Despite being born into a repressive communist regime, Magdalena Cooney was destined to become a painter. Growing up in a children’s puppet theatre, her parents provided a magical cocoon, creating an alternate world marked by whimsy, fantasy and larger-than-life characters. Self-taught Cooney credits her parents and their cadre of artist friends as her first and most important teachers.
Her father, a set designer and puppet maker, and her mother, a graphic designer, influenced Cooney’s ability to create amidst a culture of censorship. The theatre was always Cooney’s “happy place,” and she believes it is the reason her paintings lean towards the evocative, non-objective rather than specific. From an early age, Cooney was acutely aware of the competing forces of dark and light at play in her life. These contrasts are apparent in the opposing hues seen in many of Cooney’s paintings. Her choice of color palettes also reflects her two homes: one echoes the famous red and orange rooftops of her birthplace, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic), and the other is inspired by the cool grey and blue tones of her current home in Seattle, Washington. The contrast in colors moves through Cooney’s paintings as she expertly blends and layers to create fascinating, sensual swirls of emotion and texture. In her latest experimentation, Cooney uses unusual painting tools to create her large canvases for a complex textured look.
Not interested in shock value, Cooney says her paintings feel like home, a place in your heart that is precious and where you feel most like yourself.
“Art enables us
to find ourselves and
at the same time”