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This month for In Studio With,

we interviewed North Carolina based painter Jacob Cooley.

Learn about the inspirations that have led him on his artistic journey and the aspirations of where he wants to go. 

JC 1104 drift, 36x48, 2016.jpg

Jacob Cooley, Drift, oil on canvas

1. Most of your work is very calm. Would you consider this a reflection of your personality or the product of an alter ego? 

JC: It’s definitely a reflection of one part of my personality. I meditate and practice yoga.  I also feel centered when I’m painting - sometimes that shows in the work.

JC 1091.jpg

2. Oil or acrylic?

JC: Oil - Acrylic dries too quickly for my technique.

3. You were born in Sydney, Australia. Do you ever travel back there? 

JC:  I haven’t in years but I’m planning a visit soon. A spectacular place.

Jacob Cooley, Late Day - Tidal Creek, oil on canvas

 4. What is the strangest thing you believed as a kid? 

JC: I was convinced that I could make it rain. I was very interested in Native American culture (still am) and fascinated by rain dances. I was completely unqualified, but I spent hours on my grandparents’ lawn in Virginia spinning around in feathers and turquoise.  

5. You can go to dinner with one person you’ve never met. Who do you choose?

JC: David Bowie.  

6. Has a life experience altered what you paint?

JC: My early paintings came out of a tradition of abstraction and minimalism. When I returned to the area in N.C. where I’d grown up for graduate school (UNC-MFA ’93) I began to notice the landscape, which was disappearing at an alarming rate as the city grew larger.  This landscape that I had grown up with held a lot of personal history and sense of identity. Seeing the woods and open spaces get paved over inspired me to capture what was left. Landscape imagery started to work its way into the abstraction.  Over time, landscape became my central focus.




7. Are you superstitious?

JC:  I was raised in the South. So, yes! 

*cue Stevie Wonder

Jacob Cooley, Darkening, oil on canvas

8. How did college affect you as an artist?  

JC: College at Antioch College and then the University of Georgia  emboldened me to think and exist as an artist.  Art School was the first time in my life when I was treated as a professional, as a peer. It emboldened me to work hard and focus completely - to become an artist.

9. Who inspires you?

JC: Richard Diebenkorn, David Hockney, Sally Mann, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Mark Rothko, Agnes Martin, David Wojnarowicz…


Left to Right: Sally Mann, Jessie in the Wind, 1989. Gelatin silver print, courtesy of Heritage Auctions; Mark Rothko, No. 10. 1950. Oil on canvas, courtesy of MOMA; David Hockney, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1972, courtesy of Christie's. 

10. What would be your ultimate achievement as an artist?

JC:  The best part of where I’ve gotten with my career is mentoring younger artists who I’ve inspired. Becoming friends and watching them evolve and thrive. Seeing my influence. I’m not sure any achievement feels better than that. Although, a Whitney retrospective might! Also, infamy.

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Jacob Cooley, Merge, oil on canvas

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