"I'm 53; I don't give a fuck," declares the sculptor Cathy Cooper. Talking to the Orange County native felt like I was talking to a long-lost twin. Whether it's describing herself as "aggressively independent" or her belief that the "truest fucking art is when it's an extension of that person" (e.g. McQueen), Cathy's unabated passion for what inspires the spirit totally mirrors my nonstop StyleLikeU-all-of-the-time frame of mind and zeal for self-expression through clothing. With her heap of spectacular grey hair, her monochromatic jumpsuits, her lumberjack tent-like dresses, and her desert boots, Cathy's earthy, couture style is a reflection of her fearless 'tude. For some upfront, transformative ageless inspo, read on.
On Her Grey Hair: "My hair started to turn grey when I was 16. For 15-20 years, I dyed it because it was fun. Since I was in my 20s during the 80s, my hair went from red to pink to green to blue. For a while, I went blonde, which looked crappy, so I started to grow it, and that's when I said, 'OK, we're done, I can't do this anymore.' Dying your hair is super fun, but it's not fun when it's this length -- it's just a lot of work."
On Beauty and Aging: "The truth is, just make choices that feel correct. It's so easy. Look at Diane von Furstenberg or Diana Vreeland. I have a huge, huge affinity for that women, because I grew up with all of those crazy, extravagant, otherworldly Vogue spreads from the 60s and 70s. The greatest radical move that any person can make in this present world is to be themselves and not assimilate. That's where I'm at. Just do your thing, and don’t question yourself or don’t double-check yourself. If there is love within that choice, pick that thing. We only have a certain number of years, so fucking do it."
On Beauty and Fashion: "For me, beauty and fashion is creative time. I can fuck with my hair; I can find a new color lipstick that has an incredible vibration or a piece of clothing that I’m proud to wear, because it takes me to a different headspace -- one that actually clears my mind and makes me look at the world in a whole different way. Beauty and fashion is not a hiding place: it’s a place of growth and opening. I'm not light about clothing; I only wear pieces that make me feel like I'm transforming."
On Her Struggle with Drugs and Alcohol: "I've been sober for 18 years. After using drugs and alcohol for a long time, I had to ask myself: 'Am I going to be here or am I just going to completely disappear?' That's what the struggle was about -- disappearing and the insidious ball of insecurity that comes with dying and growing old. But, if you disappear, you miss everything -- incredible new friendships, the fragrance of a flower, the light of the day, and the earth beneath your feet. If I'd kept that life, I’d be wrapped up in fear and completely tortured by my perception of what should be instead of what’s in front of me."
On Her Mom: "My mom was raised on a plantation. She stayed home and raised us, but she was an incredibly intelligent and independent women -- an unbelievable musician and really well-versed in American literature. She used to take me to the mall all of the time, and I remember going bathing suit shopping with my mom and her pointing out a Bob Mackie bathing suit. I said, 'What? That thing is like that big.' She replied, 'No, it’s awesome.” My mom had a great eye for weird, completely strange pieces. She's a complete cornerstone for buying and looking and seeing and doing."
On Colors: "My mom was the queen of monochromatic dressing too, which I find myself doing. One of things that she didn't do was clashing -- whether it was patterns, unusual color mixtures, or just blending textures. But I think it's incredible when you put a couple of colors that really vibrate together. When somebody hits that, you go, 'Wow, that's stunning.' It might look a little eccentric from the outside, but, fuck it, they're painting themselves. If I see somebody with that gift, I'll pull them over and ask, 'Who are you?'"
About Sculpture: "I was doing painting, assemblages, and collages, and I wasn’t pushing myself, so I dropped it and played music for a while. Then, over the past several years, after meeting some dancers and great people, a light went off: 'This is where it's at -- to work with these guys and establish another way of looking at sculpture and costume. Essentially, sculpture is an extension of the human form -- it all comes from the human vessel."
On Truth and Art: "Any work that you come into contact with that is true, you can feel it. Whether it’s a painting or a piece of clothing -- if the artist is there in the work, it’s true, it's an extension of that person. A great example is Alexander McQueen: you feel his work, because he inserts himself."