An art installation with two images on a wall.

Kevin Cooley, "A Thousand Miles an Hour," 2016; 2-channel HD video installation

Kevin Cooley

Artist in Residence, 2019

A person sitting in a shadowed room.


Artist Statement

For the past 15 years, my work has centered around a phenomenological, systems-based inquiry into humanity’s contemporary relationship with the five classical elements: earth, air, fire, water, and aether. The resulting photographs, videos, and public installations look outward, examining the environment to observe experimental and performative gestures that seek to decipher our complex, evolving relationships to nature, technology, and each other. As my practice continues to evolve, I strive to challenge my own assumptions and deepen my understanding of environment and materiality. My newer projects address the human perspective more directly, presenting a comprehensive view of our collective environmental concerns, questioning the long-term sustainability of present-day living, and revealing the struggles—both practical and psychological—of inhabiting a planet we are slowly destroying.

While at Headlands

I work with elemental forces of nature to question systems of knowledge as they relate to our perceptions and experience of everyday life. My phenomenon/systems-based inquiries became very personal last fall when a wildfire nearly destroyed my house, studio, and entire art archive. At the time of this near tragedy, I was in the process of creating a series of fire-based photographs that referenced political smoke screens. I realized that what was missing from my practice is a personal perspective, where there is more at stake for me than in any of my previous work. The location of Headlands Center for the Arts is pivotal as both a source of inspiration for research and to develop new, environmentally focused project. Based on local geology—being centered directly on the San Andreas Fault line—the residency is an ideal location to create a plan for a human connection to our planet. By inserting myself directly into the work through a series of performative gestures and interventions, I hope to reach my stated goal of creating work that is both personal and universal.