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 Sally Cook  (1932 - )

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: modernist and folk-art like painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:

Sally Cook (b.1932-)

Born in Buffalo in 1932, she was raised in nearby Evans, NY.  After a year of college, Cook won a scholarship to the Albright Art School.  There, from 1951-1955, she studied under highly regarded artists Seymour Drumlevitch and Peter Busa.

With Busa’s encouragement, Cook moved to New York City in the late-1950s.  At several of the historic Tenth Street cooperative galleries, she became an active participant and frequent exhibitor.  The Tenth Street Scene is acknowledged to have been essential in influencing the world’s perception of American modern art.  She was also an invited member of The Club, a storied meeting place for artists.  Its founders included Franz Kline, Willem De Kooning, and art critic Irving Sandler.

In 1963, Cook’s work appeared on the CBS television show Eyewitness, in a segment that focused on the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking 1913 Armory Show.  Cook’s contemporary work was shown to demonstrate the influence of the Armory Show, which had brought modernist art to America.  The only other living artist whose work appeared on the program was Marcel Duchamp.

Cook returned to Buffalo, earning an MA from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1974.  She then retreated from the city to the country.  She and her husband, political cartoonist Bob Fisk, moved south of Buffalo, where they now live with their cats.  Cook continues to paint and write poetry.  Cook’s writing has appeared in many literary journals.

It is this background that makes Cook’s art so interesting.  After employing an abstract technique for years, Cook found her true voice in the naïve idiom she has expressed since the 1970s.  Her folk-like paintings could be mistaken for those by a primitive, self-taught painter.  But upon observation, Cook’s formal training is evident.  The work owes much to her studies of such masters as Seurat, Rousseau, Magritte, Gorky, and of course, her own teachers and life-experiences.

Another exciting element of Cook’s work is that her paintings extend beyond the canvas. Her hand-made, hand-painted frames are as much a part of the art as the images contained within.  This component adds layers of whimsy and depth.

Curator Frank J. Miele, founder of New York City’s Hirschl & Adler Folk Gallery, emphasized this cohesive vision.  In 1991, he wrote, “Cook creates distinctive paintings, rich in color, detail and symbolic imagery in a style that blends the roots of our American heritage and modern influences into contemporary statements of exceptional wit and artistry.”

Information provided by Dean Brownrout

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