By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Cooper says that when she met Harris at a museum event, "he was, like, 'Oh, yeah, that would be so awesome if you would do that for us.'"
Soon afterward Cox told Cooper she'd be doing the reconstruction in a place viewed by the public. But just before she began the project, she was told to work in a nonpublic backroom instead — "only because they don't want to confuse people" by working on human bones in a facility that houses animal bones, aside from La Brea Woman. "That was her reasoning. It wasn't like they wanted to hide it from the public," Cooper says.
Cooper worked from the cast, with the real skeleton beside it. Staff members, including some supervisors, stopped by to take pictures — some telling her that the project was going to be featured in the museum newsletter.
By last August, with the drawings complete, the plan was for Cooper to meet with Harris and Chris Shaw, the Page collections manager, to decide, according to Cooper, how to display the drawings.
This is when Cooper says things got weird. Despite repeated e-mails from Cooper to Harris and Shaw over three months, neither of them responded. Finally, Cooper asked why she was being ignored.
"When I finally got a response from Harris, he said, 'What are you talking about? We were doing you a favor by letting you even see the skull.' So I told him that 'This is my work. You didn't have me sign any papers. If you don't want to display it, that's your choice, I'm going to show it on my own.'" In that same e-mail, Cooper informed Harris that she quit. She then posted the images on her Web site and went public with the story.
In a prepared statement, Harris slams the artist, saying, "Ms. Cooper chose to violate her agreement with the Page Museum and publish her work for her own commercial gain."
But Cooper notes that she sold only a handful of her drawings, and only when people sought her out. "Forensic artists rarely, if ever, do commercial work," she says. "It's all about history, education and helping crime victims."
Indeed, both Sanchez and Alvitre are grateful for the reconstruction. Says Alvitre, "I appreciate what this woman did. She's brought a face to something that's been such a mystery."
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