Melody describes her upbringing and education as enlightened. “My mother always felt like the world was the greatest classroom, and my early life experiences included traveling to the places that I was studying in school. So I developed an appreciation of different situations and points of view.” Keeping a sketchbook and journals to document and organize ideas and inspirations gained while traveling also contributed to Melody’s creativity. “I am often surprised when I look back at a drawing or carving that I did as a child and realize that my artwork now shows similar form, content or technique.”
Ms Cooper’s greatest artistic influences include the lifestyle and art of Native Americans, Surrealism, Impressionism, the Lascoux Cave Paintings, the Egyptian pyramids, the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, the Gargoyles of Notre Dame in Paris, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, Pre-Columbian pottery, Alexander Calder, Joan Miró, Martin Puryear, Michael Heiser, Renee Magritte and Constantin Brancusi. “It’s is an eclectic grouping of inspirational sources, and so is the reflection of these influences on my life. I have always loved having many sources to draw from.”
For Melody, ceramics as an art form is often experimentation, trial and error. “In a way, it’s a very conceptual art form because many experiments do not make it successfully through the entire process, so the concept is the only end result.” As an educator, Cooper embraces the many backgrounds and ideas in her classroom at Pierce College, in Woodland Hills, California. “I encourage students not to copy my style, but to develop their own vision using their rich life experiences to tell their unique stories through their art. I ask students to document, sketch, and journal their ideas. This is an important step to realizing a full-bodied work of art, and completes an art piece by fleshing it out with content and meaning.
For the past year, Melody has been building a body of work that is inspired by the printed word, mass communication, and changing planetary weather patterns. Her most recent series, “Rooms for Thought,” are slab-built box forms in all stages of deconstruction, designed to be stacked, one on top of the next. “When I am in the process of creating I am almost always feeling joyous, and I hope that that comes through in the work. I spend most of my free time working with clay, designing jewelry, enjoying my vast collection of woodblocks, or drawing my dogs, cats, studio and garden.”
Describe your first experience with clay.
Well, it wasn’t really clay, but when I was very young my mom had me press my hands and feet into wet concrete. I never got over that feeling of being able to press texture into something soft that is able to metamorphose into something hard and permanent.
How separate are you from your art?
It is my philosophy that artists create self portraits whether or not that is the intention. With that in mind, I would have to say that my artwork is my life story. It is my biography.
How would your creativity express itself if you couldn’t work with clay?
If I couldn’t work in three dimensions I would choose to draw. Drawing is a way that I can express myself fully and uncensored, unfettered by weight, gravity, and reality.
Where do your ideas come from? What’s your creative process?
For the longest time I censored myself or deeply buried my message into my work so that it could not be easily decoded. Now I have set myself loose and find it cathartic to represent my daily existence in my “Rooms for Thought” boxes, stacks, and cups. When I’m motivated by something extremely sweet or agitating, I reach for my sketchbook and draw. I take these images, or parts of these images, and by way of image transfer, apply in a collage technique to my clay slabs. My pieces usually include drawers, tons of texture, oxidized silver chain, miniature teapots in porcelain and precious metal clay, as well as secret compartments.
What’s your favorite artist in another medium? Why?
Rene Magritte, Surrealism breaks the boundaries, it sets my mind free. It is like a dream.