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'From What I Remember/From What I Forget'

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Interview with Alyssa Monks, Brooklyn NY
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Alyssa Monks Circle
Alyssa Monks, 'Circle'
Broadstreetstudio would like to thank Ms. Monks for taking the time to participate in this interview!

Question 1:
What was the deciding factor to become an artist?
Alyssa Monks:
"There wasn't really much of a decision. It kind of "chose" me. It's just what I did all along and who I was, so pursuing it wasn't really a choice but more the obvious route. There was some resistance and risk involved, but I always figured I could be someone's assistant or wait tables if I had to."
Question 2:
How were you trained as an artist/ Is there anyone particular that you mentored under?
Alyssa Monks:
"I took many classes throughout my elementary and highschool education. I majored in fine art in college. But the biggest learning curve came at the New York Academy of Art. I studied under Vincent Desiderio, he was the reason I went to the school. He answered all my questions about painting in the first 30 minutes of the first class and gave me about a million more questions at the same time. I learned basics from John DeMartin, drawing the figure from Deane Keller, conceptual thinking from John Jacobsmeyer, figure structure from John Horn, some painting techniques from Wade Schuman, color and application from Jenny Saville, and countless other professors and guest lecturers influenced me. The education didn't stop at graduation though. As Phillip Pearlstein said at graduation, one must now "unlearn" all that has been taught. Putting it all together in the 9 years since and going forward is an ongoing challenge. It keeps it interesting. "
Alyssa Monks Smush
Alyssa Monks, 'Smush'
Question 3:
What present medium/s do you use to create your artwork/ what is your technique?
Alyssa Monks:
"I use oil paint on linen currently, sometimes panel. I use photography as a way to compose and create color ideas and then imagination and memory and instinct to create the final product."
Question 4:
Is there any specific meaning or conceptual reasons you work in the medium you use?
Alyssa Monks:
"I use oil paint because it makes sense to me. Since I first smelled it when I was 9 years old, I feel a comfort and familiarity and just plain fascination with the stuff. I try to sculpt things with paint, and it lends itself beautifully to that concept."
Alyssa Monks Soft
Alyssa Monks, 'Soft'
Question 5:
What contemporary event do you feel most inspires your work?
Alyssa Monks:
" Well I don't think I consciously look to contemporary events for inspiration but there is no way to escape one's own surroundings. There is mostly a response happening in my work to the art world and the art "history" currently being formed. I want to find a new figuration that can be born out of the abstraction and deconstruction that occurred during the 20th century. This and furthering the emerging voice of the female artist, which is more powerful now than ever."
Question 6:
) Is your work in any way driven by political events?
Alyssa Monks:
"Not particularly."
Question 7:
What kind of emotions /feelings/ questions do you want a viewer to leave your work with?
Alyssa Monks:
"I try not to force a particular emotional response. I prefer to keep the facial expressions ambiguous, like the moments between clear feelings or thoughts. In this way, the conversation is ongoing; the facial expression can change and suggest rather than impose. What I do want to highlight is that delicate line where paint becomes something else, as David Elkins suggests "the moment of distillation". It is a fantastic line to suspend, where paint is still paint and is just turning into an illusion, a piece of flesh or hair or water. This is something that has to be seen in life, not in a reproduction or in a 3x5 jpeg on a screen. It's that moment where the abstract becomes real and I want to suggest that there is no difference between the two."
Question 8:
How do you feel you break from other representational artwork?
Alyssa Monks:
"I think that the tension between reality and abstraction is the truth. It is what life is in a nutshell. Nothing is what it seems to be, and sometimes, it is exactly all it seems to be. But we decide what our realities are. Our brains naturally abstract things in reality in order to understand them, learn them, recognize them, etc. So in a way I'm trying to portray that "reality". Painting is all experimentation and I challenge myself to do new things with paint. There is a process and some things don't really change much, but some things always change and that's what makes it engaging for me. I'm not a machine. I have only some idea what will come of each decision in a painting I make, and I enjoy that. I believe this is why painting has stuck around all these years. There is no replacing the intimate filter of the human mind and hand in translating "reality". Reality isn't' slick or smooth or without texture...so I don't paint it that way. Reality is full of misunderstandings and mistakes and unpredictability and inconsistencies and ugliness as well as beauty - so is paint. It works out well.

