We visited the singular Monica Cook at her big, bright studio in Brooklyn. Working with several different mediums, Monica explores surreal but romanticized themes of flesh and food in her art. We talked about the process behind her animated videos and the unusual materials she uses for her sculptures as she gave us a tactile tour of her imagined world.
Check out some of Monica’s intricate designs available now at The Gift Shop.
You have created a series of intense but realistic portraits. How would you describe your aesthetic?
I’m always trying to challenge myself. I think a lot of the disturbing quality of my work is more about me facing different things in my own life and finding comfort within discomfort.
Do you think your art has evolved since you first started?
Extremely. 5 years ago I was in a place with the paintings where they had gotten so tied to the photograph that I wasn’t having as much fun with the process anymore. I finally started to tap into something that feels more of my own.
Is there a separation between your photography and sculpture in terms of what describes you the best?
They are probably equal but I never show the photographs I take that I paint from. I feel like it’s a secret performance. Photography is the most liberating work I’ve done because it feels very immediate and less precious.
What was the main idea behind your animation video “Deuce?” It’s somewhat disturbing but impossible to stop watching.
I had started building babies that had the female figure with the clear belly so you could see the babies inside her belly and her guts. The storyline was based on what I had to work with and I wanted to have the most simple story line.
What made you transition into 3D?
I used to paint from my imagination and I missed being able to borrow from life. Then I thought, if I build sculptures I can paint from them and have the best of both worlds.
You recently had a show “Milk Fruit” at the Cress Gallery in Chattanooga, how was the turnout?
It was interesting because it was a similar show to what I had at Postmasters. I was surprised how many children were taken by the work.
What made you go into using these complex materials?
I was trying to develop a language with sculpture. I didn’t study it so when I started working a few years ago, it was a blessing because I approached it really blindly.
Where do you collect the materials for your sculptures?
I’m kind of a scavenger. I find a lot of things on the street and trash.
Your paintings remind me of John Currin and Lucian Freud’s work, were you inspired by either of them?
I admire both of their work. But I think I’m more inspired by skin. I wanted to play with the surfaces and textures to try to get across how extremely delicate it is.
Which one do you enjoy more: painting or sculpture?
Hands down sculpture. It’s much more intuitive for me, but I’m saying that now because I haven’t painted in a few years.