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Jamie Cope

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Jamie Cope, photographer, painter, flower gardener and artist in all that she touched, died in her home on April 18, 2018, at the age of 96, while the seeds she had planted for spring sent up green shoots from the pots at the foot of her bed.

Jamie grew up in the glamorous ’20s and ’30s of Hollywood, California, cartwheeling on the beach and rubbing elbows with the archetypal stars of that fabulous era. An extraordinary beauty, she could have joined them, but instead (as she always would) struck out on her own path.

It led her to New York, where she modeled for Saks Fifth Avenue and then to Chicago where she began attending university, falling in love with opera, and haunting the museums. Steeped in culture and ideas, she recognized herself as an artist and never turned back.

It was while living in Tuscany in the ’50s—with her husband, a literature scholar, and her two children—that she found an abandoned Brownie on an Etruscan wall, and waited until dusk for it to be retrieved, then bore it home like the Grail. That Brownie eventually turned into a Hasselblad.

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Renowned for the intimacy of her portraits and her painterly use of shadow and light, Jamie worked in black and white and developed her own images in a painstaking process almost lost to us now.

In contrast to the black and white subtlety of her photographs, Jamie’s paintings—large rich studies of apples, eggplants, red onion, purple cabbage, pears and poppies, translucent, rising mangoes—are celebrations of color, the sap and juice of life. The precision and delicacy of detail are extraordinary, as she painted with her fingertips and the palms of her hands.

Initially, when Jamie moved to Vermont, she worked in public relations for the State of Vermont in Travel and Tourism, the Council on the Aging, and created syndicated radio and cable TV programs, a Burlington Free Press newspaper column, and a WCAX radio and television interview program.

Jamie loved the life of the Earth, its mystery and beauty. When she bought her home on North Street in Montpelier 30 years ago, it was surrounded by gravel. Now, it is circled by white pine and hemlock, birches and apple trees, blue spruce, maple and oak. Each spring and summer, she planted flowers in a kind of trance of joy. Fields of iris, trellis of kiwi and honeysuckle, a garden in the boot-shape of Italy, a 30-foot deck of flower boxes from which trailed morning glories and sprang nasturtiums, begonia, lantana, geraniums, lavender, flowers like smoke, like flame, like burgeoning stars.

 

TO MY MOTHER

For she wears palms of many colors.

For her harlequin hands command orchards.

For wheatfields spring from her fingers

To astonish the sky.

For she is the eye of the apple.

For laws do not hold her,

For her pears converse with the clouds.

For there is no weight to her mangoes,

Translucent, they rise and float free.

For her fingertips burst into blossom.

For she is brown, both soil and seed,

Rainbow, both orchard and garden.

For she made me, and I am her fruit.

For she houses her heart in a forest

By the great fallen tree in its beauty.

For she waters it all of her days.

For she painted a path to that place

In the green of leaves, in the gold of sun.

For her heart shall ever call me. I shall not be alone.

                          —Tami Calliope 2018

Painting by Jamie Cope

Photograph by Jamie Cope

In this town, she had a universe of friends. There is hardly a life in Montpelier she has not touched or inspired. I am honored to quote a young man she loved dearly, Emmett Fitzgerald.

I grow evermore astounded by your dogged spirit, your sparkling wit, and the brimming love at the center of everything you do. You have all the wisdom of your years, but somehow you never let go of a special sort of joy usually reserved for children. You will forever be the impossible standard upon which I judge the fullness of my own life

Predeceased six years ago by her beloved son, Cameron Cope, Jamie is survived solely by her daughter, Tami Calliope, whose enormity of loss is exceeded only by her gratitude and love.