Lehman College Art Gallery

 

BARBARA COOPER  

Cooper big

Link. 2011. Wood and glue. 29 x 17 x 13 inches

 

Nature is always my place to begin. I am drawn to how forms respond to the stresses they withstand and the obstacles they confront. Starting with observations of specific phenomena, I abstract the parallels I find in processes as diverse as the surge of lava, the creep of a glacier, the flow of water, or the growth of a tree.
A tree grows around obstructions and intrusions: it grows in response to the stresses it withstands. I find myself drawn to what I see as a common thread that reoccurs over and over in nature, on different scales and in different materials, where a record of a fluid process becomes a physical embodiment in solid form.
My construction method has been gleaned from observations of building processes in the natural world: our bodies bundle fibers into muscle, built cell by cell; birds weave resilient nests, accumulated twig by twig; shells grow linear accretions, secreted year by year. This process of slow, constant growth is ultimately a transformation of the small, the fragile, the insignificant into something of strength and resilience as the individual establishes a state of balance with the forces of its environment. I echo this process using wood veneer to build up a form upon itself layer by layer, as I sense what aspects I want the piece to take on. Through layering and gluing, this fragile, flexible material develops its own strength.
The wood veneer that I use began its life cycle in the form of a tree and is the result of an intensive milling process. I complete the life cycle of these materials by constructing organic forms from the factory scraps, which would otherwise be discarded. I want to mirror the efficiency I find in nature by re-cycling this waste product into a new generation of form.

My focus is on how a form records its growth process of evolving from one condition to another as it responds to its environment. This process of transformation, whether in the natural environment or in the realm of the cultural or the personal, is an essential aspect of life. It is the foundation upon which my work builds.

 

Cooper sma

Joint. 2011. Wood and glue. 23 x 24 x 12 inches