The Parallel World of Célia Cooke Polaroids: 1983-2005

The Parallel World of Célia Cooke
Polaroids: 1983-2005

curated by Maria Scarpini

Opening reception Tuesday January 10, 2012
5:30 – 7:00 PM
Upstairs at the Cornelia Street Cafe


For those of us at Solo Foundation who worked with her, Célia Cooke was an inspiration in her dedication presenting the work of her husband Jed Distler and scores of New York composers through Composers Collaborative.

CCi’s co-founder Célia Cooke was also an artist in her own right. To mark the 25th Anniversary of Composers Collaborative, Cornelia Street Cafe will exhibit Célia’s Polaroid photographs, curated by the Italian/New York-based artist Maria Scarpini. The exhibit will be on display during the month of January.


Curator’s Statement by Maria Scarpini

Although Célia Cooke (January 22 1948-March 30 2011) studied and won awards for art and design in college, she never pursued a professional career in the visual arts. Yet from her mid-20s until a few years before her death at 63, she persistently and passionately took Polaroid photos. She left behind more than 1200 photos that, in many ways, represent a leitmotif of her life.

Her Polaroids ranged from casual snapshots taken during travels to elaborate set-ups featuring little toy animals, glassware, kitchen implements, and all sorts of mundane objects. Apparently she positioned them with a patience and concentration that bordered on the obsessive. As I went through Célia’s body of work, one thing always emerged as a constant interest: the quality of light and shadow and their power of transfiguring the world around us.

Through her Polaroid camera’s kaleidoscopic lens, Célia explored different themes: her own body, her home, the man with whom she shared her life and space, the remains of everyday life, and, of course, her constructed still-life scenarios. Yet all the situations she portrays somehow seem like accidental yet necessary gateways that enabled her to chase, reach or simply create the world she needed to see, a desired world. As any artist, she chased her own desire.

Interestingly, Célia’s hand often appears in the constructed scenarios. as if to reach or interact within the scene, yet never quite succeeding in doing so, or in a gesture of longing, as if the scene was escaping from her. This part of herself breaking into the scene seems to have the function of a bridge between two worlds, the here and now outside the frame where also us, the spectators are positioned and the desired world, or better the world of desire on the other side.

Only two booklets of photos she put together explicitly testify of her narrative intention. One of the two explores the body and the environment in a much darker atmosphere, almost solid and ink dyed far from the warm afternoon light of most of her pictures – a possible new direction of her work.

Choosing among hundreds of photos was not easy. However, with my selections I tried to represent the variety of genres and subjects that she explored in her work.

Join us on January 10, and raise a glass to honor a woman who helped bring new works and new collaborations into being, and left her gentle, vibrant mark on the New York new music scene.

All sales of photographs to benefit Composers Collaborative, Inc.

About Cornelia Street Cafe

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