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  • LaShonda Cooks

Five

Five years have passed since I moved back to my parent's house in Texas and started painting. I now laugh thinking about it: I had a degree from one of the best colleges in the country, but no idea what I wanted to do with it. Painting offered an escape, a space where I temporarily forgot about pending job applications, student loans and dreams of greatness.

Some things haven't change. But much has. Four jobs and countless canvases later, I have successfully held down a full-time job for the past nearly three years while slowly growing my art business. As I look forward to five more years of growth in skills and confidence, I'd love to take a second to look back at the five pieces that are most memorable for me.

5. For Colored Girls Series

These 7 paintings are my first ever. I had painted before in high school and painted on tile in college, but my first attempt on canvas was to try and capture th women depicted in Ntozake Shange's masterpiece. I had just seen a powerful rendition of the material the year before and with Tyler Perry's movie on the way I wanted to create a series for collectors. Ha! I now refuse to sell any of these strictly because they are my first.

4. 7084

The MLK piece was my born after watching Les Miserables. The thought that Jean Valjean would be doomed to nothing but his prison number without a new identity irked me. I wanted to take a look at other famous "convicts" and toy with their booking photos; After creating MLK, I create Rosa, initially in hues of pink.

3. Old School Hip-Hop

While volunteering with Dallas' first Hip-Hop Collect-a-thon, I was inspired to honor the genre's pioneers. I still have a ton of paintings to add to the club. I painted them without faces to represent the iconic nature of their music and brand. With only clothes, poses and hair, we can easily identify each group.

2. Lupita

This painting is special to me for two reasons. First, because it was born out of a failed painting. I painted a picture of Michael Jackson that I was less than thrilled with. For months, I sat and looked at the painting and found myself unhappy with it but unsure of how to fix it. So one day, I decided to paint over it.

I had already sketched Lupita in charcoal but imagined bringing her blue Oscar dress to life in acrylic. She looked so ethereal, so royal so elegant, like a Black Cinderella. My goal was to capture that on canvas.

1. Gloria

This ballerina was born after drawing class. I was perusing a magazine and stumbled across a powerful image of a dancer in some advertisement. My professor told me I could take the magazine with me as long as I returned it when I was done. I struggled with her size. I wanted her fit but slightly curvy. I also wanted to make sure the transparency of the tutu translated well on canvas.

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