Ginger Cook – Paris, Texas

Illuminating the Bad Mother MFA series

Ashtray and The Belt. Digital Photograph. 20×13. 2013

Brief description of my work.

I am a photographer who attempts nontraditional and alternative methods as well as digital and phoneography . My work varies with my mood, what inspires me on a particular day, what I am teaching in a particular semester, what I am reading and how hot or cold it is outside.

My background and how that has had an influence on my work and on me as an artist.

My undergraduate degree was in political science and speech communication in the 70s. I had no training in the world of art until I began the journey to grad school in my late

50s. In the grant arena I often found myself needing to take pictures to illustrate a need and so I signed up for photography at a local junior college. The need for images turned into a passion for learning not only about how to take a photograph but the history of photography as well. The love of reading, history and looking at art works of all types influences me at all levels of photo capture and printing out.

The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

I do not really work in a studio. Even when I take portraits of people or do still life images I use natural lighting in a natural setting as much as possible. Right now I am working on a project of taking landscapes of West Texas and particularly Yoakum County and so I travel miles and miles from Paris Texas to Denver City Texas. I consider where my computer sits to be my digital studio. It is where I work on images, prepare to print and put together portfolios. The digital studio is where I spend hours and hours working.

Pain of Childhood. Digital Photograph. 60x33. 2012

Pain of Childhood. Digital Photograph. 60×33. 2012

What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

I did not envision having to take my portfolio to galleries and venues. I enjoy talking to people about art and about my art but I do not like having to make calls. I think this is why I didn’t go into sales. I do enjoy teaching photography and teaching the history of photography. It also never occurred to me that I would one day be helping others become artists.

When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?

I take my phone or a camera with me everywhere I go. It is a struggle to stop and take an image when I see it but I try to make myself be in the moment. It is the landscape series that I have to plan and budget for that is the biggest challenge.

My Nightgown Hangs Here, 55x36. 2012

My Nightgown Hangs Here, 55×36. 2012

How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?

Graduate school changed not only my work but how I thought about my work. It is the best investment I have ever made for myself. It seems as if my work is evolving from the technical to the ideal. In graduate school my work examined the bad mother in contemporary art history and the images found in American galleries and museums. Since graduate school I am now considering the landscape of where I was born and grew up. I am thinking about landscape as memory and struggling to capture the image of my particular culture, of my tribe.

How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?

Two photographers are influencing my study of landscape at the moment. One is Luther Smith, a photographer and professor at Texas Christian University. His book, Trinity River, had a profound influence on changing how I looked at landscapes from when I first began this series. The second is Chad Smith who is a far West Texas landscape photographer. Chad teaches a killer landscape photography class each summer at Texas A&M-Commerce. He takes his students down to the Marfa area where they spend a week studying how to see the land. He is person who made me begin to think of landscape as place. I am reading Landscape and Memory by Simon Schama and A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit. In addition I am looking at the works by D. W. Meining, J. B. Jackson, David Lowenthal, Yi-Fu Tuan, etc.

Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?

I have had a different career. I’ve gotten older. I am where I want to be so I am not pulled in any other direction. However, I love exploring all the alternative mediums within photography like wet plate collodion, cyanotypes, lumen prints, collage, encaustic, printmaking, etc. When I go into the dark room I feel like a 10 year old at recess.


Self portrait

Self portrait

It is weird being a new and emerging artist at almost 60 years old. After working in the nonprofit world and owning a grant writing business for twenty-five years I decided to pursue my passion when the recession hit hard in 2010. I graduated with an MFA in May of 2013, started teaching pinhole photography the next Monday and haven’t slowed down since. The most difficult part of being new to the art world is approaching galleries and showing people my work. I’ve never been shy a day in my life and now I fear opening my portfolio to a curator. Gallery owners seem to expect a bright and shining face when looking at a fresh out of grad school student and I greet them with grey hair and droopy boobs. It is a challenge trying to get my work out of northeast Texas and into the hands of people who appreciate someone exploring The Bad Mother in Contemporary Art. Life is a challenge and I am determined to find my place even though I am a little late coming to opening night.

Ginger Sisco Cook in digital studio working on an  image

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission. 


About 365Artists/365Days

The purpose of this project is to introduce its readership to a diverse collection of art that is being produced at the national and international level. Our goal is to engage the public with information regarding a wide array of creative processes, and present the successes and failures that artists face from day to day. The collaborators hope that this project will become a source for exploring and experiencing contemporary art in all its forms.
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