New York-based artist Melissa Cooke uses herself as a primary reference point, both physically and emotionally. While many of the subjects of her large-scale graphtie drawings are modeled after the artist’s own likeness, her works go deeper below the surface to investigate the uncomfortable crevices of the psyche one must traverse in order to truly know oneself. Her most recent series, Plunge is a meditative series of close-up self-portraits of Cooke in her favorite place of solace: her bathtub. A place of escape from frantic New York City life, the tub is a safe haven for the artist. The drawings are not entirely utopian and placid, however: There are notes of tension as water and suds splash her face like the turbulent tides of the ocean.
In other series, Cooke explores the fluidity of gender. Role play and costuming are favorite devices of the artist’s — not just to uses as props in her work, but as a preparatory process that allows for introspection. “I employ props, costumes and theatrics in order to provoke the dormant aspects of my identity,” she wrote in one of her artist statements. Her Lost Inside You series, for example, is an investigation of what happens to us when we lose ourselves in love and relationships. But rather than focusing on the outside forces, Cooke’s intense, close-up portraits confront the longest lasting and most important relationship we have to build: the one with ourselves.