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Sharing 91 years of the past through art

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J. Parker Ragland
Special to the Business Press

From May 17-29, Dolores “Toppy” Cochran’s artwork is on display at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Cochran is a 91-year-old amateur artist currently residing at the Sterling House of Richland Hills. Together, Wish of a Lifetime and Brookdale Senior Living made one of Cochran’s dreams come true – in particular, having her art displayed in the same museum as Georgia O’Keeffe, who is Cochran’s favorite artist.
“Art is my passion,” Cochran stated adamantly. “Stacy [Fuller] gave me a print of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting, and I tried to recreate it on a stone. I love all kinds of art; I want to try everything.”
In 2004, Cochran suffered from a stroke that left her partially paralyzed, but her resolve manifested most evidently in her response to the experience: painting, which she did initially to improve her movement but would later come to realize its important place in her life.
Cochran learned much about art by participating in one of the Amon Carter’s programs, “Sharing the Past Through Art.” Cochran said that Stacy Fuller, who leads the program, affected her greatly. “Stacy doesn’t give us the answers,” commented Cochran. “She makes us figure it out.” The program was developed to help individuals express themselves and connect to past experiences, and Cochran never misses. Fuller stressed that she can always expect to see Cochran at their meetings and how much of a joy it is to have her there.
“Art doesn’t have just one meaning,” said museum director Andrew J. Walker. “Its relationship is often so personal and often so directed toward those experiences that we all gather within ourselves as we travel through life. This is a program that really builds on that in a way that is magical, remarkable, and I think evidenced today in this wonderful exhibition.”
To date, Cochran has developed a body of work including more than 80 paintings, 24 of which are on display at the exhibition, entitled Toppy’s Passion. She has used acrylic, oil and watercolor and has painted on rock and canvas mediums. Her subjects include birds, flowers and landscapes; she draws inspiration from anything that can be seen outside her window. Cochran recited a moving story about how it became too difficult to take care of the fish pond in her backyard, so she painted the water and fish on stone to replace it.
At her reception on May 23, Cohran was “overwhelmed” by praise from friends, family, and the Amon Carter’s staff. Cochran stated, “It is so exciting to be able to show my art at such a prestigious museum. I am thrilled that this dream is coming true.”
Walker congratulated Cochran, “It’s hard to imagine … the panoplia of artists that you’ve joined that have now been exhibited at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, including Georgia O’Keeffe.”
 

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