Jess Riva Cooper’s New Sculptures Explore Death and Renewal

by CaroPosted on

Jess Riva Cooper explores themes of reclamation and transformation in her ceramic sculptures where nature overwhelms and takes over her subjects. Particularly inspired by invasive plant species, the Toronto based artist, featured here on our blog, uses clay to express her fascination with chaos erupting into order.


Jess Riva Cooper, “Serotiny” series

In her surrealistic busts, nature takes the form of wild foliage, fungi and vines as it grows out of her subject’s orifices; eyes, noses, mouths, and even out of their scalp into Medusa-like hair. Though their expressions feel almost pained, there is a haunting beauty about their death and transformation: Cooper herself describes it as a sort of “violence’, enacting itself onto the structures of her work. Cooper shared with us two of her most recent series, “Serotiny” and “Viral Series”, where she further conveys ideas about death and renewal. In her own words:

“Serotiny explores the themes of death and regeneration through the creation of a large-scale, site-specific installation at The Clay and Glass Gallery in Waterloo Ontario. This installation references the way that nature reclaims its place by creeping over and through the austere architecture of the gallery.”


Jess Riva Cooper, “Viral” series

“Viral Series is a continued exploration into the death and regeneration taking place in deteriorating communities. Places and things, once bustling and animated, have succumbed to nature’s mercy. Without intervention, nature takes over and breathes new life into objects, as it does in my sculptures.”


Jess Riva Cooper, “Viral” series

“In Viral Series, the busts, once pure and pristine, are hardly recognizable. They become tattooed with nature. Their heads grow leaves instead of hair. The faces scream out in pain- or perhaps pleasure- in the midst of transformation. Often used to represent life, nature instead becomes a parable for an alternative state- one where life and death intersect.”

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