Alexandra Cool is an artist that possesses a unique combination of talents in both sculpture and photography. Her work showcases an intimate rapport with nature, as she deeply respects the natural materials she works with and appreciates their inherent beauty. This deep connection with nature serves as a great source of inspiration for her artistic endeavors. She draws context from the environment with its important attachment for humanity.
She has been working for several years in Carrara (Italy), New York and Corsica. Nowadays, her home base is in Ossogne -Thuin (Belgium) and the Auvergne (France). She has been exhibited Internationally in over forty-one exhibitions in Europe and the United States. Cool will be participating in the The 11th Biennale of Photography 2023 in Condroz, Belgium in August. Her presentation include both works of sculpture and photography. This article focuses on three from her bodies of work on the human form and portraiture; Mouseion, Fayum and The Time Being which will be presented at the Biennale.
Her portfolio and book publications inclusive of Hellebosch, Mevrouw Rennaissance, Wie Zal Het Zeggen,Mouseion, Zee, The Time Being and three booklets Tibet, Corsica, Cappadocia.
Patricia Lanza : Discuss your process and working in both sculpture and photography, and your medium of materials?
Alexandra Cool : I started out as a sculptor in stone. But more and more I liked the beauty of the stone it self , especially those shaped by nature. Looking for the right stones in mountain rivers and at the edge the sea became part of the artistic process .I started using them in installations and photographing them. That is actually how I got into photography. I love taking pictures of nature, landscapes, stones, trees, the sea, clouds.
When I have an idea, I look for the best way and materials to give it shape. It can be a photograph, but also clay, stone, wood and often a combination of different media.
Lanza : Consider that your themes often center on portraiture.
How did these come about: Mouseion are the muses of famous artists, Fayum were ancient Egyptians, and The Time Being are those affected by dementia.
How did you come to find and approach these subjects?
Cool : I love people, they fascinate me and perhaps I have a certain shyness and hesitation about photographing them. Maybe that’s why I prefer modeling them in clay. Modeling a portrait takes time. The time I need to really make that person my own. And this time of concentration is also really a blissful moment when I experience an understanding and love for the model.
For the work Mouseion, I pay homage to the women of nine famous painters. Women who inspired and dedicated their lives to these artists. I first modeled their portraits in clay which I then photographed. Later I colored in the photos and printed them on large cotton cloths.
I made another series about people with dementia, I felt that photographing then wasn’t appropriate. Therefore, I decided to visit twelve people and model their portraits back in my studio, from my memory. I than took pictures of the sculptures behind a translucent canvas.
For another work I was I inspired by the ancient Egyptian Fayum portraits that look amazingly modern and revolutionary for their time. I modeled a bust of the people depicted in the paintings and transferred the photos of my sculptures on wooden boards. People who lived about 2000 years ago come back to life again.
In this way of working, I am able to make work where time is fading away and in which I can unite my two great passions: photography and sculpture.
Lanza : Discuss how the environment and nature affects your methods of working?
Cool : My way of working is quite elaborate, it is a process that requires time, just as everything we see in nature. Nature though takes more time than I do, nature has the gift of patience.
I often think about the impermanence and changeability of all things and whether there is something that I can create something that reflects a form of eternity.
Lanza : What are you working on currently and what are your future plans?
Cool : Currently I am thinking about different projects: a work on Camille Claudel, a book about Corsica together with a writer and a series of women that inspire me …
In my latest works, nature becomes an even more dominant factor.
I modeled a series of figures in raw clay that I dug up in my garden and mixed with different seeds. The seeds began to germinate and grow on the sculptures. Since these sculptures are not fired they will decay but the plants will take over and continue to grow.
This series was shown in the Botanical Garden of Leuven (Belgium), where I had placed the sculptures in small “greenhouses”.
In the same way I made a sculpture of Mayken Verhulst, Pieter Breughel’s mother-in-law, artist herself and driving force behind the Breughel dynasty. I mixed the earth with flower seeds. As I made this sculpture on a beautifull spot in a prairie next to a pond, the rain and sun made the sculpture dissolve. At the end, only a field of flowers remained.
All these works now exist only in photographs.
In the future, I want to continue working on impermanence and nature as well.