About Athena

Photo of Athena Cooper seated outdoors in her power wheelchair

Born with the rare genetic disorder, Osteogenesis Imperfecta (aka ‘brittle bone disease’), and a wheelchair-user since the age of six, the images Athena creates appear as though they have been passed through her own glass-like nature to become windows into how she sees the world.

She finds the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany particularly inspiring and spent a number of years doing studies of his glass work with the aim of learning how to replicate the look of stained glass in paint. One of Tiffany’s great innovations was this notion of creating beauty from imperfection. Prior to his work, perfect glass was supposed to be clear, pure and even in tone. Tiffany-style stained glass however is a riot of colours and textures that capture, manipulate and shatter the light coming through it in dozens of different ways.

Through paint Athena seeks to similarly emulate that beautiful imperfection and control the light as it appears to shine through from behind the painting. Many of her paintings begin as snapshots from around her neighbourhood captured on her phone. These fleeting moments are seemingly every day and yet conjure a sense of awe. It is that first light of dawn on a frosty morning passing through barren branches that cast long fingers of shadow. It is a shaft of light illuminating a single poppy in a roadside garden and then gone minutes later. For each of these blink-or-you’ll-miss-it moments, Athena seeks to capture the beauty she bore witness to and pass on that vision in her paintings.

Athena is the 2023 Winner of the Won Lee Prize celebrating creative excellence among Canadian visual artists living with disabilities. She is also an Active Status member of the Federation of Canadian Artists and is currently working on a 2024 art exhibit on the subject of romantic love and disability.