About Gabi Cooper
The heritage, customs, and folklore of the central Appalachian region, and the key visual components of my home in Wetzel County, West Virginia, have been the cornerstone of my artistic evolution. This has led me to intentionally explore the concrete visuals of locations but also to reexamine the memories of my family from those places and further explore the extended history and relationship that my family has with West Virginia. Elements such as topography, local industry, traditions, heirlooms, folklore, and many other elements of central Appalachian culture have become key components of my work, most specifically those pertaining to a sense of place and the common brokenness within Appalachia communities due to a variety of factors. My notes and subsequent imagery are research-based, and my entire process is centered on that research.
I start by collecting any notes, images, and collage materials relevant to the work and begin making connections between the separate elements. As I begin collaging the collected content, I start reviving memories that connect with the developing theme. From this process, each mixed media piece begins to take on its own uniqueness. Communicating experiences and nostalgia is a central part of my work and understanding the way disparate elements and techniques affect one another is vital. I’ve found that techniques such as stamping, stencil work, collage, and repetitive layering have become patterns in my work. I strive to capture a sense of brokenness within a place through various methods of material application. Repeating bright colors symbolizes flares of love and hope within Appalachian communities. Colors and patterns also serve to retrieve an emotional state of nostalgia. The internal, extensive vibration I feel is a reminder of the yearning I must be an artist and to relish in being an outsider as an artist often as a result of my loyalty and devotion to the arts and to the concept of community in Appalachia.
Born and raised in Wetzel County in the beautiful mountain state, I have been considered the small town, artsy girl for most of my twenty-eight years. After graduating from Fairmont State University with a B.A. in art education in 2017, I settled in as a high school art teacher in Wetzel County. Meanwhile, I have been steadily dancing back into artmaking while cultivating my own creative practices as a mixed media artist. I am enjoying making twirls and twinkles in all aspects of Appalachian grannies, WV industries, and all things simple yet spectacular. Along with fostering community connections, communication, and engagement through visual nostalgia-provoking imagery and themes, focusing on the mundane in Appalachia in the hopes of visually sewing in nostalgia is the ultimate focus of my work. My love for layering and blending materials, styles, and varying themes within my art is ever present, and my overall process often differs drastically as I am consistently digging for what feels exciting and challenging.
Creating is a true key component of my natural existence and human experience. I have been creating since I was a very young girl. Art making allows me the headspace for a spiritual-like experience, one in which my vibrating anxiety is slowed and immersed in safety and warmth. Employing my brain and hands to create something potentially visually pleasing for someone else to enjoy or feel a connection or correlation to, is extremely fulfilling and thrilling for me. My art highlights the beauties and gifts within my own experiences in Appalachia for others to experience in their own way, hopefully inspiring an overall assimilation. Shining some earned light on the mundane in Appalachia through art feels so significant and necessary to my existence.
My work has been exhibited in West Virginia and Ohio, including the “OH+5 2022: Contemporary Art of Our Region” at The Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio, “Crosscurrents Annual Art Exhibition” at the Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center in Wheeling, “West Virginia, Head Over Hills” at the Tamarack Fine Arts Gallery in Beckley, West Virginia, “72nd Allied Artists of West Virginia 2022 Juried Exhibition” at the Parkersburg Art Center in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and the “2022 West Virginia Emerging Artists Exhibition” at the Culture Center in Charleston, West Virginia.
Other Creative Skills