We define ourselves every day by making choices about how we present ourselves. Our hair. Our clothes. The way we sit. The way we stand. The face we show to the world.
These choices can say a lot about who we are, and it can render us invisible.
In eighth grade, Nicole Cooper began paying attention to appearances, carrying around a sketchbook and drawing people in public spaces with regularity. Her Toronto upbringing gave her excellent opportunities to do so.
“The subway is a good place to learn how to draw people,” she says.
By then, Nicole had already committed her life to being an artist.
She grew up in an artistic family. Her mother, a watercolour painter, showed her how to use paint and brushes. Her father, a professional photographer, taught her about light, colour, and composition. They had an art room at the back of their house.
“I think we were allowed to draw on the walls,” she says with a smile.
With plenty of early experiences to guide her, Nicole dedicated herself to arts education.
She took courses at the Art Gallery of Ontario school, attended arts high schools, and saved for two years to attend the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design (NSCAD).
After graduating, she landed a job at the Art School of Peterborough while her partner was engaged in the Collections, Conservation, and Management program at Fleming. Since then, she’s also made strong connections here pursuing her passion for social justice.
Nicole finds a balance between the competing priorities using separate calendars: one for her art and one for her other activities.
“Sometimes I want to do just that [working for social justice] more than paint, but then I feel like my soul gets lost,” she explains.
It takes discipline but Nicole seems equal to the task of striving for social justice while succeeding as an artist. In her current show at the Gallery in the Attic, she has found some synergy between the two.
“Getting to Know You” draws upon Nicole’s lifelong fascination with portraiture and how people represent themselves through their clothing, posture, and expressions.
This show’s focus upon gender and queer identity is representative of the people she has come to know here. She hopes this work can be a starting point for a diverse reflection on the queer communities that she has been a part of, and a broad exploration of how we represent ourselves through our appearance.
“Getting to Know You” in on now at Gallery in the Attic and continues until Saturday, July 5th.
Gallery in the Attic (140 ½ Hunter St., Peterborough) is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 705-740-1162, or visit www.facebook/galleryintheattic.
All images courtesy of the artist.