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Inside the Studio: Denise Cooperman

Denise Cooperman is a multidisciplinary artist with a passion for fashion and design, expressing her worldview through her realism, abstract paintings, and beyond. Currently based in New Jersey, Cooperman continues to challenge herself with new approaches and techniques. As a child growing up in Beverly Hills, she was surrounded by a vibrant art culture. Originally beginning as an abstract painter, she was recognized for her works at a young age. After stepping away from painting for many years, she made her return with a new goal of painting realism works that were influenced by her experience in interior design.

In recent years, Cooperman found herself also being drawn back to her roots. She has embarked on a journey of new discoveries, delving into abstract works that speak from her soul in a novel and evocative manner. These recent pieces reflect her growth as an artist and demonstrate a profound shift in her artistic expression. Read on to learn more in an exclusive interview with Denise Cooperman.

Denise Cooperman in the studio with her abstract works

You have quite a background in painting and creating from a young age. You stated that you found your calling early in life. Where did your journey as an artist begin?

` I grew up in Beverly Hills and I have always been very interested in the arts! When I was a child, my father was in the business of home furnishings and fabrics, and both of my parents were art collectors so I was exposed to a lot of art and creativity growing up, especially being around such a vibrant art culture in Beverly Hills. While I wasn't particularly interested in my father’s work at the time, I would later come to appreciate furniture much more. What particularly interested me in my early years was fashion. I remember creating a book that was about a fashion model and I would draw her up in all kinds of different outfits and accessories. A few years

later, I would take fabric samples that my father brought home and cut them up to make velvet handbags.

I also loved to paint, as I was involved in art classes through the years and created a lot of abstract works. By the time I got to junior high, I was painting a lot and had even won awards for my work. In high school, I took jewelry classes and got very immersed in the world of gold, silver, stones, and bling. Becoming a jeweler was a goal of mine, but I continued to paint while I was pursuing jewelry. I had the opportunity to take a painting class at UCLA while I was in high school, which was part of a program where 20 kids from LA County were selected to take this painting class.

When I went to college in Colorado. I majored in art, but I quickly realized that I didn't like the fast pace of it all. I very much like to take my time with my work, and the structure of college courses didn't allow me to be my best, so I switched my major.

Dream Dior I - Oil on Canvas

What was your plan after leaving college?

I was still very much interested in jewelry after college, so when I left, I started working as a jeweler. Thanks to my experience doing it in high school and on my own, I had the ability to start working on a bench. I fixed a lot of jewelry and this was long ago during a time when women were not very prominent in the field. The business of jewelry repair started to slow down though, and because I was one of the few women in the field, I was one of the first to be let go. At this point, I began taking small jobs, but I knew that I needed to pursue something more artistic, although I wasn't sure what. I decided to go back to school to study radiologic technology because I felt it was something I could do and be proud of, but I found myself getting very bored with the work. I began making art out of X-rays. I needed something that would challenge me and satisfy my need to be creative. After I got my degree, I moved to San Diego to try and get into a special program for ultrasound which was very new at the time. They only took a select number of people though, and so I found myself waiting around to be accepted into the program. I was becoming bored again while waiting on this program, so my manicurist at the time recommended that I also try my hand at becoming a manicurist.

Still not knowing exactly what I wanted to do, I decided to start doing manicures. This was sometime in the Seventies when I began creating paintings on people's nails. I ended up incorporating jewelery as well onto nails, buying rubies, sapphires, diamonds, and 14k gold, resulting in some very beautiful nail art, which was fairly new at the time. I was recognized for my nail art and had the opportunity to be on two talk shows as well as be included in the newspaper several times.

Chair Tilt - Oil on Canvas

How did you come to get involved with fashion?

