When Melissa Cooper-Prince’s eleven-year marriage suddenly ended last year, she was disillusioned, angry, and heartbroken. “I felt blindsided. I needed an emotional outlet,” so the Rockford mother began painting while her children, Hannah, 9, and Cooper, 4, were visiting their father.
At first she created small, simple watercolors, but as she became more immersed in the cathartic process, she ventured into other media—as well as more technically, and emotionally, challenging compositions. Having taken only three art and design courses at Hope College many years ago, Cooper-Prince had limited experience as an artist, but she realized that “it was a form of therapy” as she would become lost in her art for hours and hours reflecting on her life with and without her husband. “Whatever I was feeling at that moment would come out on canvas. It was an amazing feeling.”
Formerly a social worker, Cooper-Prince is “intrigued” by the idea of art-therapy. “I think that it may be a more effective way to resolve issues than talk therapy. You not only have the beneficial artistic process but a tangible, concrete expression of your thoughts that you can then step back and analyze.” And, she jokes, “I saved myself a million dollars in therapy bills!”And when Cooper-Prince, a sales coordinator at Metro PCS, finally shared with her friends and family her new found passion, she found that her works of art resonated with others—especially women who had gone through similar situations.
After seven of her watercolors were displayed in two Rockford Coffeehouses, Epic and Frenz, she decided to create a piece for this year’s ArtPrize competition. “I wouldn’t say I’m an artist, but I just felt the need to put it out there as part of the healing process.” The nine-paneled canvas piece, entitled “Til Death Do Us Part”, was created this past spring from silicone, paper, oil, and watercolor. It also incorporates metal elements of chains, window screen and grommets. Cooper-Prince says it “represents a bound woman trying to find her voice, her sight and her freedom.”
“When you get married, you have a certain vision for how you see your life, and my piece is about re-invention and becoming my own person and not being part of this couple anymore, but I think that others might look at the piece and see other things.”
While she is excited to have her work accepted into the competition, she worries “it might be really hard for people to look straight into my heart and criticize my piece. I’m sure some artists might create from a technical standpoint, but I create from an emotional one. It is a different dynamic.” She says that she wants to “create a conversation about the pain of divorce” and hopes that she can hear personal responses from those who view her work.
Cooper-Prince’s piece will be displayed at McFadden’s Restaurant and Saloon, 58 Ionia SW, during the ArtPrize competition from September 22 to October 10. An artist’s reception in her honor will be held at McFadden’s on September 22 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. ArtPrize Voting Code: 51042
For more information about Melissa Cooper-Prince and ArtPrize go to: www.artprize.org.