FSU Art BFA ’19 Joshua Cooper recently had the honor of being selected by the Lightner Museum to produce a large mural in their Music Room. The piece is a 188 sq. ft. mural which depicts the three Muses with their traditional emblems—musical instruments the Lyre, Aulos and Cithara. The three are represented in the form of Gibson Girls of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. In Cooper’s words, “These Muses not only represent the knowledge of music, but are also the namesake for all Museums, where Museum literally translates to ‘Shrine of the Muses.’ In this way, my mural is celebrating the study of music, the fashion of the Gilded Age, and the museum as an institution.” In august of this year, the Ponte Vedra Recorder, in admiration of Cooper’s mural work for the Lightner Museum, reported that this success “will secure the Jacksonville artist an enviable opportunity to have his work permanently displayed among some of the historic treasures of the Nation’s Oldest City.”
Currently, Mr. Cooper is a Realist oil painter, sculptor and fabricator living in Jacksonville, Florida, where he is the Lead Exhibit Technician for the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. His work there utilizes the skills he learned as a Master Craftsman to renovate existing exhibits, as well as design and fabricate projects for exhibit spaces and special events. One such space being in the Dinosauria exhibit for which he painted a 96ft (approximately 720 sq. ft) mural—revealed in March of 2020—for the Pleistocene Epoch Backdrop. Mr. Cooper also designed and painted the “time portals” between Epochs, to illustrate the story of the world over time. Prior to this, in December of 2019, Mr. Cooper constructed the main Christmas Tree—a 17.5′ tree of hand bent and welded iron rod—for the ZOOlights holiday display at the zoo.
When asked how his time as an FSU student of Fine Art has benefitted him and his career, Cooper replied:
The College of Fine Arts gave me the instruction I needed to produce the kind of work I am creating for the Lightner. I had great professors such as Carrie Ann Baade and peers from which I could gain critical feedback, which pushed me to become a more skilled artist and painter. I cannot stress enough the importance of the resources provided to me during my time as a BFA student. Current students should take advantage of their personal studio spaces because they give the room to experiment with and advance their work. Most importantly, do not be afraid to produce a lot of bad art! Since graduating, I have had the ability to work with many great organizations. I continued an internship with Florida State University’s own Master Craftsman Studio, where I assisted in the creation of the Marching Chiefs stained glass window in Dodd Hall, as well as other significant projects.
At the moment, Mr. Cooper is in the process of creating a personal series of portraits. He is available and looking forward to future mural and portrait commissions.