We had the good fortune of connecting with Marcelese Cooper and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marcelese, why did you pursue a creative career?
I’ve always been surrounded by music, movies, and a love for crafting because of my parents and that love led me to throw myself head-first into an array of mediums. I just remember the particular feeling I’d get watching movies or when my father would explain what a song really meant beyond it’s catchy chorus and just knowing that before I am anything else I should be a storyteller. I tell stories primarily through the photographs and the short films that I create, but I do it both because it allows me to explore the intersections of my own identity while also creating more visibility in genres and subjects where I wish I always saw more faces like my own; I also chose to pursue the arts because I recall many times as a teenager, not having the words to fully capture what it felt like to be young, black, and queer but the arts gave me space to find my voice. Art for me is a chance to understand myself, an opportunity to expand beyond what is expected of me, and a means of teaching others that the tools they seek or the voice they want resides within them already.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My work primarily focuses on the relationship between dreams, science-fiction, the black/brown body, and storytelling. I’ve often found inspiration in surreal art-house cinema, the commentary of horror, and plots about worlds beyond the star; my work attempts to engage these spaces because to me they speak to the freedom to be whatever we are and the fears of the unknown. What began as a dive off of a cliff of uncertainty into an ocean of unreality became a visual language for me, one that is supported by theatrical makeup, optical illusions, experimentations with alternative means of lighting, and larger than life performances before the camera. My art practice is a circular process where my ideas will often cross over into various mediums before ultimately ending in my camps of photography and video having taken shape and grown as I spend time considering how best to say what I feel. I sometimes joke that my goal is to work smarter AND harder, while I wouldn’t say finding creativity or new ideas is as difficult I certainly push against lack of motivation while balancing the necessity of self-care. Making work that explores my identity and ideas that are core to who I am means a lot of self-reflection and practicing acceptance and embracing the idea of change. My work has grown only when I have in my own life and I think expanding my my mind and getting opportunities to learn from and work alongside so many kind and talented people has shown me that my only competition should be the artist I am a year from now so that I never stop moving forward.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Being a Houston transplant I found myself often sticking to anywhere I could reach from the bus routes that branch in and around the third ward, so if I were to show a friend the Houston that I know I would suggest we hop on some bikes and try catching a bite at Soul Food Vegan or maybe finding somewhere not too far from midtown for some Pho. The Houston I fell in love with is made up of art galleries, bars with personality, beautiful parks, and people who always seem to have time to tell you a wild story. While time has changed how one approaches doing some of these things I still see safe ways to enjoy the city for what it is and support local businesses. Houston is a city that I don’t think I could ever fully explore and that excites me, you could pick a new place to see every day and get something completely different.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have a lot to learn and so much more that I want to do but everything that I am comes from the love and support of my favorite artist, my mother. My parents were my first audience and crew members and my mother in particular has always taken me seriously when I say that I’m going to do something. She is constantly making projects of her own and her creative spirit and determination are two of the many qualities she has which I admire and try to instill in both myself and my practice.