Shirley Cooper suffers involuntary movements. She feels stiffness and pain in her joints. Sometimes her face even tricks her by showing an expression that doesn’t match the emotion she’s trying to convey.
Still, Cooper has a good eye, said gallery owner Lyussy Hyder.
Hyder owns Solovei Gallery in Everett and is showing Cooper’s work through June. Hyder is doing it because she still believes Cooper’s artwork is saleable and because Cooper is a dear friend.
Cooper suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Before that diagnosis, Cooper was a well-known painter. She used to share a studio with Hyder, back in the day when Cooper’s paintings were done in pastels and oils that were strikingly vibrant.
Now her stroke has changed so much that Cooper gravitates to smaller canvases, producing work that is more sketch-like. She’s also turned more toward collages.
Hyder wonders and worries how many galleries will take her work now.
Hyder is calling the exhibit “Lights and Darks, Art and Parkinson’s Disease,” a different kind of art show, one that also tells the story of the artist and celebrates her life.
“The art comes from who the artist is and what is going on with the artist’s life,” Hyder said. “It’s not just making a pretty picture.”
Interspersed with Cooper’s work, Hyder will have pages from Cooper’s diary displayed throughout her gallery. The diary is part of the record Cooper kept while undergoing experimental gene therapy treatment for the disease, a treatment that is still ongoing.
Hyder described her friend as brave for seeking treatment that might help her and others, and also the type of person to try new things.
Cooper was a social worker before taking an early retirement. But she didn’t really retire. She enrolled in Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, finished in the early 1990s and has been painting since then.
Cooper lived for many years in the Everett area. She now lives near Port Orchard, but still has many friends here. Hyder wanted to have the exhibit to give those friends a means to support Cooper and to raise awareness about Parkinson’s.
“I wanted to have them come out just to support her and she deserves it herself, as an artist,” Hyder said. “I’m not sure too many galleries will take her now.”
At the exhibit, Hyder says, there will be six pieces from the collection Cooper calls “Shirley, the First” and 13 Cooper has completed since her diagnosis. There also will be some lamps that Cooper has designed. Cooper recently discovered that the simple white lampshade provides an interesting and workable canvas for her.
“My focus for this show is to be on the spirit of the artist,” Hyder said, “who is kind of really struggling but still unbeatable.”
Arts writer Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
From “Tahuya,” mixed media drawing by Shirley Cooper.