Toni Dranes Hooper grew up in a Greek family, and was surrounded by images of the Parthenon the works of Praxilities and other icons of Greece’s Golden Age. Her interest in art began at an early age, and she was fueled through the encouragement of her older cousin, a fine artist himself. She is a native of Nashville Tennessee and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Studio Art.
Embarking on her art career later in life, Hooper focuses on the Abstract Expressionist style, and is strongly influenced by the work of Wassily Kandinsky. Her interest in Egyptian art and culture adds a unique flair to her work. “Egypt is just across the water from Greece,” says Hooper. It is the Egyptian obsession with death and the Greek passion for life which, when interpreted through her unique style, is most often revealed by the use of a black background, complex layers of textures, lines, shapes and colors, and the repetitive use of the ankh, the Egyptian symbol for life.
Hooper believes that with every stroke of paint, energy is transferred. “The point becomes the line, the line becomes the form. It is an emotion that begins deeper than the soul and extends far beyond the edge of the cosmos. I want the observer to see and feel the art. It needs to say something to them. If one person sees a bird and another sees a snake, its all the better. What really matters is that that painting reached out and touched something inside that person; a connection is made, a spark is ignited. A painting is matter, matter is energy and energy is life.” Her work is not limited to painting. She works in clay, metal, and most recently stone. “Stone is as old as the earth. I have no plan when I start a new stone piece. I just feel the stone, start to work, and whatever is inside will come out.”
Hooper is also a respected member of the teaching community. She worked with children at Edgehill Center for ten years. In 2004 she was Art Coordinator for HOPE IV, Historic Preston Taylor Homes Community Art Project. Working both as instructor and program coordinator, she was contracted by Entrepreneur Guidance Training Inc. to develop a youth art program, working with “at risk” teenagers daily throughout the summer and arranged an art exhibit at a local gallery at the end of the project. She has also provided photography for the Outreach Program at Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville.
Her work has won numerous awards including Central South Juried Exhibition. She was chosen as one of 87 artists from the state of Tennessee in “Best of Tennessee 2000.” Her familiar style won her best of show at Charish the Kids. First Lady of Tennessee Andrea Conte chose her work as the signature piece for her fundraiser. In 2007 her work was exhibited in the Florence Biennale, in Florence, Italy.
She is co-owner of Hanging Around Inc. Custom Framing, in Nashville, and continues to work from her studio there.