by: Chelle Ellis
Cooper first introduces you to her cats -- Captain, a long-haired
black cat and Frisco, a classic tabby. The artist’s
white cat, Tristan, doesn’t allow an intrusion to stir
him from his gentle nap in unknown parts of the Cooper home.
Cooper’s cat-loving history goes back to her childhood,
with her first pet, a tabby simply named “Cat.”
like tabbies. They’re the sweetest. They’re vocal,
affectionate and real people cats”, Cooper muses. Cats
comprise a large part of the Olive Branch artist’s paintings.
own cats are just a few of the felines benefiting from her
long devotion to domestic creatures. She volunteers at Mewtopia,
a Memphis shelter for homeless, abused and abandoned cats.
Her work there includes the risk of nurturing the desire to
add more kitties to her already ample pride at home. So far,
she’s managed to keep her head.
The walls of her home studio
remind visitors they are in an
environment. Amid the paintings of cats and dogs hangs a mixed-media
spirit nook of Jesus surrounded by clouds, domestic animals and
scripture. It supports her belief in humans’ responsibility
to be good caretakers of God’s creatures: “Sometimes
we fail in that,” Cooper reflects.
realized her artistic talent at an early age when she copied the
cover of a Cinderella book. “I was about five or six and I
freaked myself out. Then I showed it to my mom and she freaked out.”
her mother’s encouragement, Cooper began painting, later cultivating
her talent in high school and while earning a graphic design degree
at Memphis State University.
style today is boldly eclectic, offering no confinements of medium,
and reflecting an overall abstract feeling. In addition to commissioned
projects, she creates funky, gothic-style fabric dolls. Other
include jewelry with a regional tongue-in-cheek message
such as the “Saturday Night in Memphis”
bracelet, with dangling charms of a booze jug, pistol
and jailhouse complete with prisoner.
For the sentimental hobbyist
or collector-of-all-things-neat, Cooper offers handmade
journals and bookmarks, each designed with a specific
type of personality in mind.
the most intriguing form of her work is in Cooper’s
acrylic pet portraits, where she captures the personality
of her subject in color and form. A cat named Major,
who loves bowtie pasta and is the king of the hill in
his house, is the subject of one commission. To illustrate
Major’s expectations of royal treatment, she added
a purple hue to his coat. He is regally placed against
a background of his beloved bowtie pasta.
dealing with local patrons, Cooper meets and photographs
the pet; she interviews the owner to determine the animal’s
traits. She incorporates the pet’s personality
into the image, relying on impressionist styling rather
than painting a photograph-like image. “This way
it makes it more interesting to me as an artist, too,”
work can be found in the Memphis area at Maggie’s
Pharm in Overton Square and Then and Again on Main Street,
or through her website: www.angiart.com.