Artist Statement

Art serves as a compass to determine and explore our place in the world. It is a fulcrum, linking the physical world with ideas, memory and vision. I have the honor of constantly reflecting a continually changing, perplexing, and marvelous world that we all occupy.

The studio work is a personal view. I strive to visually connect conceptual views to history and to nature. I often combine two and three dimensions. Two-dimensional images create illusions of depth, while three-dimensional art is typically object oriented. Combining the two affords the opportunity to build illusion out of objects and objects out of painting, thereby creating a paradox. This contradiction of dimension mimics our imaginations, perceptions feelings and daily lives. The studio work often addresses life cycles, changes in time and place, and the nature of art itself.

Each public art project takes me into a new world, broadening my experiences and offering greater depth to my work. My public art is site specific, each piece is unique, ranging from murals to freestanding sculpture. Although highly conceptual, the art always refers to history and the nature of the site or situation. I collaborate with professionals from every discipline—architects, engineers, developers and public administrators.

The media choice is determined by the concept and location of the art. Some of the media I use are bronze, light media steel, copper, aluminum, concrete, wood, oil and acrylic paint, glass, plastics, and granite.

My installations are at universities, hospitals, parks, museums, theatres, an armory, a police station, City Halls, transportation systems and stations, a garage, and is in several private collections.

Los Angeles is my original home. My art education was in painting at the University of California, Berkeley, where I earned BA and MA degrees. After two years in New Mexico, I moved just outside of Denver where a former barn is my studio.

-Susan Cooper


Excerpt from Lucy R. Lippard’s, “Vanishing Points”. from exhibition catalogue for Susan Cooper’s installation  “RECOLLECTION”.

Susan Cooper understands well the role of architecture in the dreamlike process of memory because it has worked for her, or on her.

…Cooper’s work performs both a documentary and an esthetic function.  Her reliefs are removed from reality; the buildings are out of context, floating in a new place all their own, created by the artist,  relief – positioned between painting and sculpture – seem the right choice for the installation.  Pushed forward from the passive picture plane, it is a liminal medium, between two and three dimensions, reflecting the liminal place of memory between past and present…

…Cooper’s interest in architecture has evolved from the decorative to the profound.  Her two architectural murals in the City and County Building in Denver – Twentieth Century Perspectives: Beginning and Century and Ending a Millennium – appear to have been inspired by Art Deco and the WPA murals – other periods when architectural memory was important to public art.  The are deliberate pastiches, architectural collage, like postmodernism itself.  But in Recollection, she literally re-collects pulling the pieces back together.  It is not a monument; the installation can move around the country, touching disparate local audiences.  Making such art functions as a cathartic ritual for the artist’s own losses.

…At its best, art can activate, even resurrect, memory and then shape and prolong it. This can be done, however. Only with the collaboration of those who take art seriously…

Excerpt from Hoard Risatti’s book, Theory of Craft, where he discusses Cooper’s “Shades of Gray” currently in the collection of the Kirkland Museum, Denver. Risatti has previously reviewed Cooper’s work in Artforum.

Susan Cooper’s work extends a line of thought that Pablo Picasso briefly touched upon around 1914 when he made several three-dimensional collage sculptures that he painted with highlights and shadows. Though Picasso never explored the profound implications of these works, Susan Cooper has done so in a series that includes Shades of Gray. It is the oppositions and contradictions of the work that make it so unsettling. Not only do we have a black chair next to its mirror form in white, making the viewer wonder which is the “real” chair and which the mirror image. But Cooper also blurs the line between the real and the imaginary by treating each chair as if it existed in perspectival space; that is to say, she has foreshortened both chairs as if they were two-dimensional objects when, in reality, they exist in three-dimensional space. And as if this weren’t perplexing enough, she adds shadows and highlights . to them to accompany the real shadows and highlights that occur naturally with any three-dimensional object. It is difficult to look at these objects and not wonder where the line between the real and the imaginary is to be drawn and how we, as viewers accustomed to using chairs as functional objects, fit into their “space” and they into ours.

Jim Melchert, Artist, Professor Emeritus at University of California, Berkeley; Former head of Visual Arts, National Endowment of the Arts; Former Director of National Academy in Rome

“Story Line” is a joy to read, partially because the information is so specific. Partially, too, because the imagery is done with such care and feeling. The booklet-like catalog that identifies buildings that figure into your family history was a brilliant idea. What you wrote about each site makes an engaging story.

Peggy McIntosh, Feminist and Scholar at Wellesley Centers for Women; Author of White Privilege and Male Privilege, 1988

Your project is a huge one, on American Jewish life started in the dark of European shtetls 18c-1939 and coming up-or down to the-US presently. This is such important work! You are doing history, autobiography, architecture, cars and vans, apartments and houses, ancestors, grandparents, parents, husbands, children, commissions, all as works of art and suffering, growth
and change, and vision, inner and outer life.

What I like most is that you take your life seriously. They are inspiring, and the whole effect is epic. That’s how important it is: an American life, an American Jewish life, an American Jewish woman’s life, an American Jewish woman’s art. It’s infinite.

Maria Piechotka, Author of Wooden Synagogues

I thank you very much for your nice booklets presenting your installations: “Recollection” and “Story Line.”

They are very interesting and moving. It’s a great satisfaction for me to learn, that our first book “Wooden Synagogues” from 1959 (almost 60 years ago) was for you and other Middle and Ost Europeish -American Jews important and useful.