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Alyssa Monks, 1977 | Figurative /Abstract painter

Alyssa Monks is an American painter currently based in Brooklyn.
She specializes in large oil paintings and is recognized both in the United States and Europe for her work featuring figures obscured by water, steam, and vinyl.
Her notable series of work centering around figures in bathrooms, tubs, and showers garnered attention from the worldwide art community and the press.
Alyssa Monks earned her B.A. from Boston College and she studied painting at Lorenzo de' Medici in Florence.

She went on to complete her M.F.A at the New York Academy of Art, Graduate School of Figurative Art in 2001.
She teaches and lectures at universities and institution nation wide, and is an adjunct professor at the New York Academy of Art.

"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 brush stroke like a fossil, recording every gesture and decision".
"Using filters such as glass, vinyl, water, and steam, I distort the body in shallow painted spaces. These filters allow for large areas of abstract design - islands of color with activated surfaces - while bits of the human form peak through.

In a contemporary take on the traditional bathing women, my subjects are pushing against the glass “window”, distorting their own body, aware of and commanding the proverbial male gaze.
Thick paint strokes in delicate color relationships are pushed and pulled to imitate glass, steam, water and flesh from a distance. However, up close, the delicious physical properties of oil paint are apparent.
Thus sustaining the moment when abstract paint strokes become something else".


In Monks' early works the environment comes forward, with some of her paintings featuring interiors without figures, or interiors in which the figure is only a small element. Her eye for these spaces explores the figure as both a form and a place.
As her work evolved, her figures become more complete than their portrait counterparts, as Monks felt that she needed to be “as realistic as possible; It had to be specific and believable” as "this was the place where (she) was isolated and in total control".

While her representation of the figure is often almost perfectly photographic in its depiction, she blurs and fuses layers of space to create immersive abstraction that feels uniquely intimate and provocative; she often includes the use of glass, clear vinyl, water, steam, and shallow spaces to distinguish a nearly invisible line between the foreground and backgrounds of her pieces.
Monks’ most famous pieces come from her decade-long water series, where these elements are the most prevalent and recognizable.

Monk's compositions also exhibit a quality of tension because of the way she of her use of the impasto technique.
However, this specificity and photorealistic detail would not last.
On October 8, 2011, Monks' mother was diagnosed with lung cancer that had spread throughout the rest of her body, succumbing to it a year and three weeks after her diagnosis on October 26, 2012.
When she returned to painting, Smear was one of her first pieces.

"It's like a release of everything that was unravelling in me", she stated.
"That safe, very, very carefully rendered safe place that I created in all of my other paintings was a myth; it didn’t work".
This tragic loss caused Monks to re-evaluate her process entirely, moving from the enclosed space of the bathroom to outside in the woods and integrating a chaotic, abstraction of nature into her work instead of the pristine and controlled layering of space.
She even left paintings outside, exposed to the woods over night, just to see what kind of affect it would have - anything to inspire her to paint again and rekindle her love for art.

In March 2018 a New York Times article was written about Monks' artistic contributions to FX's hit TV show The Americans.
For its final season, Monks created the paintings and drawings used on set for the character Erica, an artist wife of a nuclear arms dealer who is bedridden with cancer. Monks' work can be seen in the background of a critical scene for the final season of the show, in which the main character Elizabeth Jennings enters Erica's bedroom, disguised as an aid.
Elizabeth is known for her inability to show emotion - the use of Monk's paintings was to disrupt this trait and serve as a turning point for the character. The show runners sought paintings for Elizabeth to see which, "unconsciously, like sleeper agents, suggesting the kinds of intense emotions that she will never let herself feel. They had to be realistic, but not too realistic, passionate, but not over the top. They had to look as though they could have been painted in the 1980s".

Monks's paintings have been the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions including "Intimacy" at the Kunst Museum in Ahlen, Germany and "Reconfiguring the Body in American Art, 1820-2009" at the National Academy Museum of Fine Arts, New York.
Her work is represented in public and private collections, including the Savannah College of Arts, the Somerset Art Association and the collections of Howard Tullman, Danielle Steele and Eric Fischl.


Ranked 16 out of 30 in a list of the most influential women artist alive today by the graphic design degree hub.
Awarded the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant for painting in 2003, and 2006.
Won a travel grant from the Forbes Foundation to the Chateaux Balleroy in Normandy, France in 2001. | Source: © Wikipedia

Alyssa Monks è un pittrice astratta del New Jersey.
Dipinge da quando è bambina e durante i suoi studi universitari ha soggiornato a Firenze per un periodo dove ha avuto la possibilità di studiare l’arte Rinascimentale Italiana, attualmente insegna presso la Continuing Education Faculty at the New York Academy of Art, ed istruttrice alla Montclair State University.
La Monks, che attualmente vive e lavora a New York dal 2006, realizza dipinti ad olio incentrando il suo interesse sul corpo umano.

Se inizialmente i soggetti erano persone inserite in ambienti di cui si potevano percepire le caratteristiche (quasi sempre interni di una casa e qualche volta ambienti esterni così circoscritti da sembrare chiusi), le atmosfere bloccate nel tempo, fanno intuire che l'artista stesse attraversando la fase di comprensione della corporeità: il segno pittorico è più pulito ed è come intenzionata a capire il reale peso del corpo nell'elemento "aria" e "acqua", rilevandone quasi "scientificamente" la reazione.

Dalla serie del 2008 invece la ricerca si fa più spasmodica, i volti e i corpi più inquieti, il segno diventa più energico.
Il risultato è un'immagine sfocata, digregata dall'acqua o dal vetro dietro al quale il soggetto si nasconde.
L'ultima serie il vetro distorce sempre di più ogni lineamento tanto da dare a quei volti, le caratteristiche fluttuanti dell'astrazione.