Melissa Cooke is an artist whose work can best be described as authentic. Her work elicits an emotional response in viewers, because her work is just that, emotional. Melissa doesn't just produce pretty pictures, she's a raconteur. Her narrative is defined and interpreted, through her prudent compositions.
Melissa is a native of Wisconsin and received an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her creative process is unique, as evident by the following statement from her website.
"Cooke's drawings are made by dusting thin layers of graphite onto paper with a dry brush. The softness of the graphite provides a smooth surface that can be augmented by erasing in details and textures. No pencils are used in the work, allowing the surface to glow without the shine of heavy pencil marks. Illusion dissolves into brush work and the honesty of the material."
I recently caught up with the hyperrealist artist and got her thoughts on social media, her art, and her terrible choice in football teams.
LD: How has social media impacted you, as an artist?
MC: Social media is a great way to keep connected, and make new connections. Instagram can give a glimpse into the way other artists work, live, and think. I love seeing works in progress, revealing some of the process and thought patterns of artists. It can be inspiring, and can make me think about my own work from a different perspective. Seeing various artworks online also frequently motivates me to seek it out and see it in real life. Some of my friendships and connections have been fostered and facilitated by social media too- which I am very grateful for.
LD: On July 20th, you posted a photo of you and your family on Instagram. You were unveiling a piece that will be displayed at Lambeau field. How did that compare with other moments in your career?
MC: As an artist, I have always been passionate about the act of drawing: the materials, the meditative quality of being in the studio, making an image come to life. Working with commissions has been an interesting new element to my practice. It has been a good new challenge to work with art directors to make my voice and vision work in harmony with theirs. For the Lambeau drawing, I love reaching a whole new audience, and seeing how football fans approach my work. Plus, I’m a big Packer fan!
LD: You briefly mentioned that you were entertaining the idea of releasing limited edition prints. What precipitated this decision? Is it important to have an avenue to reach individuals of all socioeconomic statuses?
MC: Limited edition prints are a great way of reaching a broader audience. Many people have reached out to me and requested prints. So I am currently working out the logistics to make that happen! Stay tuned!
LD: Do you trade with or collect the works of other artists?
MC: Yes! My husband and I are both artists, and we are fortunate to have a growing collection of art from many friends and artists that we admire.
LD: What can we expect from Melissa Cooke, in the future?
MC: Since 2008, my drawings have had an autobiographical nature, inspired by my experiences, reflecting relationships, environment and daily life. As a wife and new mother, the next challenge is to find a place for the spectacle, without having to push the limits of my body and persona. For my next series of drawings, my family will embark on a new type of adventure: the quintessential, nostalgic family road trip. “Been There, Done That” will be a series of large scale graphite drawings of attractions, landmarks and monuments across the United States. I will document each location, and when back in my studio, will try to capture the essence of these places. With a nod to the 1857 painting “Niagara” by Frederic Edwin Church, these drawings will capture the power and awe of nature, trying to preserve time and place for the audience. This simulation of reality, and of experience, will be compounded by modern technology and daily life. We gather photos on our digital devices as proof and reminder of our experiences. We observe art work and nature through our screens, ultimately altering our view. Essence is both lost and gained, memory is altered. With this series of drawings, by recreating these national attractions on a grand scale, I hope to entice viewers to see the work in person: to stand in front of it, to take selfies before them, to partake in the spectacle.