Kelly Monson, Open Mind, Open Face

Those of you who know Live Art Wednesdays, know Kelly Monson and her work. You probably know her as one of the youngest members of the group, but also as one of the most mature artistic voices there as well. Next week at Zza’s Wine Bar (Oakland, 550 Grand Ave) we are pleased  to host the first solo show of Kelly’s work. The show is called “Defaced”. Please come to the reception, July 9th, 2011, Saturday, 6pm to 9pm. Below is an quick interview to introduce you to her mode of artmaking.

Obi: I’ve known you and your art for a while now and can’t wait to see what you have been doing in preparation for this, the first solo show of your work. How have you been preparing? What are the themes you’ve been working with?

Kelly: I’d say that the theme I’ve been working with has been pretty consistent throughout this year. A lot of my preparation involves scribbling in my sketchbook, psychoanalyzing myself and watching horror movies. The work in my show is kind of split up between graphite / ink and colored pencil, but I consider the overall theme to be consistent – I depict the human figure and also distort it, deface it in a way using collage or a particular drawing style, which conveys a metaphor for what’s going on inside the body, psychologically or spiritually.

Obi: I know you studied art in Chicago for bit. How does your experience there effect your life as a young artist here? Do you think you would be making the same type of art anywhere?

Kelly: My experience in Chicago had really changed me. I went in as a painter, obsessed with traditional oils and a very specific kind of expressionistic style. My education at SAIC broke that all down. For a while, I hardly painted at all, and whatever paintings I did make there were absolutely terrible. I did learn a lot about conceptual art and the thinking behind art-making, which really improved my ability to give my work meaning, but it was only after I transferred out that I started regularly making 2D art again, and I think my abilities have changed drastically, in a good way. I know a lot more about what I’m doing.

photo of the artist Kelly Monson, courtesy of the artist

Obi: You work mostly with pencil, your figurative work seems about subtraction, the empty spaces, the body as a landscape. Has this always been the case? When you dream of your art in the future, do you imagine working in a different way? Is there ever a plan?

Kelly: I think the nature of my work has always been the same ever since I started seriously learning art, although I haven’t always worked with pencil. I think that eventually I’d like to get back to painting, but I’ve been on a break from painting for a very long time – there’s a certain point where a person needs to step back from their old paradigms and start approaching things from a new perspective, to gain more insight. I’m always open to tackling new ideas and methods, but I don’t think there’s a “plan” necessarily. If I had a solid plan for where my work was going, I would be restricting myself to that plan, and not keeping an open mind.

for more information, visit the artist’s website at

  1. The first image is perfectly -almost violently- ambiguous and very strong.. hope to see more.

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