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|About the Artis's Work:
Melissa J. Cooper's choice of medium is Bronze and her subject is primarily wildlife. From monumental size cougars that will stare you down to tabletop bears that will steal your heart, Melissa has a way of instilling each piece with its own personality. Whether her subject is wildlife or figurative, Melissa has a natural ability to capture the spirit and emotion of life in each of her sculptures. Melissa states that the face is the most important part of the piece, the place where she can most express herself. It is also the most detailed area of her pieces, as she tends to portray the rest of the body with very little detail. Once at a show a fellow artist told her that she was a "Realistic Impressionist", she laughed, but does not really know any other way to express it. She enjoys taking the time to making the piece anatomically correct through the study and detail of the muscles and proportions, but does not like to become bogged down in the details of texture. She enjoys expressing the illusion of texture through her patina work.
Each patina differs slightly, therefore making each piece an original. This is one of her favorite parts of the process and she works very closely with Pat Kipper, who specializes in patina, to create unique patinas for each piece. Once a piece has gone through the casting process it is finished and prepared for the patina. A patina is achieved through the use of various chemicals at very high heat to change the look of the bronze. Many of her pieces have a finished look of marble, each thought through during this process.
Although Melissa seems to have found her own style she insists that she is still evolving. Her art is everything she is, and at age 43 she feels that there is more to herself, and therefore more to her art. Her favorite subjects at the moment are her children, now 12 and 14 years old, and although she sculpts them, very few pieces become commercial. She describes herself as a perfectionist and does not feel a piece of work is complete unless it is perfect. In which case, maybe the world has something more to look forward to.
About the Artist:
Born in Colorado, Melissa Cooper was raised with the appreciation of wildlife and art. Both of Melissa's parents are well-established artists, her mother a painter and her father a sculptor. At 17 Melissa became her father's apprentice and was fortunate enough to work in the foundry with casts and learn the entire process. This is something she appreciates and to this day continues to play an active part in the step-by-step process of her own work.
For ten years she assisted her father in finishing pieces at the foundry level before ever sculpting work of her own. She started to sculpt at the age of 27 and with the basics behind her she evolved into the style you see today in just a few years. She produces only 5 - 7 works a year, allowing her to focus on being at the foundry. Her involvement in the final stages of each process assures her that the piece is just as it should be.
The Artist on Her Work:
Cooper created her first complete sculpture as a Christmas gift for her father, which she recalls as a moment of realization. "After that, I was hooked" she remembers."It was such a new creative release."
Cooper uses an impressionistic style for a creature's body, but when it comes to the face, detail is key to infusing the animal with spirit and personality. "I try to capture the essence of their beauty" she explains. "The face is where I want the detail to be. It can even be just the lip on a bear - grizzly bears have pouty lips. Or the eyebrows. If the eyebrows are high, the animal looks sharper and alert; if they are lower, the animal looks quiet. In photographs of wildlife, something will catch my attention - the cock of a head or the position of a body. Sometimes I will put two pictures together and make it my own."
"I have so many ideas for my art, I just hope in my lifetime I can fulfill them. There is so much beauty we have been given. If I could capture just a smidgeon of it, that would be awesome." She pauses, a hint of tearful joy in her voice. "I have the perfect situation, and I‚have been given huge gifts. It touches my heart."
(Quotes provided by SouthwestArt)
Awards and Exhibitions:
2004 American Women Artists Show: Second Place Award
2002 North American Sculpture Exhibition
1997 Littleton Parade of Sculpture Show: Judges Choice Award
1996 Coors Art Show: Second Place in Sculpture Category
1996 Coors Art Show: Peoples Choice Award
1996 Littleton Parade of Sculpture Show: Judges Choice Award
1995 CBCA Multi Company Art Show: First Place in Sculpture
1995 Coors Art Show: Honorable Mention in Professional Category
1995 Littleton Parade of Sculpture Show: Judges Choice Award
1994 Coors Art Show: Honorable Mention in Professional Category
1993 American Artists Professional League: Honorable Mention
1992 Coors Art Show: Honorable Mention in Professional Category
1991 Coors Art Show: Honorable Mention in Professional Category
1990 Coors Art Show: Honorable Mention in Professional Category