Tara Cooper (BFA '94)

Photo of Tara Cooper.

"I don't remember the art students in the class of 1994 embracing the kind of school spirit that is performed with such vigor during frosh week—voices yelling the newly learned anthem Oil Thigh, arm over arm, kicking low in coveralls. Perhaps it was a lack of enthusiasm for sports (the art students were more interested in learning how to weld), or that we considered coveralls the perfect attire for studio, rather than emblems of the Tricolour. But the chorus of Oil Thigh plays repeatedly as soon as I think of Queen's. A likable earworm that condenses the best parts of four years into four lines of incomprehensible Gaelic. The anthem underscores the camaraderie of a small program where students and faculty knew each other's names. It underscores the privilege of studying at a school with a history that predates Canada by 26 years, the privilege of making and thinking in Ontario Hall, a historic stone building with large open studios and skylights in the painting loft. Queen's taught me the philosophy of doing, a jump first and then learn how to swim sequence. It taught me to love printmaking—the materiality of wood, metal and stone, the smell of ink and the inherent potential of the multiple. I made my first woodcut during a field trip to North Adams, Massachusetts. Spearheaded by Professor Otis Tamasauskas, this annual pilgrimage led students to a converted tent factory that housed a "monster" press. My first woodcut was 4 by 4 feet. I carved the image with a Skilsaw and printed with 800 000 pounds of pressure. Queen's was a department that believed in being fearless. The faculty presumed that each student wanted to be an artist. As a first year student, this surprised me. I grew up in the suburbs of Cambridge, Ontario. I had never met a living artist. Today most of my friends are artists."

I am an Assistant Professor in the Fine Arts Department at The University of Waterloo. I  teach printmaking, video, sound and contemporary issues in art. My graduate degree is from Cornell University. Prior to graduate studies, I worked at the Art Gallery of Ontario as an education officer and OCAD University as a print technician and sessional instructor.

My art practice employs the strategies of creative non-fiction. It combines fieldwork and footwork. I have chased storms across the Great Plains, documented the culture of the Canadian snowbird and collected stories from people struck by lightning. I have participated in national and international artist residencies: Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, California, The Vermont Studio Center, Belgium's Frans Masereel Center and St. Micheal's Printshop in Newfoundland. This summer I will spend the month of August at The Wassaic Project in New York—my plan is to build a large weather station with a projection of a supercell as it progresses (lightning, hail, dark clouds and a tornado).




Artwork: Language of Weather
The Language of Weather
17'x8' Lithography, woodcut, silkscreen
Tara Cooper, 2012
Artwork Detail: The Language of Weather (Left side)
Detail of The Language of Weather
Artwork: Field Guide to Lightning
Field Guide to Lightning
5"x6" (18 Pages) Digitally printed bookwork
Tara Cooper, 2011