When I was having success with my nail art, I decided I would move back up to Beverly Hills, thinking I would do great in that area. This was not the case, as there were a lot of people already doing similar things, so I decided to start designing. I was painting on clothes, making prototypes for manufacturers, and having some success in the field in the Eighties. My parents had wanted to move East, so I followed them out there and got into fashion. I was making clothes for performers, but it wasn't a steady job. I found a job as a designer, although I didn't know what it entailed until I got to the interview. It ended up being for an interior designer, which I luckily had plenty of exposure to while growing up. Although I had no experience in retail, they hired me along with another woman who had just finished design school. Within no time, I was their number-one salesperson and I fell in love with the business. I ended up staying in that business for a very long time.

Even during this time, I continued to paint. I was making hand-painted silk scarves, continuing to paint on canvas, and just loving the process of painting whenever I could.

Dream Dior II - Oil on Canvas

You mention taking a break from painting for a while. What made you step away from it, and what made you get back into it?

When I was working in interior design, I ended up having children which meant I didn't have nearly as much time for painting as I wanted to. Being very busy with work and the kids, it got to a point where years had passed and I hadn't done any painting. In all my years of interior design, I was able to funnel my creativity into my client's projects and since each one was unique and different it satisfied me as an artist.

About 18 years ago, the kids made it to high school and I ended up marrying someone who is also very creative. My husband is a writer, so seeing how he made time for his craft encouraged me to try my hand at painting again. Since the kids were growing up, I had more time on my hands to paint again, so I did! I was quite nervous approaching painting again because it had been so long. I wasn't sure if I was even able to paint still. My first piece was a painting of my son, and when I finished it I truly surprised myself, I still had it in me!

Was there a difference in your approach when you returned to painting after so many years?

When I was a child I focused on a lot more abstract-style paintings. When I made my return, I was trying my hand at strictly realism. Being that I was very involved with fabrics and interior design for many years, I was interested in creating paintings that looked like you could feel them. I was taking art classes again at Repenning Fine Arts and practicing my hand at more realism. So my experience in design and fashion really shaped my new approach when I returned. I actually continue to go to classes at Repenning Fine Arts every Thursday, as I've been going there for over 16 years now.

Denise Cooperman painting in her studio - Acrylic on canvas

You have been creating more abstract style works recently, returning to your roots when you were a kid painting mostly abstract. While you still continue to paint realism, are there feelings or messages that are consistent across all of your works?

Whether it be my realistic or my abstract paintings, I want to create works that call to the viewer and make you want to touch them. Being so involved with fabrics for many years I loved how different materials called to me, begging to be felt, so I try to achieve this in my paintings. I want viewers to see my work and feel the need to reach out to it. I feel very influenced by things I see in my everyday life, so I often paint everyday subjects with a bit of an edge. Utilizing design elements and fabrics, I want to give the viewer the feeling of needing to take a close look and reach out to feel the details.

Chanel Me - Oil on Canvas

You say that your latest abstract expressionist paintings “speak from your soul like no other works”. What's your process like in approaching an abstract work compared to painting realism?

My abstract works are so much more free. I don't have an idea in mind and I have no idea what the paint is going to do in my abstracts. Being that I had painted realism for so many years, returning to abstract was a bit of a challenge. The act of creating abstracts feels more physical and improvisational in the process. I have to let go of feeling in control with these works. My realism works are very much structured and planned, but it's the opposite in my abstracts. I feel like my abstracts have made my realism better though, and the other way around!

Chanel 'til You Drop - Oil on Canvas

What does being an artist mean to you?

It's hard for me to define exactly what it means, but I don't know what I would do without art. I have so many feelings, emotions, and ideas that I would feel so lost to express without art. It has always been a part of me from a very young age and I believe that art is such a helpful and healing tool. It's hard to explain with words which is the exact reason I create, to express my ideas that I can't put into words.

Untitled - Oil on Canvas

What is the future looking like for you?

I’m currently preparing for Aqua Art Miami, where I’ll be showing works with the Alessandro Berni Gallery in December. I recently participated in the Clio Art Fair and I loved participating in a show and watching the people react. I also just learned that my art will be included in a movie coming out

entitled “Payment in Kind” written and directed by David Zax. Moving forward, I hope to continue to participate in more shows, travel with my art, and keep perfecting my craft!

You can learn more about Denise Cooperman and learn about her upcoming shows via these links:


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