While learning about various stories from Greek and Roman mythology, artist Lesa Cook was struck by how well the ancient themes and characters can inform and illuminate our current times and predicaments. After being inspired by these ageless stories, Cook assembled an exhibit, “Gods, Heroes, and Fools” featuring sculptures and drawings, that will be on display at The Art League gallery, May 10–June 4, 2017.
“These stories and struggles are ageless and enduringly instructive on the human condition,” Cook says. “The ancient gods are both heroic and flawed, just like people are today. The thought of commenting on contemporary issues through the lens of ancient myths became a fun project. The more I learned about these stories, the more I came to appreciate their universality and how many are relevant to modern characters and circumstances.”
A self-described classical realist, Cook says she found the colorful, sometimes comic and often tragic tales of Greek and Roman mythology a natural subject to explore. Her drawings and sculptures in “Gods, Heroes, and Fools” complement each other through the common connection of ancient stories, characters, and themes. Artistically, Cook says she often discovered that one particular medium helped her better explore a modern-day message from a certain mythical narrative. Sometimes the depth and dimension of a sculpture allowed her to more effectively portray a personality or theme, while in other cases drawings offered the opportunity to highlight subtle details to illustrate a character or observation point, she says.
Cook explores themes including man’s impact on the environment and his inseparable relationship with nature: What would Aristaeus, the god of beekeeping, think of today’s plight of the honeybee? Through the exhibit, she also addresses issues ranging from man’s resilience and reliance on hope to gender issues and universal individual equality to mankind’s enduring compulsions toward greed and hubris. More lighthearted pieces imagine Bacchus, the Greek god of wine and fertility, as a central figure in contemporary situations: What if the wine-loving Bacchus found himself stranded in a dry county deep within the Bible Belt? Or, what might it be like to have him as a reveling houseguest or roommate?
Lesa Cook grew up in South Carolina and received a degree in studio art from the University of South Carolina in 1987. In 1990, she pursued graduate work in computer graphics at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. She continued her fine art studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD; the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC; The Art League in Alexandria, VA; and The Shuler School of Art in Baltimore, MD. She continues to pursue her studies and thinks of herself as a perpetual student. Currently, she resides in Burkittsville, MD, where she paints and sculpts. She teaches at The Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center in Frederick, MD, and The Yellow Barn Studio in Glen Echo, MD. She is a registered copyist at The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. She considers herself a classical realist, drawing inspiration from the great masters and trying to capture not only the natural form but the emotional reality as well.