Jessie Cooper (born 1932) and Ronald Cooper (born 1931)
Jessie and Ronald Cooper were married when she was sixteen and he was seventeen. For a number of years they ran a country store and raised their four children. Jessie had an early interest in art that she put aside while raising her family. Financial hardships resulted in their leaving the store and moving from Kentucky to Ohio in search of work. There, Ronald worked in a factory and Jessie as a checker in a supermarket. Subsequently, the direction of their lives changed when Ronald suffered two heart attacks and a near-fatal car accident. For both Ronald and Jessie, making art has become a means of relieving depression and working towards a spiritual revival. Now living in Flemsingburg, Kentucky, they often work collaboratively. Jessie paints on found objects such as wooden boxes and pieces of furniture. Her paintings depict religious stories and scenes of country life painted in tiny detail with delicate brushstrokes. Ronald’s thickly painted carvings reflect the basic struggle between good and evil. Devils, sinners, preachers, and snakes dominate his sculptures. Although serious in its message, his work contains a wry sense of humor. In 1998 the Coopers received the Appalachian Treasure Award, honoring their contribution to the artistic tradition of the area.