Michael Cook was born in Puerto Rico and educated in The United Kingdom and the United States. Upon finishing graduate school he accepted an appointment at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign where he began work on his nuclear and thermonuclear paintings, one the earliest concentrated bodies of work in painting that examined the development and use of the atom by conflating the visual language of alchemical notation and particle physics. Throughout his work Michael Cook has conflated painting pictorial conventions and practice to question their distance from authentic experience. This work and later projects have explored the definition of landscape. Expanding the understanding of ” landscape” beyond the literal image of geography has been at the core of his concerns. He previously held appointments at the University of California, Berkeley and the San Francisco Art Institute before coming to the University of New Mexico. At UC Berkeley he developed and taught the first video classes in the art department. At the University of New Mexico as Associate Dean for Technology he conceptualized and helped implement the Arts Technology Center, which became ArtsLab. Also at UNM he developed “Nature and Technology” an innovative intensive field study class as part of the D.H. Lawrence Ranch Workshops (pioneered by Professors Wenger and Ellis) whose structure has been adopted in a number of department classes.
Michael Cook’s work has been exhibited widely in such venues as The New Museum, New York, The Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe as well as commercial galleries. Exhibitions have received critical attention in The New York Times, Art News, The New Art Examiner, The San Francisco Chronicle and THE Magazine among others. He has been the recipient of a number of awards such as Outstanding Teacher of the Year and a prestigious National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artists Fellowship.