Doctor Lisa Cooper

I keep hearing of this Doctor Lisa Cooper character. She is an artist, a doctor of philosophy, and a flower obsessive. My interest is piqued. I do some research. Oh, yes, she is around. Sydney Theatre Company, Tiffany and Co, The Australian Ballet, Romance Was Born etcetera. And that tattoo. We need to talk, I think. I suggest a meeting and she agrees.

© Joshua Heath

We speak. She wears red lipstick and blundstone boots. Beauty and toil. These words pepper our conversation, as does death.

The story of Coopers flower obsession began when her father died. She was 13. Overwhelmed by the amount of flowers flooding in after his death, some of her strongest memories of cut flowers are of this time.

It was really heavy when my father passed away. I think I had been looking for my bliss, the way everyone does, and I found it in flowers. Flowers just made me feel better.

Exploring her father’s death in art school, Cooper found flowers popped up again. Since then, it seems they have become her medium, although the place from which she approaches them has changed. She has evolved.

I feel like I have had to let go of the seriousness, about the way I see myself as an artist, and what my approach is. I’m good with that. The bottom line is I thought I wanted to be someone who worked alone in a studio on powerful and important work that would be understood by few once or twice a year, but I have come to a place where that maybe isn’t ever what I needed or wanted or who I was.

Cooper says she remembers showing her mother some really intense work she had created in undergraduate art school. Her mother said ‘Yes, is really good, but could you make something beautiful?’ That was quite a moment for her, she says. ‘Its funny that I have ended up just doing that!’

We talk about flowers, beauty and the divine. Cooper says religion is an important framework for her understanding of the aesthetic world, she says;

Things of the natural world are at the intersection of heaven and earth. Of human and divine. That’s what they are. They’re inexplicable. Sometimes crazily inexplicable. How did they get here? Why are they here What is their purpose? Flowers are beyond explanation. And yet they are so of the earth that they take all of the earthly elements to come into existence. I think that’s where beauty lies.

Coopers role as an artist/florist/woman of flowers is to take a flower, often insignificant when viewed as part of an entire plant or within a garden setting, and place it on a pedestal, on stage for all to see. For a brief moment this flower becomes something much more than the sum of its parts. Removed from its natural environment, and placed within a human context, it becomes an object of deep meaning and beauty. And then it dies. But before it does, wow, what a send off! If I were a flower, I would want Doctor Cooper giving me my last rites.

There is a darkness about Coopers work I find intriguing and beautiful. There is depth, fragility and a true reverence for the plant. She is an artist, and it shows. It seem everything she touches becomes imbued with some kind of magic. Memory, nostalgia, grief, joy, love. Flowers can say so much. Doctor Lisa Coopers gift is letting them speak.