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John Cooper: The Oval

The Oval

John Cooper

Oil paint on canvas, Wood panel

On Christmas morning 2020, a 63 year old man drove an RV packed with explosives into the heart of downtown Nashville. While speakers on the van blared Petula Clarke, the man detonated the bomb, destroying himself and heavily damaging 6 blocks of my hometown. This violent attack cast an especially harsh light on three cultural threads I have observed growing up in the South: the Code of the masculine, the drive to stand out, and the thirst for a pageant. For this series of paintings, I investigated these themes through the character of Roy Maynes, a real-life car salesman in the 1970’s whose second job was driving racecars at the Nashville Speedway. By immersing myself in photographs, images, and artifacts from Mr. Maynes’ world, I distilled a visual grammar to interrogate how the code of masculinity shaped his life. We know Roy Maynes was a peaceful man. At the same time, we can detect similar threads weaving through what we can learn about his life. My paintings aim to explore this landscape.