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Monday, June 22, 2015

Narrative Artist

Self-portraits revealed in ‘Seven Days’

Hannah Cooper
“Seven Days” is a collection of photographs by the artist Hannah Cooper McCauley which uses self-portrait to capture the loneliness of childhood.

These works are exhibited by the Bossier Arts Council through July 31 in the Emerging Artist Gallery.

Cooper McCauley received a bachelor of fine arts from Jacksonville State University in 2012 and is currently pursuing a master of fine arts from Louisiana Tech University. Cooper McCauley created “Seven Days” from 2010-12, using narrative photography to address the complexities of growing up in a family that moved around a lot. Cooper McCauley drew her inspiration from fairy tales.

“When I entered college, I began making photographs as a way to respond to the longing I experienced to feel connected to others. I was also deeply fascinated by fairy tales and how they function,” Cooper McCauley said. “The thing I love most about fairy tales is that they allow readers to address an adult situation in a way that a child can understand.

“I am particularly interested in the way these types of stories provide children and adults with an outlet to express their desires, hopes, fears and anxieties and interpret them in an abstract way. The medium of photography equipped me to do the same thing, using a visual language that I could understand.”

Cooper McCauley’s father is a Baptist minister, which meant the family moved frequently throughout her childhood. “As a result of this, I was fortunate enough to live in many different places and meet many different people, but this also left me a considerably lonely child,” Cooper McCauley said. “I grew up believing in the fantastic and the probability of miracles, and I learned at an early age to accept the things I could not understand.”

Cooper McCauley said there are a couple of reasons she chose to use self-portraits in “Seven Days.” “Part of it was a practical reason – I didn’t know very many people in the small town I was living in at the time, and I was always available, so I used myself in the work. Another reason is that there is a performative aspect to making the images, and I found fulfillment in being able to literally act out what I was thinking or feeling when I wanted to create an image.

“Although the images are self-portraits, I aim to make the figure nonspecific enough that the viewer may easily place themselves within the environment,” she said. “The photographs in the show are open-ended, and I understand that everyone will respond to and find meaning in the images based on their own personal experience, but if there was an overall theme or message I would like for viewers to walk away with, it would be that you are not really alone, no matter how alone you might be feeling at the time.”

Cooper McCauley’s work has been exhibited in group shows at various venues throughout the United States, including Louisiana Tech University, Photoplace Gallery in Vermont, and the Gadsden Museum of Art in Alabama. In 2013, she was awarded the Board of Regents Fellowship at Louisiana Tech University, which serves as a collaboration between the departments of art, engineering and science. Cooper McCauley currently lives in Ruston with her husband, Zachary, who is also pursuing an MFA in photography at Tech.

“I am tremendously pleased and grateful for the opportunity to work with the Bossier Arts Council and show my work in the Emerging Artist Gallery,” Cooper McCauley said. “It is a great opportunity to share my work with lots of people in the Bossier- Shreveport area, which I have not really been able to do before now. Because I am in the MFA program at Louisiana Tech University, I think it’s really important to be able to share my work with not just my community in Ruston but my adjacent communities as well. And my experience so far has been that Shreveport-Bossier has an enriching and wonderfully supportive community for the arts, so I’m really excited to be a part of that by sharing my work within the Bossier Arts Council.”

–Kirk Fontenot

Learn More:

The Emerging Artist Gallery is a project of the Bossier Arts Council and hours are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. To learn more about the BAC or Cooper McCauley’s artworks, go to www.bossierarts.org or call 741-8310.

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