An Afternoon with Monica
Were you born and raised in BK? What’s your background?
I was born in Santiago, Dominican Republic and moved to the Bronx, in 2001, and have been living there since, though my art studio is in Brooklyn.
What creative projects are you working on at the moment?
Currently, I’m working on some more large scale oil paintings and some smaller works. I all of a sudden have a bunch of shows coming up, which is always a major goal as a young artist, but the pressure is on! So I paint daily, while also have the opportunity to model and collaborate with brands on the side.
What made you realize painting was your passion?
I come from a creative family, my mom always painted growing up, my aunt, Rosa Tavarez, is a well known artist in the Dominican Republic, a lot of my family can play instruments or draw. When moving to this country, however, survival becomes priority, so creativity wasn’t the focus. I tried to want to do other things, especially when I first started college, but making art was the only thing that felt worthwhile. It took years for things to click though (sometimes it still doesn’t). When I finally found materials that allowed me to express coherently after experimenting with a lot of other mediums, that’s when purpose and intention became clearer. My passion was always there but it was timid, but through years of trial and error, I can now shine outwardly and confidently.
Your work is so female focused and has a very vulnerable feeling about it. Where you get inspiration for your work?
My work is rooted in my constant desire to be honest with myself even if I’m cringing while I paint. I get inspiration from never seeing myself represented in history and media. A canvas is a surface that is inherently presentational so it gives me the opportunity to speak and be seen. I choose to paint because I can engage with my past and the present, and paint a reality that’s been suppressed: the existence of black and brown bodies, and how they engage with sex, sexuality, religion, guilt, the world? I am still building that language, but it’s becoming clearer with every new work.
What inspires you the most in your life?
Honesty and transparency inspires me the most. Experiencing emotions and translating them visually/ creating visual experiences that translate into emotions. Also, people seeing themselves seen in my work, was something that I didn’t start out thinking about, but now I meet people often that appreciate feeling represented, so that has been really pushing me lately. Has been giving me more purpose.
If you could be remembered for one thing, what would you want it to be?
This is a tough one. If I could be remembered for one thing, it would probably be versatility/ experimentation, and clarity within that. Though my paintings are pretty cohesive, I’ve done a lot of different things, and will continue to grow and explore. I don’t like to feel limited or boxed in, I want to live many full lives.
The most amazing place you've ever been?
The most amazing place I’ve ever been so far has probably been France. I’ve had so many good experiences in different cities, there I learned that I can slow down and life doesn’t fall apart. To enjoy the simplicity of the everyday.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
Five years from now, I’ll be 28/29. It’s hard to tell because things I thought were so far, are now happening, so given that, I can’t even begin to fully understand what could happen in the next couple years, and that is really exciting. I hope by then, I’m more settled in and can create with less obstacles around. With the crazy (good) month I’m having, I honestly don’t know, we’ll see, either way, I know I’ll be alright.
Muse: Mónica Hernández
Photographer: Ali Mitton