Tara Cooper is an artist much affected by the weather. Based in Toronto, Cooper credits her stubbornness as motivation.
Are you happy as an artist right now?
It’s difficult to answer questions regarding happiness, but I definitely feel lucky. When it comes to making art, I find producing artwork is more about the steady accumulation of effort, as opposed to states of mind or emotion. Some days I question my practice, feeling compelled to throw in the towel, but stubbornness keeps me working. I know from experience that the balance between certainty and uncertainty is precarious as best–a new day and a fresh pair of eyes can change everything. In an article from the New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell talks about 2 kinds of creative people. The first is affiliated with precocity–where genius comes at a young age, everything clicks at a particular moment in time (i.e. Orson Welles makes Citizen Kane at 25). Gladwell defines the second as a “Late Bloomer”. The practice of a late bloomer is rooted in experimentation. Thus, it is only with energy and time that a question is solved. Cezanne exemplifies this latter group–producing his most accomplished paintings at the end of his life. I’m hoping that I’m a late bloomer, as my practice tends to embrace sweat and labour. I always think that my next project will be the best. Here’s a link to the article if you’re interested: gladwell.com
Who do you really admire in the art world right now?
Recently, I have been inspired by the work of Maira Kalman. Last March, I had the pleasure of seeing her retrospective, “Various Illuminations of a Crazy World” in Philadelphia. Kalman seems to poetically navigate the space between diary, creative non-fiction, illustration and design. Her work illuminates hope, joy and humour, but not without the knowledge of tragedy and heartache. One of my favourite lines in the catalogue written by Ingrid Schaffner is “joy is where you find it–usually on the shelf right next to sadness”. Another favourite, but not specifically art-related is “This American Life”, a radio documentary that has been broadcast weekly for the past fifteen years. It’s compelling, smart, funny and unpredictable–all of which I admire.
Have economic conditions made you pull back? Are you moving forward? Are you treading water, remaining in place?
The current economic situation hasn’t had any noticeable impact, as I don’t depend on my artwork for income. This was a conscious decision made a few years back, as I began to take on more ambitious and less sellable projects. It seems that the less I worry about the market, the better my work gets. This year I received support from the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council, which has made a significant difference allowing me to focus in the studio. I also teach part-time at OCAD University.
I definitely feel like I am moving forward. My current project involves an 11-foot weather station outfitted with various instruments–windsock, radio, flags, an anemometer. The basic idea for the project juxtaposes the impossibility and magnitude of weather happening outside (the macro) against the personal experiences of the interior, life inside (the micro). Regardless of economics, we all share in the experiences of weather.