Michael Coop: Paintings

About Michael

Michael has been making, studying, and looking at art almost his entire life. He earned his BA with honors in Fine Arts from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee in 1978, and his Masters in Art Education in 1983 from Teachers College at Columbia University. Michael also studied painting at the Athens Centre for the Creative Arts (Greece). After fifteen years of life in Manhattan as a painter and college administrator, he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1993. Michael has regularly shown new bodies of work in alternative art spaces, single or small groups of pieces in invitational gallery shows in Santa Fe, and in numerous Monothon print shows. 

Michael’s last exhibit, Monotypes and More, was at Pippin Contemporary Fine Art Gallery with Aleta Pippin, Ron Pokrasso and Diane Rolnick in 2014. Since then he has had a child with his partner Emily, built and moved into a new house and studio, and doubled the size of his decidedly non-art company, a consulting firm specializing in substance abuse and mental health prevention and promotion with a dozen employees, working in the public sector.

Michael is fascinated by the interaction of colors and the accretion of visual texture in paintings as the surface is developed. Layered, colored surfaces and shapes interact and reveal pieces of each work’s underpainting and the many stages of change during the working process. 

Michael’s current paintings blend gestural marks and color into a image ultimately created by masking much of the surface with an additional layer of paint. These shapes and the visual events inside the shapes interact as foreground-background, windows into a hidden environment, an arrangement of puzzle pieces, or sometimes simple geometry.

His work nods to the passage of time, the impact of the elements on a surface, and the beauty of the resulting decayed image. Early Renaissance frescos of Giotto and his peers – where today the tempera has often flaked off over the centuries leaving a scarred, mottled, yet beautiful surface — are a definite reference point for Michael’s work. The variegated surfaces of ancient Persian, Turkish and Moroccan rugs that have disintegrated over time into beautiful shards of dyed wool, with colors and shapes contrasting against themselves and the voids created by the absent fabric, are also a touchstone for Michael’s compositional method in his current work. Unexpected patinas of decayed surfaces can represent the elusive nature of truth when ravaged by time, and contain an incredible beauty. Michael’s work seeks to both reflect on these worn but beautiful surfaces as well as display in its textures and interruptions of the surface the artifacts of the mark making and painting process itself.

Photos by Kim Richardson