally accidental.
His favorite example is from about 15 years ago when Baskin used toilet tissue to clean glue from his fingers. He left the lump of tissue paper sitting out until the next day. The end result, he said, became his unique “modeling clay.”
By the time he was a teenager, Baskin’s unusual talent had captured his mother’s attention.
“I didn’t know what they were but thought they would lead somewhere,” Baskin said about his miniature creations. “I kept showing them to my mother, but she didn’t really get it.”
Baskin said his mother thought his models were “cute” and nothing more. But once a body of work began to build up, “That’s when she caught on,” he said.
“Let others see this,” LaVerne Baskin told her son.
Baskin’s first exhibit was in 1993 at Corliss High School in Chicago, when his homeroom teacher arranged for Baskin’s work to be displayed.
Baskin was completely unprepared for the students’ reactions to his talent.
“It was just like crowds of people were literally going crazy,” Baskin said. “The way the kids accepted it blew me away.”
That was just the beginning of what was to come wherever Baskin’s work was exhibited, from his college years through adulthood.
He has successfully blended his art and skills in graphic design to create television ads, special effects for the movie “Armageddon,” and scale models for concept design firms.
Baskin was commissioned to design and create miniature containers to hold tree seeds sent into outer space.
His success created a desire in him to bring the message of the uniqueness of the individual to young people, Baskin said.
Baskin and his mother, residents of Matteson, in 2002 formed “Lil’ Thangz,” a nonprofit organization, to “bring the art to the kids.”
For the last 10 years, the Baskins have conducted hundreds of traveling workshops in which CoRiccio, known professionally as “Mysteryko,” interacts directly with young people — demonstrating, teaching and talking.
“He’s very generous with his time,” said Deanna Rollins, an art teacher at Illinois School in Park Forest. “He provides us with everything.”
Baskin shares with his attentive audience his own experiences, and sends a passionate message.
“That’s something I want to teach the kids: how to be original, how to learn original ways of doing things that they can apply to their everyday lives and achieve what they want to achieve,” Baskin said.
“It can keep kids off the street if they find the original thing they can do,” Baskin said. “Everybody has it.”
Baskin knows the importance of having an encouraging adult in a child’s life.
LaVerne Baskin, a former nurse, has raised a family of achievers. Baskin’s siblings, CoShun Baskin, 37, a chiropractor; CoMakiya Baskin-Smith, 34, a financial analyst; and CoDantryll Baskin, 14, a student at Southland College Prep Charter High School in Matteson are proof.
“I taught all my children that they are Americans, and what do the last four letters of ‘American’ spell? ‘I can,’ ” she said.
Baskin also believes it was important to follow the rules while remaining unique.
“I stayed inside the box while thinking outside of it,” he said.
His next goal reflects his philosophy.
“I want to host a Martha Stewart-Mr. Rogers-Jim Henson-type of television program to show kids how to use original techniques to do whatever they want to do in life,” Baskin said. ”I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t live it.”
For more information, call (312) 489-7108, visit ltworkshops.blogspot.com or visit the “Lil’ Thangz” Facebook page.
A “Lil’ Thangz” exhibit will be held during January at Midlothian Public Library, 14701 S. Kenton Ave.