Ones to Watch 2017: artist Monica Kim Garza
It’s Nice That’s Ones to Watch is our chance to showcase 12 creatives who we think will be making an impact in 2017. The people featured have been whittled down from a global pool of creative talent and have been chosen for their ability to consistently produce inspiring and engaging work. Each one practices across a diverse range of disciplines and continually pushes the boundaries of their creative output. Ones to Watch 2017 is supported by Uniqlo.
We caught up with each of our Ones to Watch, to talk about their work so far and their hopes for the year to come.
Artist Monica Kim Garza is a truly global phenomenon. Born to a Korean mother and a Mexican and Native American father, since studying painting and drawing at California College of Arts in San Francisco, the 28-year old illustrator, sculptor and painter has lived in Korea, travelled to continents including South East Asia and South America, moved to Brooklyn and then, disheartened by snow (“it was killing my mood!”), a year and a half ago, she finally returned to her hometown Atlanta, Georgia. There, she now makes predominantly paintings of nude characters. Monica’s work is powerful for her ability to conjure up arrestingly intimate portraits exploring the female form in 2017, all executed in colours so tropical that looking at them is like experiencing a one-minute trip to somewhere sunny.
Given her desire to travel, it makes perfect sense that Monica’s work is very much centred around identity and memory. “In college I was making the character that’s in my paintings, except for it was more geometric looking, more cartoon-y, squared off I guess. I came up with it intrinsically, just from my own culture and my image… When I moved to New York I would paint in my free time. I feel like maybe it was more of an explosion of all my life experience that I went through and never painted or never made images of. So a lot of it honestly is just memories. Memories from my life, so maybe that’s why it feels like longing, because it was stuff that I did in the past or it was stuff that I missed. The character’s just simply an evolution of the character that I used to make it college. It’s not me, but in a sense it’s my culture and who I am.”
As for her inspirations, Monica says that “life is the most inspiring for me. The beauty in nature and mundane things. Colour and shape. Music and food. Relationships and human interactions. I also really love Caravaggio and Courbet. My own culture inspires me too.”
Despite the fact that Monica’s work has been shared many thousands of times across the internet, made it into the pages of some of our favourite publications including the latest copy of Riposte and even got her invited to Art Basel with V1 Gallery, Monica sees her work as a very much personal process. “I love art so much… and the purpose for me is just kind of an extension of myself. A freedom for myself. I feel like we should let our minds interpret ideas freely and I like the idea of people seeing what they want, whether it be my intention or not.”
Monica feels like she is still painting her way to success. “I think maybe online it seems like I am succeeding but actually for a year and a half, and actually even now… It’s not how I used to be living [when she was working full time]. But at the same time, it took me a long time to be like, I have a dream and I just want to achieve my goals. Money isn’t really the motivating factor, it’s just my dream.” And as for 2017? “I really don’t know,” Monica admits. “I live and work day by day, so I am grateful when any opportunities come my way. I’m trying to get more visibility with my work and share it with the public and keep growing as a human being and artist. I’m hoping each year will continue to be a growth for me.” We hope so too.