Break­ing Point

Alyssa Monks’ re­cent ex­hi­bi­tion at Fo­rum Gallery high­lights the de­vel­op­ment of her art­work.

American Art Collector - - Unveiling - BY JOHN O’HERN

Alyssa Monks says, “I strive to cre­ate a mo­ment in a paint­ing where the viewer can see or feel them­selves, iden­tify with the sub­ject, even be the sub­ject, con­nect with it as though it is about them, per­son­ally.”

Her paint­ings around 2005 were highly ren­dered. She says, “When I be­gan paint­ing the hu­man body, I was ob­sessed with it and needed to cre­ate as much re­al­ism as pos­si­ble. I chased re­al­ism un­til it be­gan to un­ravel and de­con­struct it­self. I am ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity and po­ten­tial where rep­re­sen­ta­tional paint­ing and ab­strac­tion meet—if both can co­ex­ist in the same mo­ment.”

Her most rec­og­nized paint­ings are fig­ures in the small con­fines of a shower seen through wa­ter and steam coated glass, im­mersed in a mo­ment of pri­vacy and in­ti­macy with cleans­ing and re­viv­i­fy­ing wa­ter. The dis­tor­tions of wa­ter and glass push the im­ages to­ward ab­strac­tion.

The death of her mother from can­cer five years ago jolted her sense of se­cu­rity but opened her to a feel­ing for the beauty in all of life from the sen­su­ous shower to the aw­ful­ness of dy­ing.

She be­gan to paint the land­scape, let­ting the paint ex­press it­self, free of her con­scious con­trol. An ex­pan­sive space evolved in that cre­ative process. She later re­turned to the fig­ure and al­lowed it to be part of the ex­pan­sive­ness. Her fig­ures now are shown in a mo­ment as her early fig­ures were, se­cure as they were, but now full of in­fi­nite pos­si­bil­ity.

She says, “My in­ten­tion is to trans­fer the in­ti­macy and vul­ner­a­bil­ity of my hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence into a painted sur­face. I like mine to be as in­ti­mate as pos­si­ble, each brush­stroke like a fos­sil, record­ing ev­ery ges­ture and de­ci­sion.”

Her lat­est work was re­cently shown in the ex­hi­bi­tion Break­ing Point at Fo­rum Gallery in New York. She has re­fined her idea of the mo­ment as the time “be­tween feel­ings or ex­pres­sions. Some emo­tion or ex­pe­ri­ence is just start­ing to hit the sub­ject or just about to leave.”

Her dis­cov­ery of the qual­i­ties of paint and

sur­face have merged with her abil­ity to make her fig­ures real, cre­at­ing im­ages in which fig­ure, ground, space and the nat­u­ral world blend to­gether as an ele­men­tal unity. Her women are re­al­iz­ing their strength, ready to break through so­ci­ety’s con­straints.

In her paint­ing Kali, the fig­ure emerges from the richly ex­pres­sive paint as a force of na­ture, rep­re­sent­ing the Hindu mother god­dess—de­stroyer and cre­ator.

The vines in Tan­gled and other paint­ings sug­gest en­tan­gle­ment and vul­ner­a­bil­ity on one hand but also ap­pear to be veins and ar­ter­ies sup­ply­ing nour­ish­ment and car­ry­ing away waste, mak­ing the woman’s body strong. She is get­ting ready to break free.

Monks makes re­al­ism and ab­strac­tion co­ex­ist in one mo­ment just as strength and weak­ness do, power and vul­ner­a­bil­ity, beauty and ug­li­ness. The ob­server can only see one at a time, but the sub­ject is both. Monks’ ab­strac­tion re­veals a deeper re­al­ity. Robert Fishko, di­rec­tor of Fo­rum Gallery, writes, “In this body of work, Alyssa Monks touches the in­ner­most nerves of her of her sub­jects and of the viewer as well, with works that en­gage, con­front and com­pel in bold syn­chrony. The sub­jects are women, in­di­vid­u­als but so­cial be­ings, suf­fused, as is the artist, with bound­less en­ergy and lim­it­less pas­sion, al­ways aware of the at­ten­tion they com­mand yet know­ing that their sacred, per­sonal spa­ces must re­main so.”

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