The Creatives: An Interview with Maurene Cooper

I have known Maurene for years and years. She is a great fine art portrait photographer and curator whose artworks and vision for art are highly original (and covetable). Working as an artist and educator in Chicago, she is inclined to provoke collisions between high art and mass culture whenever an opportunity is presented. For the past several years Maurene's photographic works have explored issues of feminine identity, race, class and aggression with in the urban Midwest. She has held residencies at Oxbow, Saugatuck MI, and Harold Arts, Chesterhill OH. She is a 2012-13 BOLT resident at the Chicago Artist Collation and exhibits her work nationally and internationally.  Maurene is also the co- founder and co - director of the two year old Azimuth Projects, a nomadic curatorial project that seeks to unite young professionals and young artist in the city of Chicago. A style icon in her own right, here are some of her thoughts on fashion at the moment.

What do you see trending in fashion now?

High wasted everything, ankle boots, breastplate necklaces, and tights with shorts, large framed glasses and tying long hair in a knot on the very top of one’s head.  I should mention that I teach college, so most of what I see is on 20 years old art students. 

When was the last time you had a fashion epiphany?

Last spring, I realized redheads can wear red and I fell in love with a red and an orange shade of Mac matt lipstick.

What is your favorite High brand? And your low brand?

I don’t really own high brands or if I do they tend to have been pick up at thrift stores unwittingly, I have a handsome coach bucket bag that I thrifted for $10. I just bough a sleek pair of ankle boots on eBay from Schuler & Sons for next to nothing, they go great with skinny slacks or skirts and tights. I love American Apparel as a staple, their leotards are a favorite: super flattering through the torso, they come in every color and can complement my massive, multiple season skirt collection.

How do you mix high and low?

Skinny black jeans from Urban Outfitters with my pastille snakeskin vintage Tony Lama boots, an oversized sweater and dollar stores earrings.

What is your go-to uniform for a day of work?

It really depends on what day of the week and what my job is that day. For adjunct teacher days its either, dark jeans, booties, a button down (various colors), vintage Ann Kline blazer and an animal print silk scarf or a demure 80’s elementary teacher school dress, big funky belt, simple cardigan, analogues color tights and black healed oxfords. My studio days tend to be for skinny jeans, swatters and large earrings.

The weekend?

There isn’t too much of a difference between what I wear on the weekdays to what I wear on the weekend except that I skip the blazer and button down.

What are you living in these days?

Outfits really depend on my mood and the temperature. I teach color theory and color photography so I tend to play with analogues color arrangements and use various splashes of complementary color when I come to accessories.

I like to mix flashy and reserved pieces together, I am fan of outlandish junk jewelry that can be bought in wig stores on Chicago West side. So currently, I favor skinny back jeans, basketball players wives’ earrings, a form fitting sweater or a sweeter cape, acrylic stiletto nails painted Chicago style, and red lipstick.   

What is your favorite ILR piece and why?

The East West earring in pink gold.  They are clean and classic. I love the artisan hammered look and the design detail of that tiny bit of tension where the back of the hoop doesn’t quite meet the piece that goes through the ear… its like a well framed photograph with the prefect amount of space between a subject and the edge of the frame.

Who are your style icons?

Anyone woman who has big curly hair and refuses to flat iron it or shows a since her humor with her clothing, or plays with costumes or is flashy. Everything Melody Anderson’s character wears in Flash Gordon, The ladies from the Advanced Style blog, Lisa Bonet from her days A Different World, Susan Sarandon from Bull Durham and the Witches of Eastwick, middle aged Elizabeth Taylor, and young Joan Crawford.