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March 2005

Animal Inspiration
by: Chelle Ellis

Angi Cooper first introduces you to her cats -- Captain, a long-haired black cat and Frisco, a classic tabby. The artist’s white cat, Tristan, doesn’t allow an intrusion to stir him from his gentle nap in unknown parts of the Cooper home. Cooper’s cat-loving history goes back to her childhood, with her first pet, a tabby simply named “Cat.”
     “I like tabbies. They’re the sweetest. They’re vocal, affectionate and real people cats”, Cooper muses. Cats comprise a large part of the Olive Branch artist’s paintings.
Cooper’s own cats are just a few of the felines benefiting from her long devotion to domestic creatures. She volunteers at Mewtopia, a Memphis shelter for homeless, abused and abandoned cats. Her work there includes the risk of nurturing the desire to add more kitties to her already ample pride at home. So far, she’s managed to keep her head.
     The walls of her home studio remind visitors they are in an

animal-friendly environment. Amid the paintings of cats and dogs hangs a mixed-media spirit nook of Jesus surrounded by clouds, domestic animals and scripture. It supports her belief in humans’ responsibility to be good caretakers of God’s creatures: “Sometimes we fail in that,” Cooper reflects.
Cooper realized her artistic talent at an early age when she copied the cover of a Cinderella book. “I was about five or six and I freaked myself out. Then I showed it to my mom and she freaked out.”
With her mother’s encouragement, Cooper began painting, later cultivating her talent in high school and while earning a graphic design degree at Memphis State University.
Cooper’s style today is boldly eclectic, offering no confinements of medium, and reflecting an overall abstract feeling. In addition to commissioned projects, she creates funky, gothic-style fabric dolls. Other

creations include jewelry with a regional tongue-in-cheek message such as the “Saturday Night in Memphis” bracelet, with dangling charms of a booze jug, pistol and jailhouse complete with prisoner.
     For the sentimental hobbyist or collector-of-all-things-neat, Cooper offers handmade journals and bookmarks, each designed with a specific type of personality in mind.
Perhaps the most intriguing form of her work is in Cooper’s acrylic pet portraits, where she captures the personality of her subject in color and form. A cat named Major, who loves bowtie pasta and is the king of the hill in his house, is the subject of one commission. To illustrate Major’s expectations of royal treatment, she added a purple hue to his coat. He is regally placed against a background of his beloved bowtie pasta.
When dealing with local patrons, Cooper meets and photographs the pet; she interviews the owner to determine the animal’s traits. She incorporates the pet’s personality into the image, relying on impressionist styling rather than painting a photograph-like image. “This way it makes it more interesting to me as an artist, too,” she adds.
Cooper’s work can be found in the Memphis area at Maggie’s Pharm in Overton Square and Then and Again on Main Street, or through her website: