Michael Coop: Paintings

About Michael

Michael 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 college administrator and painter, 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 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. Though making, studying, and looking at art almost his entire life, Michael has not painted full time or tried to make a living from his artwork, and maintains a busy full-time career and business.

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 intend to represent in paint a contemporary view of the ravages of time and the elements on a surface, and the beauty of that decayed image. Think of the incredible early Renaissance frescos of Giotto and his peers – today the tempera has often flaked off over the centuries leaving a scarred, mottled, yet beautiful surface. Or the seventeenth century Persian rug that has disintegrated into small but incredibly beautiful shards of dyed fabric, with colors and shapes contrasting against themselves and the voids created by the absent fabric. These images can match the beauty of anything. As a resident of Santa Fe, Michael sees the iconic postcards of once brightly painted Santa Fe gates, which have been damaged by rain, friction from branches and countless hands, and nicks, cuts and sometimes graffiti of unknown origin over decades of use. These Santa Fe postcards circle the globe because that mysterious, luminous surface calls for your attention, yet offers only hints of its life. The patina of these surfaces expresses a deep beauty and hints at a deep realness. Unexpected patinas of degraded surfaces can represent the elusive nature of truth when ravaged by time — they often contain an incredible beauty that results from the process of decay itself. Michael’s current Pentimento series seeks to explicitly imagine these stories through paint.

Photos by Kim Richardson