Jessie And Ronald Cooper

Born 1931 (Ronald), 1932 (Jesse)
Live Flemingsburg, Kentucky

"It's a gift from God, it truly is." That's how Ronald Cooper describes the works created by his wife Jessie and himself. Jessie says that she's always painted, although she had only used crayons until she and Ronald married (at 17 and 16), and he bought her first set of paints. Meanwhile, carving and painting came as something of a revelation to Ronald later in life. He had worked a variety of jobs, including owning a grocery store, but had never done any sort of artwork. In 1984, tragedy struck. Ronald was involved in an eight-car wreck, and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Doctors managed to revive him, but his leg was so badly broken that they told him he'd never walk again.

Upon arriving home, Ronald was understandably depressed, and Jessie and his family encouraged him to find a creative outlet.

"God and Angels Over Hell" by Ronald Cooper
"A Good Time was had by All" by Jessie Cooper (painted on an old radio)

He began to carve and much to his surprise, folks around him enjoyed his work and asked to buy it. Ronald has long since recovered from his accident.

The Coopers scour local flea markets for raw material. Jessie seems to paint on just about anything, from rocks to furniture to old radios. Her paintings are very soothing, featuring rich greens and blues, and either Bible scenes, or depictions of country life.

"Heavenly Home and Hell" (kerosene heater) by Ronald Cooper

"Angels" (a collaborative work, Ronald made the Angels and Jessie painted the shoe)

Ronald sees his artwork as something of a pulpit, a way for them to get a message across to the world. However, this doesn't stop him from displaying his superb sense of humor. "People are always disappointed when they meet me. They expect me to be a little crazy when they've seen my work." He carves Devils and Angels, as well people and animals, and usually comes up with a clever way to incorporate the carvings into some object, be it a bicycle or an old clock frame.

In 1998, the Coopers received the Appalachian Treasure Award, to salute their contribution to the artistic tradition of the area, an honor well deserved.

"Moses in the Bull Rushes" box by Jessie Cooper
Santa Claus bell by Ronald Cooper



tommy cheng
Tommy Cheng