Artist/rapper/producer Rocom might be unwilling to fill me in on his age, his place of employment (art director for an "international toy company") and city of residence, but he's no stranger to the burgeoning arts and culture circles in Orange County. He was born in Los Angeles and raised in Orange County from the age of 7; he eventually attended UC Irvine, majoring in computer engineering with a minor in digital arts.
"It's a funny place," he says of UCI, when asked what he thought of his college experience. "Most people who go to UCI didn't have UCI as their first-choice school. It's a campus of really smart people who didn't want to be there, but they didn't mind being there either. UCI introduced me to college radio, Cha for Tea and some of the best friends I could ask for." But while he's received admiration for his music online—nominated in these very pages for a Best of Readers' Poll award—it's his print of a suicidal Darth Vader that's gaining him some notoriety with whom it really counts with on the Internet: The nerds.
The "Suicidal Sith" limited-edition print ($30) riffs on the aesthetic of a playing card: A mirrored Darth with a lightsaber through his head. His suit? A broken heart, of course.
Rocom unveiled his Etsy storefront in April 2010 to sell pop-culture-driven works. "I figured if I wanted to be in a gallery, why not one that is open to the entire world via the Internet?" he asks. "I made a name for myself in the music scene with the Internet, so I wanted to keep my visual art in the same good hands. Also, [Etsy] is a great community, and it takes PayPal. I like PayPal."
Jawas ("Utinni 4 Life," three identical close-ups of the Tatooine natives in acrylic on 4-inch-by-4-inch canvases), PlayStation controller symbols and the evolution of Batman symbols are all common subjects of Rocom's art.
"I'm a major collector, as most pop-culture fiends are. I wanted to create art that represented all of the things I collected in my life—games, toys, comic books, etc.," he says. "My paintings represent a modern version of things I loved collecting as a kid. It's also a cool way to show you're a total nerd without having a life-sized Stormtrooper in your hallway."
This column appeared in print as "Playing With the Sith of Hearts."