AFA: With an astonishing count of over 100 exhibitions on your resume, how do you feel about the high demand for your art?
Pam Cooper: The number of exhibitions on my website is only a selection of those I have participated in over the last twenty years. There is a much larger number of exhibition rejections, which I tend to keep for reference and to keep me grounded. The majority are group exhibitions with just a few solo exhibits. I am always grateful that a gallery is willing to include my work in their spaces and give me the opportunity to share my work.
AFA: Your work tends to focus on neutral tones, simplicity, texture, and architecture. Could you elaborate on such a collaboration?
Pam Cooper: I like to work within small spaces, and when suitable installation space is not available, I build my own stand alone pieces, paper houses and closets which can be hung on the wall, suspended from the ceiling or free standing. I keep the structures simple and the color neutral as an over elaborate highly colored object would detract from the message I am trying to convey. I have occasionally used color to encourage the viewer to peep inside where the outer surface of the work is more ornate.
Two sculptors whose work I first saw after moving to the US in 1990 were Lee Bontecou's sculpture at the Moma and a retrospective of Eva Hesse's sculpture at Yale. Both these artists made a great impression upon me, their limited use of pallet and Eva Hesses seemingly simple structures. These artists definitely affected my direction through art school. I make my own paper so I can form it to the size and shape I require for each project and knowing how to weld metal allows me to construct the internal support.
I use abaca paper for its translucence and strength with the property of also suggesting fragility.
AFA: Why do you focus on interior spaces versus external spaces?
Pam Cooper: The choice of depicting interior spaces is deliberate. My work over the last fifteen years has primarily dealt with the safety of our children. We all know to be watchful of our children in public places but assume that when they are at home, school or church they are safe. With the meteoric rise of social media and the internet they are now vulnerable in their homes to predators and bullying. The troubling increase in the number of school shootings over the last fifteen years and the long history of child abuse within the Catholic Church gives a great cause for concern. I enclose my children in the small spaces inviting the viewer to peep in and become the voyeur.
AFA: How do viewers react your works in person? What have people noted about the art?
Pam Cooper: The pale parchment color of the paper and stylized drawings of the figures based on the images from old sewing patterns gives the work the look of times gone by. This is sometimes the first reaction of the viewer. But with the small windows cut in the structures I am asking the audience to become engaged with the work and look through those windows. They are an integral part of the piece. I have included the viewer in other ways; a mirror placed in the middle of a piece; and a small room installation, a classroom, invites the viewer to take a seat on diminutive benches and look out onto the image of a deserted playground. I am sometimes asked to place statements on the wall beside my work but am reticent to do so. Many viewers have their own stories that they like to bring to the work which often they share with me. Sometimes giving me a different view of what I am doing.
AFA: The subjects in your works tend to be secluded. What is the reason for the remoteness?
Pam Cooper: I think we are all becoming very secluded. Often we are tucked away in our rooms for hours with only a computer for company. We may have thousands of 'friends' online but we are still by ourselves. People walking along the street, ear buds in place and eyes glued to phones, ignorant of their surroundings. A couple out to dinner in a restaurant not talking just texting. I have often wondered if they are texting each other.
We are slowly losing the art to communicate face to face. An email or text is no substitute.
With the high paced busy world, the loss of breakfast or dinner together as a family is detrimental to the social wellbeing of our children.
AFA: How does the installation process affect your permanent works and what can be said about the professional spaces required to bring about the intimate experience?
Pam Cooper: I'm not sure you can call any of my installations permanent as at each installation the work changes. Working with professional spaces which have moveable walls allows you to dictate the space you require to create the intimate experience. More often than not the space is fixed and I make the installation work within that space. This often entails the addition or subtraction of pieces from the original work. I must admit I like that challenge. Often a piece is made with a certain location in mind; a closet, cupboard or under the stairs, then it is difficult to install again and the parts get used in subsequent installations, only photographs remain.