Monday, February 15, 2010

Tara Cooper: Off-Season

My exhibition entitled "Off-Season" opens at LOOP in less than two weeks. There’s still a long “To Do” list, but I’m excited for the opening on Saturday February 27th. Here’s a little preliminary look and a little more information about my work.

My grandmother, Doris Rittinger, turns 95 this February. For the past 40 years, she has been making her way south during the winter, to stay in Panama City Beach, Florida. Doris is an anchor within our family, and she is strong and independent with a flair for fashion. Her last pair of glasses, worn for more than a decade, were bedazzled with pink cubic zirconias. She recently gave me some of her dresses from the 60’s, bought in Buffalo and signed Mr. Dino, along with a wide brim mint green hat with matching feathers along the trim and a white straw handbag with crocheted flowers. During the 80’s, many of her friends would meet annually in Panama City Beach, play bridge, golf, swim, attend dances at the club house, walk on the beach and shop. As the years recede, most of her friends have died.  She no longer makes the journey for the people, but for the temperate climate. 

At 95, time is limited. This past December, I decided to take advantage of my grandmother’s migratory habits and good health, travelling by car to visit her. My last trip to Florida was in 1987. I was sixteen—flip flops, bikinis and baby oil. On one of our outtings, I asked my grandmother what she attributes her longevity to; she replied ROMANCE.

Since my grandfather’s death (Reuben Rittinger) in 1983, Doris has had four steady boyfriends: John, Jed, Arthur and Tom. Except for Arthur, she stayed with each of them until they died.   

Panama City is located at the northern end of Florida on the gulf side. In December, the beach is nearly empty. Temperatures hover around 60 degrees. Accomodations are plenty, many offer special rates and discounts. Our intention this trip was to document not only my grandmother, but also the route south. Alabama had the best signage by far: SMOK”N BUTTS BBQ... NEW QUAIL DINNER, LET US CATER UR NEXT EVENT,   and Big Daddy’s BBQ, Fried CHICKEN, Fresh CATFISH...HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS, DAILY BREAKFAST $2.99 and FIREWORKS IT’S PARTY TIME, SURVIVOR SHIRTS $10. Even with the economic downturn, the number of “For Sale” signs along Highway 98 (the route that runs along Florida’s coast) surprised me. I think half of “America’s  Sunshine State” might be For Sale.


I invite you to join me for the opening reception of my show on Saturday, February 27th from 3-6 pm at LOOP Gallery. You can also see more of my work on my website here.

Posted by: Tara Cooper