Melissa Cooke (b. Oconomowoc, WI, 1982) received her MFA (2011) and BFA (2006) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Specializing in graphite on paper, her work investigates the relationship between photography, performance and drawing in portraiture. Cooke is represented by Koplin Del Rio and Jenkins Johnson Gallery. Her drawings have been exhibited at venues nationwide, including the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Wisconsin Art, the Oceanside Museum of Contemporary Art, and numerous colleges. Cooke's drawings are in collections such as the Arkansas Art Center and the Howard Tullman Collection, and have been featured in New American Painting, and Drawing magazine.
Cooke's drawings are made by dusting thin layers of graphite onto paper with a dry brush. The softness of the graphite provides a smooth surface that can be augmented by erasing in details and textures. No pencils are used in the work, allowing the surface to glow without the shine of heavy pencil marks. Illusion dissolves into brush work and the honesty of the material.
The scale of the drawings demands a physical interaction with the work. Cooke traverses a path, back and forth, first to work intimately with the surface and then to see the piece from a distance. This dance with her drawing has become a ritual, and ultimately, a release.