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JENIK COOK


 
When the influential German and, later, American painter and teacher Hans Hofmann told art critic Katharine Kuh in the early 1960’s that his paintings “are always images of my whole psychic make-up,” he was responding to a question about reflecting his own “immediate moods and emotions.”

“You cannot deny yourself,” Hofmann elaborated. “You ask, am I painting myself? I’d be a swindler if I did otherwise. I’d be denying my existence as an artist.”

In the same way, the art of Jenik Cook, for whatever else their subject matter may suggest, can just as reliably be recognized as portraits of the artist at work. Their most immediate quality, their essential identity, is instantly gordianed into the persona of their creator and identifiable by the character of gestures which compose them.

“You can’t deny your nature,” added Hofmann, “but as an artist neither can you be dependent on your daily moods, because once involved in your work you quickly forget your troubles. Least of all can you think of yourself, for then it all becomes too personal.”

In almost the same breath, Hofmann observes: “I can’t understand how anyone is able to paint without optimism. Despite the general pessimistic attitude in the world today, I am nothing but an optimist.”

Optimism, however, is not a word universally identified with Hofmann’s largely subjective output. Conversely, the concept applies quite accurately to the works of Jenik Cook. While humors and temperament may sway one way or another in her working disposition, the most obvious defining component of Cook’s painting is an exhilarating and overriding sense of undaunted optimism; a feeling of bountiful approach.

At the foundation of this enthusiasm, bolstered by the buoyancy of open space as statement, there is evidence of a self-assurance born in myriad comprehensions of intent on the part of recognized masters of the past. Beyond her own explorations, Cook studied with the late Dr. Alex Vilumsons, an appreciated mentor who had studied in France and settled in California. She also studied with Chalita Robinson at Bakersfield College and Jake Lee in the United States and, before that, with Barbara Lea in Scotland and Hossein Delrish in Iran. Factor in the museums, galleries and modernistic cultures of Holland, France, Norway and Great Britain during her residency in those nations. Cook’s discerning eye saw the effort, implication and achievement of the great modern painters and understood what she saw.

In an interview with art critic Marlene Donohue conducted in 1996, Cook declared: “I feel as if I spent the last twenty or so years of my life turning an innate talent into sound foundation, mastering the fundamentals, knowing composition, color and line, learning how to draw exactly what I saw as it appeared in the world. I have spent the last six years having the courage to forget all of that; to use that information indirectly so as to paint from within myself, not with my brain but with my heart.”

In effect, Cook was no longer painting her perception of how things in the world appeared to her but what those things and her knowledge of their visual aspects had made of her.

“When an artist realizes that he or she isn’t tied to copying the exact appearance of the world, that the goal of art-making is pure expression of an inner vision, this is a great revelation,” Cook continued eloquently in the Donohue interview. “There is much more risk in this leap of faith, in this act of learning to trust one’s self. It involves a release of immense energy when you find that you catch the fish from within; that the wellspring is inside.”

Among her solo exhibitions in 2002, Jenik Cook includes Schacknow Museum of Fine Arts, Florida; BGH Gallery, Los Angeles,CA; Agora Gallery, New York City and Art Expo, New York
2007 Book Art Press