Artist Jess Riva Cooper’s work for the Gardiner Museum competition is entitled Viral Series. You can vote for her at gardinermuseum.on.ca. (photo by Sophia Wallace)
Canadian artist Jess Riva Cooper is currently vying for the RBC Emerging Artist People’s Choice Award, taking place at the Gardiner Museum. You can vote online at the Gardiner site until Oct. 12, 2014. The winner, selected by your votes, will receive $10,000.
“It’s an honor to be nominated as one of five Canadian emerging artists, and the only woman, for this award,” Cooper said.
A ceramic artist and educator, Cooper has participated in residencies across Canada and the United States, including a stint as artist in residence at Medalta in Medicine Hat, Alta., and Brandeis University in Massachusetts.
She cites Yiddish folklore among her most meaningful influences, particularly the foundation myths of the golem and dybbuk spirits, which she reinterprets through a female lens. Her artist statement expands on this point: “I see a direct parallel between my interest in insidious plant life and a malevolent dybbuk spirit, which takes over the human body. In both situations, a loss of control is suffered as the parasitic entity subsumes the host.”
Cooper’s work for the Gardiner competition, entitled Viral Series, is a continued exploration into the death and regeneration taking place in deteriorating communities. Places and things, once bustling and animated, have succumbed to nature’s mercy. Without intervention, nature takes over and breathes new life into objects, as it does in her sculptures. The busts, once plain, are hardly recognizable. They become tattooed with nature. Their heads grow leaves instead of hair. The faces scream out in pain – or perhaps pleasure – in the midst of transformation. Often used to represent life, nature instead becomes a parable for an alternative state, one where life and death intersect.
Supported by the RBC Emerging Artists Project, the $10,000 award honors a Canadian artist who has been out of school and practising professionally with clay as part of his/her artistry for seven years or less. A national panel of artists, curators and arts educators nominated the five exceptional artists.