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Eye Candy: Monica Cook

January 13, 2010

I first came across images of Monica Cook’s paintings about four years ago,  her work was published in the July 2005 issue of New American Paintings (issue # 58) and - I am not saying this lightly -  it melted my face.   I immediately went to her website to see more examples of her gorgeous art and I was not disappointed by what I found.   Combining skillfully rendered self-portraiture with pattern and abstracted, atmospheric spaces, Ms. Cooks paintings went a measure or two beyond traditional figurative art and touched upon something emotional and psychological.  I am a sucker for this type of combination, as it happens – I love seeing representational and illusionistic images in paintings that straddle the line of realism while exploring the actual physical properties of the paint itself.  She accomplished that in her work and she did so in such a hauntingly beautiful way.

Well, that was then.  I still love those paintings, but I visited her website recently and Holy Smoking Cats, you should see what she is doing now.

Monica Cook’s newer paintings are somewhat stripped down, compositionally speaking – single and multiple bodies (or portions of bodies) still hold court in her pictures, but they are  juxtaposed against a tonally stark background.  Removed from the decorative and spatially enigmatic backgrounds of her past work, the focus now rests squarely on the shoulders of the figures themselves and Ms. Cook’s work is conceptually richer for it.  As with all things subjective, viewers may take away different interpretations from her work  -  commentary about identity, over-indulgence and carousal registered with me when I first saw these paintings – but then again, that is where my own head has been of late.  Her nudes  are painted in such a way that I feel that I could actually reach out and squeeze the flesh of them – and in doing so, would  feel the pulse beating beneath the skin as well as the perspiration that covers it.  Her more recent work goes to a grotesque place, luring the viewer in with the promise of breasts and limbs and glistening skin, only to find that these figures are  piled on top of each other like meat, sometimes covered in crushed fruit or octopi, their hair and flesh slick with sweat and sticky juice.  

I admire Monica Cook so much for going beyond her formidable skills as a painter (and seriously, these are so gorgeously and masterfully painted) and creating something that resonates on a darker, more complex emotional level than if she had merely made something beautiful.  If you are unfamiliar with her artwork, I highly recommend visiting her webisite and giving her splendid paintings a look.

Monica Cooks work is available at the Marcia Wood Gallery in Atlanta, GA.


4 Responses to “ Eye Candy: Monica Cook ”

  1. Mr. Smarty Pants on January 13, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    And now I shall quote my favorite line from “The Abyss”

    “That is no bullshit, hands down, the Goddamnedest thing I ever saw.”

    Q – How is it humanly possible to write as well as you girls (and guys; Nat) do? All of you. Seriously. Did you guys all take a course or something? This is insanely good writing. I insist that all of you back off the gas a bit and find your inner mediocrity. Otherwise, I’m gonna keep posting about weird symbols and shit so that nobody knows what the hell I’m talking about, much less whether it’s any good or not.

    Well done.

  2. Sara on January 13, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    I would like to write how delicious these works are-what with their flesh tones seeping into aquatic life and said life pushing itself back to balance out flesh, but my face is currently melting off.

  3. Renee on January 13, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Her work reminds me of Jenny Saville (one of my FAVORITE artists) especially the octopus painting. Thanks for introducing me to an amazing new artist-crush.

  4. anncine on January 13, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Amazing post, Jane….Incredible work. I thank you for the introduction. Sadly, I am going through a mind-fuck-block thing and will not post tomorrow, but the following Thursday in it’s stead.