My most recent work acknowledges the relationship between photography, performance and drawing in portraiture. I take photographs as I paint and pour liquids onto myself, using my face as a canvas. The photo shoot references the practice of drawing and painting; then the final graphite drawing references photography. The boundaries between the mediums are broken down and the processes are interwoven.
The images depart from the framing of traditional portraiture. The viewer is not given an entire bust of the subject, rather the frame zooms into up-close sections of the face. The cropping pushes the face to the surface of the paper, making the figure more ambiguous. Flesh becomes abstracted: obliterated by paint on the skin, distorted by the eye of the camera lens, or smeared by the glass of a Xerox machine.
The drawings are made by dusting thin layers of graphite onto paper with a dry brush. The softness of the graphite provides a smooth surface that can be augmented by erasing in details and textures. No pencils are used in the work, allowing the surface to glow without the shine of heavy pencil marks. Illusion dissolves into brush work and the honesty of the material.
Artist Bio / CV
Melissa Cooke (b. Oconomowoc, WI, 1982) received her MFA (2011) and BFA (2006) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Specializing in graphite on paper, her work investigates the relationship between photography, performance and drawing in portraiture. Cooke is represented by Koplin Del Rio. Her drawings have been exhibited at venues nationwide, including the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Wisconsin Art, the Oceanside Museum of Contemporary Art, and numerous colleges. Cooke's drawings are in collections such as the Arkansas Art Center and the Howard Tullman Collection, and have been featured in New American Painting, and Drawing magazine.