JAW Cooper is a painter, illustrator, and concept artist that’s kicking ass right now in Los Angeles. Her stunning work has graced the pages of LA Weekly as well as the walls of La Luz De Jesus, a gallery where many successful artists have had their early shows. Although she’s currently based in Los Angeles, she’s lived all over the world. And, Funilly enough a couple hours before our interview she met my brother in the middle of a park by happenstance in Santa Barbara, CA.
Daniel Rolnik: If you were approached by Disney to do the character designs based on a book, which book would you want it to be of and why?
JAW Cooper: Though I don’t think it’s really Disney’s cup-o’-tea I loved the book “Geek Love” by Katherine Dunn, which is about a grotesquely dark and twisted family of carneys. While reading it I couldn’t help but make little sketches of what I thought the cast of human oddities and carnival performers looked like and it influenced several of the paintings I made around that time. I love characters that are a little dark and twisted but have an otherworldly beauty about them.
DR: What’s the strangest thing you’ve been commissioned to paint?
JC: I accept commissions on a very limited basis as my schedule fills up quickly, however I was recently asked to paint a portrait of physicist Stephen Hawking holding a sugar scull with an albino owl perched on his shoulder. I’m not gonna lie, I loved every minute of it.
DR: How did you get your first show at La Luz De Jesus and what’s something in Soap-Planet Whacko you’d only buy if you had a billion dollars?
JC: I was accepted into La Luz de Jesus’s annual “Everything but the Kitsch N’Sync” show as a sophomore in college and after both of my pieces sold I was offered a six-person show later that year. Since then I have been showing with them regularly. If I had a billion dollars (and only if I had a billion dollars) I would buy Enrique Gomez de Molina’s work from the “Rogue Taxidermy” show at LA Luz last year.
DR: Where is the best place in California to sit and sketch?
JC: For me, nothing beats the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum’s bird hall or the Los Angeles Natural History Museum’s halls of mammals. I like sketching at natural history museums because they are cool and quiet (if you time your visit to avoid children on school trips) and since the animals don’t move, you can draw at a leisurely pace. For landscape sketching, my favorite hiking/sketching spot is Sturtevant Falls in Chantry Flats during the week, it’s far too crowded on the weekend.
DR: What’s your favorite part of the Disneyland Jungle Cruise?
JC: That’s easy; the smell. I adore the smell of stagnant, musty water like on water rides at amusement parks. It’s similar to the smell of wet cement after a light rain.
DR: Who are some of your favorite downtown LA characters and how would you depict them as animals?
JC: My favorite downtown character is a man who rides his bike around Spring St. and 7th St. and balances with one leg in the air and one arm waving around, often aggressively shaking a handkerchief, and making loud grunting exclamations. I privately refer to him as the “bike luchador” and I would depict him as a circus bear.
DR: When can we see the actual sculpture of the Elephant fetus?
JC: Right now! I just updated my blog with photos from the Terra Obscura show put on by the Upper Six Hundreds art collective. (jawcooper.blogspot.com)
DR: When you first moved to Los Angeles after having lived all over the world, what were you most frustrated about?
JC: The lack of trees and the honk-happy drivers.
DR: And lastly, what’s the nerdiest thing about JAW Cooper?
JC: I love the Dog Whisperer show. Love it.