Bathing is a common subject matter in art history for sure, and it will always be. It allows for a lot of great moments in painting...fleshiness, water and all its weirdness and unpredictability, great colors and reflections, movement....but it would be boring to just paint it again and again without adding anything new or re-presenting it from a different perspective. This is what I'm trying to do. I like that I can follow in the traditions of Degas and Picasso and others, but my women are different. I have a woman's perspective, a woman's psychology, a woman's ownership of her body that comes through in my work - I hope.

In addition I would add that I bring to the process a facility rooted in traditional realism and I have deconstructed that technique and experimented with paint since my education in the last 9 years to create a surface that is constantly flipping from abstraction and realism when you see the work in person. You can't deny you are looking at paint, and the paint is commanding and has as many characteristics as human beings themselves. My goal is to activate the paint into an orchestra of techniques that work together, and sometimes work against each other."
Alyssa Monks Rain
Alyssa Monks, 'Rain'
Question 9:
What figure and or artist do you feel you are most inspired by?
Alyssa Monks:
"Vincent Desierio, Alex Kanevsky, Jenny Saville, Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Rembrandt, Sorolla, Pollock, Picasso, Eric Fischl."
Question 10:
How do you develop or come up with the ideas that drive your work?
Alyssa Monks:
"I don't try to focus on a narrative or story or emotion or message. I like the ideas to flow organically and not forced. I focus on a surface that interests me and challenges me to learn something new about painted space. Then I think about it constantly in all the empty spaces during my day. Every now and then something comes to me: a new material, a new color, a new scenario, a new element to add to the mix. I experiment with bringing it to life and it snowballs from there."
Alyssa Monks Wake
Alyssa Monks, 'Wake'
Question 11:
Do you have any specific directions that you either are planning to take or are going to take with your artwork?
Alyssa Monks:
"I want to see how far I can push reality to the other side where the "real" is still recognizable, but becoming totally abstract. I want to see how far I can push both the real and the abstract at the same time, into one another, building that tension until they are just one and the same."
Question 12:
What important advice would you give to your students or a young aspiring artist?
Alyssa Monks:
"Skills are very important, but nowhere near enough to make art. Definitely acquire the skills through whatever practice and education you choose and embrace it with discipline but have no attachment to success. Work as hard as you can. Don't ever compare yourself to others. Learn how to work on your work. The more you paint or sculpt or draw the more you will know what to do and the more you will develop your voice. Stay true in your work. Don't try to make art about things you don't know about, care about, or understand. Make art that you care about, because you believe it should exist. Know your place and be humble and grateful always. It's a competitive world and most people will not succeed, that is the reality. It's not an easy road and too many artists complain constantly about how it's not fair and it's not merit based. These are excuses. Take ownership of your work. Never show anything that isn't completed. And don't try to describe your ideas in words to other people, be a little bit brief and coy about them, you can never really convey anything visual in words anyway. And share your process and work with other artists you admire, allow for real criticism, don't take it personally, just let it make you better. Read art magazines and learn about the art world. Know your history. Love art. Love your materials. Let your materials humble and surprise you. Don't try to control the process but do have a plan. plan plan plan...then be open to surprises and twists. Be fascinated. Find a job that can sustain you and leave you a bit of time to make work, but doesn't require any creativity. I'd suggest not even taking a job in the art world. I was an administrative assistant all over NYC in different temp jobs to sustain myself. Don't wait till you have the perfect studio to make your best work. Make the best of your space and do whatever you have to do to make it work. It will be decades before your find the perfect space, if ever. Ask questions. Be kind. Be respectful always. Don't burn bridges. Have a website. Share your work. Take the feedback with a grain of salt. Read art books. "What painting is" by James Elkins. "Art and Fear", a great essay about being an artist. Be patient with the art world, and impatient with yourself. Write your artist statement, mostly to clarify your intent for yourself."