Ebony G. Patterson spoke on behalf of Cecil Cooper‘s past students today at Cecil’s funeral. She has allowed us to publish her powerful tribute.
In moments like these we always think about the absence and somehow our words in these ceremonies are an attempt at filling up something we think is missing. It is difficult to see towers in our life fall. Mr Cooper was a mountain of a man, his presence filled the room’s corner. He was a passionate man who lived his life with incredible meaning. He gave so much of him self to his practice as an artist and gave even more of himself to his family, students, his community and country. He was an generous teacher who gave his students so much and he truly loved us. He was tough on us! He challenged us constantly, always demanding more of us, more than we thought we were capable of. And that’s the job of a teacher. It is to see you beyond your potential. And in the moments of frustration he would say “you ever think about trying animal husbandry”? Or slap his face.
He never minced his words but the good teachers rarely do. He knew we didn’t know what we were truly capable of and it was his responsibility to help us guide us beyond our imagination and help us to bloom. He saw us not as who we were but who we could be. He would always say that he knew many of us would not go onto be artists, but regardless of this his responsibility was to discipline us, to send out in to the world as critically thinking, problem-solving, challenging, engaging, thoughtful, meaningful individuals . He planted seeds in all of us, and we have in one way or another gone on and shared these seeds with others. Those people we shared with have also planted these seeds in others. He did this beyond his 30 plus years of teaching and that means there are a lot of blooming trees.
I am grateful that I had Mr Cooper as a mentor and, like our parents, we never imagine these anchors in our lives exiting. I couldn’t imagine myself without him in my own narrative. I hear him everyday I enter the studio, and when I speak to my own students. I am grateful for the quiet moments we shared listening to Mutty Perkins in studio and talking about the political and social concerns of our country. But I think the most valuable lesson I learned from Mr Cooper as a student was the evidence his own of work, of his own rigour, of his own practice, of his commitment. This was clear every morning when he came to school with his toes drenched in paint.
So we thank you Mr Cooper for SEEING US, thank you for demanding more of us, thank you seeing beyond our potential, thank you your love , and thank you for loving us even harder during those times of frustration, thank you for holding us accountable, thank you for the late night drive-bys at the studio to make sure we were working through the night, thanks you for advice about finances and family, thanks for encouraging others to buy our work to help support our ambitions, thank you for your vulnerability , thank you for teaching us about the value of hard work and the fulfillment and gratification that come form this , thank you for teaching us about the importance of helping to build our own communities, thank you for our discipline , thank you for your generosity, thank you for seeing us and, most of all, thank you for allowing US to see you. Thank you for being present.
We are for ever your students and graduates of the Cecil Cooper School of Painting. Paint, sing, and live in Paradise. We love you.