Alum Named Guggenheim Fellow

Humboldt State alum Thomas Joshua Cooper (’69 Art, Secondary Education) has been awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship for 2009. The award will help him complete the North American portion of his wide-ranging project to photograph “the beginnings of civilization” around the Atlantic Ocean.

Cooper’s current exhibition at the Haunch Venison Gallery in London features black and white photography from the artist’s research into some of world’s remotest locations as part of his “Atlantic Basin Project.” Cooper, who traces some of the same routes traveled by turn-of-the-century polar explorers, uses a 19th century Agfa camera to develop gelatin silver prints. It was purchased in Humboldt County during his time as a student. “Lugging this heavy old camera really makes me appreciate how good those old guys were,” says Cooper.

Though his work takes him to some of the most treacherous places on the Atlantic coast, Cooper emphasizes that the nature of his work is conveying a story, not exploring uncharted territory. “I’m not an explorer and I’m not an adventurer, it happens that I have to do both to do my work. I’m a picture maker and an artist and a story teller. I’m interested in how stories of and about land and perhaps becoming clear and useful and even touch people who haven’t become familiar with such places.”

During his time at Humboldt State Cooper studied under the tutelage of Professor Thomas Knight, who founded the fine art photography program at HSU in the 1950s. Knight, along with professors Mel Schuler, Max Butler, Glen Berry and Reese Bullen, all faculty members of the Art Department, were influential in helping Cooper develop his personal aesthetic.

“The early and founding members of HSU’s extraordinary art department were all wonderful, exceptional and inspirational teachers to me. The professors were profound in their positive effect in bringing both the requirements for the craft the purpose of an artist fully and clearly into my youthful and not very experienced life at the time,” says Cooper.

“They were all ‘hard work’ as teachers but their clarity, generosity and deep understanding of what art could be remains with me to this day.”

The Guggenheim Foundation was established in 1925 by former U.S. Senator and Mrs. Simon Guggenheim in memory of their late son, John Simon Guggenheim. In his initial Letter of Gift, Sen. Guggenheim wrote that the purpose of the foundation is to seek “to add to the educational, literary, artistic, and scientific power of this country, and also provide for the cause of better international understanding,”

Since 1925 $273 million in Fellowships have been awarded to nearly 16,700 individuals. Scores of Nobel, Pulitzer, and other prizewinners grace the roll of Fellows, including Ansel Adams, W. H. Auden, Aaron Copland, Martha Graham, Langston Hughes, Henry Kissinger, Vladimir Nabokov and many more.

Fellows are appointed on the basis of achievement and exceptional promise for continued accomplishment.