ARTIST: ROBERT COOPER
The multi-talented Robert Cooper has been creating as long as he can remember. Whether it is sculpting, painting or building something, Cooper is happiest when his hands are working. He has always had a love of faces and art. He has been inspired by the Masters: Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Norman Rockwell, James Bama and make-up artist like Lon Chaney, Jack Pierce and Dick Smith.
With little formal art training, Cooper studied art books and visited museums. After being held up at gunpoint in the mid-1970's while working at a movie poster shop in San Francisco, Cooper jumped into his art with a passion. The late 1970's saw Cooper being hired by the San Rafael Police Department as a puppeteer: Once a week he and a Police Officer would visit local schools and talk to the students about safety issues like household poisons and not talking to strangers. He also directed an anti-shoplifting film for the Police Department called I WAS A TEEN-AGE ALIEN. In the early 1980's, when George Lucas moved his special effects company, Industrial Light and Magic, to San Rafael, California, Cooper decided it was time to get into the movies full time. He put his portfolio togther and eventually hooked up with Chris Walas, who had worked at Lucasfilm, and was now starting his own Company. Chris's first big project was a little film called GREMLINS. Cooper worked on the film as part of the creature crew for over a year. Soon after that he was invited to work in the Creature Shop at Industrial Light and Magic. He sculpted, painted, made molds and fabricated the fantastic for over 12 years as a puppeteer/creature-maker at ILM. (See pictures below)
Check out: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0178339/
Spike Lee and Lil Penny
Cooper also worked with Jamie Hyneman of MYTHBUSTERS fame and a team of puppeteers on a series of highly successful Nike commercials featuring Lil Penny.
Check out: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=lil+penny&aq=0
In the 1970's, Bob had the pleasure of being invited to Groucho Marx's home. Cooper was able to sit down with the Master Comedian and share his collection of Marx Brothers memorabilia. Groucho used part of Cooper's collection in several books about himself and his brothers.
The 1980's saw Cooper redisover an early passion - DINOSAURS. Cooper visited the paleontology department at the University of Berkeley and was invited to visit a dinosaur dig the following summer in the Badlands of Montana. Thus began a friendship with the Berkeley scientists and an annual trek to Montana. Then when the University was opening a new science building , Cooper was invited to come and help build a full size T-Rex skeleton for display in the lobby. Asked what it was like, Cooper said "it was like getting to build the biggest, coolest model kit in the world ---with no instructions." In other words, it was a boyhood dream come true.
Check out: http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/trex/index.html
In July 2001, Cooper visited the San Francisco Zoo and turned his camera on Cobby, the male chimpanzee, and had one of those life changing experiences. Cobby basically stared at Cooper and said "I'm an intelligent being what are you going to do about it?" Cooper looked at the other Chimpanzees in the enclosure and realized they all had incredible faces...faces that had never been painted before. He started visiting other zoos and painting serious portraits of apes. The result was over two hundred paintings. Check out the Portraits of the Great Apes tab above.
One of the highlights of painting apes was the opportunity to meet Dr. Jane Goodall.
Cooper presented Dr. Goodall with a painting of David Greybeard, the first chimpanzee to make contact with Jane and her personal favorite. Dr. Goodall turned the painting into a poster and sold it on her web site for a number of years.
A couple of years later Cooper had an exhibit at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History and Dr. Goodall was kind enough to write an introduction to the exhibit.
“Bob Cooper’s artwork has done much to reveal the bond that we human beings share with chimpanzees. His sensitivity, insight and artistic prowess have brought to life the intelligence and gentle spirit of my favorite chimpanzee at Gombe: David Greybeard. From my travels around the world I’ve realized that there is agreat army of industrious and hopeful individuals determined to create a better world for people and animals. Bob is among the best.”
Dr, Jane Goodall, DBE
Founder, Jane Goodall Institute &UN Messenger of Peace
POLITICS GOES TO THE DOGS
Also in the summer of 2001, Cooper tried to run a sock puppet, named Argyle Sox, for the San Rafael City Council. The dog puppet thought he had a chance since he believed there were already puppets on the city council. Asked what his qualifications were, Argyle answered that "he had his shots, taken a bath and been de-wormed." He hoped the other candidates could say as much. Unfortunately, Argyle wasn't a registered voter and was under the legal age for running (apparently dog years don't count).
Check out: http://www.metroactive.com/papers/sonoma/09.13.01/puppet-0137.html
This didn't stop Argyle's political ambitions. Shortly after Barack Obama was elected President, Argyle sent a letter to the President's dog, Bo, and asked him for his help. Argyle told Bo that he wanted to be appointed the country's first Voter's Mascot --- kind of like Smokey the Bear. Argyle's job would be easy --- simply travel around the country and urge everyone to vote. Argyle and Cooper are still waiting for an answer from either Bo or the President.