“The broader life lesson I've learned through my ordeal is, staying true to yourself is always worth it.”
MJ Cooper uses her wisdom, experience, and experimentation to make moving, expressive works of art. Born and raised in Columbus, she loved going to museums as a child and practicing her creativity. However, creating art became essential to her well being when she became sick.
In 2018, MJ became ill with viral meningitis. Not only did she experience a chronic migraine for 9 months straight, but she lost her vision for 6 months as well. Additionally during this time, she experienced the loss of family members, adding another layer of grief. Being able to create helped her to cope with these losses and stay positive. “It helped me create something beautiful during all of the pain I was going through,” describes MJ.
During this time, her hearing became hyper sensitive. She began painting darker compositions with blips of brightness. These blips of brightness represented sounds that she was able to hear despite not having her vision – sounds that added color to her world. Through the help of the Cleveland Clinic, MJ was able to regain her sight, and when she got her sight back, she came back to art with renewed motivation.
The trauma of chronic illness and chronic pain has greatly influenced her creative process then and now. After experiencing a chronic vestibular migraine, MJ will often paint what she saw when she closed her eyes during the episode, inviting the viewer to feel what she felt, but also transforming that pain into beauty. She expresses, “Painting is very therapeutic for me. If I feel sick, when I'm well enough I create a painting that reflects my emotions.” She creates art to work through her emotions as well as bring peace to herself and others.
Before and during creating, MJ meditates and listens to music to help her enter her desired mindset. Her style depends on the mental or emotional space she’s in. She has used a variety of techniques and tools, from pour painting to using paint thickener and a spatula, as well as experimenting with round brushes, sponges and aluminum foil. She likes to paint with acrylic paint because it dries fast, giving her a finite window to let out her ideas before it is finalized.
She is proud to have received a 2021 VSA Emerging Artist Excellence Award from The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and have her art exhibited in galleries in Milan, Spain and Luxembourg. MJ dreams of traveling the world with her art as well as owning a home one day. Describing her dream project, she shares, “I would love to have a community of artists come together, with my art included, to show a story of perseverance that informs the artwork. To know and share people's stories would make for a touching and triumphant community experience.” When she’s not creating, she loves to plant herbs, vegetables, and flowers in her garden. She also enjoys cooking, reading and cuddling with her dog, Bella.
Prints by MJ Cooper
Originals by MJ Cooper
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