Years ago Jeffrey was complaining to a friend about an injury to his hand that kept him from working. She said, sarcastically, “Stop whining and go take the train to Vancouver.” So he did. In Vancouver he happened upon a native arts museum at the University of Vancouver, and encountered the monumental sculpture Raven and First Men by Athabascan artist Bill Reid. It’s an illustration of the Athabascan creation myth. Jeffrey was fascinated. He walked around and around it for a long time, and set for himself four goals. To learn to carve. That it be fine art, not just furniture. That it would be narrative art, and he wanted to do public art.

Not long after, Jeffrey made his first public art commission, Old Porte Portico at the Jan K Platt Library in Tampa, FL.

When Jeffrey visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, Primitive Art exhibit, on display was Picasso’s Mademoiselles de Avignon. Alongside the painting were displayed the African masks Picasso had copied in doing the painting, and sure enough the male female, and profile/face view dualities were in the African masks, captured in the painting. His genius was not that he invented something brand new, but rather saw and grasped things he found magical. After seeing this Jeffrey went to his studio and created Man with a Staff, his first wood and stone piece.

Another inspiration for Cooper at that same gallery was the work of Constantin Brancusi. The sculptures found a beautiful and successful balance between reality and imaginative interpretation. Brancusi let just enough reference to realism that a viewer’s own imagination can fill in the details. It’s actually quite engaging. By focusing on line and surface, controlling shadow and texture Jeffrey has developed a unique style that isn’t realistic, but still comes alive.