Ella Cooper: Ecstatic Radical Nudes

Introduction by Sajae Elder

In many contexts, nudity equates to freedom and a transparency that manifests itself in more ways than one.

As a multi-disciplinary artist, educator and founder of Black Women In Film, Ella Cooper’s work often deals with the ways Black women are perceived and accounted for in artistic spaces - and filling the void in the meantime.

Her photo series Ecstatic Nudes is about so much more than skin; existing as a commentary about what it means to create Canadian art. More often than not, you  are met with a very particular version of national identity; typically one that excludes Black women from the narrative.

More to that, Cooper chose to focus on joy as the element that ties the images together. The common reaction to trauma in any capacity is to create art that subverts - pointed in its criticisms and frustrated in its energy. Cooper instead channeled this feeling into capturing images of Black joy and movement, also referred to as embodied related resistance.

"I think that there is a power in nudity," Cooper told CBC Arts earlier this year. "To be able to stand with a group of black women and stand with pride in our fully naked bodies is incredibly revealing — but it's also incredibly radical."