UM alumna’s portrayal of minority children wins her prestigious artist residency

Bright hues of blue, yellow and red paint outline and capture the innocence of black and brown children as they run and swim in paintings that line Jacqueline M. Gopie’s home studio walls.

Gopie, an artist and University of Miami alumna, said she hopes viewers will not see race in her paintings, just children in motion.

“The main focus of my work is children because I feel that they don’t have the same racist baggage that people associate with the faces of older black men and women,” Gopie said. “I thought I could change the negative images through creating more positive images of children.”

Jacqueline M. Gopie, University of Miami alumna and recent winner of an artist residency in New Orleans, poses with some of her artwork. Photo credit: Suzanne Rieger

Gopie, 58, was recently awarded a residence in New Orleans under the Joan Mitchell Foundation. In 2016, she received the foundation’s Emerging Artist Grant, and this year, she earned the Artist-in-Residence Achievement. She is one of 32 artists— the only one from Florida— who will work in a private studio for a two-month residence in New Orleans beginning this month.

Milly Cardoso, the museum gallery manager at the UM Wynwood Gallery, said this is a huge achievement in the art world.

“We are beyond proud of Jackie for achieving such an incredible opportunity at the Joan Mitchell in New Orleans,” said Cardoso. “She is a wonderful person and deserves to be there.”

“Every day I wake up and I can’t believe my life,” Gopie said. “I never would have thought that painting would take me this far. Getting the Joan Mitchell Grant in 2016 was huge for me. Artists tend to feel ignored a lot, and it’s so satisfying when an artist finally gets that recognition.”

Gopie applied to UM while she was still enrolled in the Army. She decided it was time to retire after 21 years of service and was awarded a half-tuition scholarship.

“I’m glad I did it when I did it because I was in the Pentagon during 9/11, and I realized that I was going to see stuff that I might never unsee,” Gopie said. “So, I feel really lucky that I spent that much time in the military, and I’m sane, and I don’t have PTSD or any crazy injuries. And I spent six years in Alaska and six years in Hawaii.”

Gopie decided to study painting at UM, where she received a BFA in 2005 and her MFA in 2012. Since graduating in 2012, she has dedicated herself to painting at her home studio.

Gopie's art aims to capture the innocence of black and brown children before they become affected by racism and prejudice. Photo credit: Suzanne Rieger

During her residency in New Orleans, Gopie said she plans to incorporate the tradition of second line parades into her art. Second line is a tradition in brass band parades in New Orleans. The “main line” or “first line” is the primary section of the parade, including the members of a brass band and members of an African-American social aid club. The audience that forms behind the parade to join in the festivities is called the second line parade.

Gopie imagines that her paintings might include children wearing bright sequined costumes behind a brass band parade.

“My goal is to try to capture something of the history of New Orleans through the bodies of the children,” Gopie said.