On February 1, multi-media artist Monica Stewart will be recognized at the LVA Honors Luncheon as Emerging Artist of the Year.
Among the foundations of moral education in western society, the fairy tale has fallen somewhat into neglect. Post-modern revisionism is the lens through which we have looked back at this storytelling genre, but Monica Stewart has picked up the thread in ways that both honor the narrative tradition and deliver a fresh take on moral fables.
“In my recent work, I draw on abject imagery from fairy tales to allude to transformation, hybridity, female agency, and dysfunctional familial relationships as well as the magical and grotesque. The quick pace and supernatural imagery of fairy tales create a language that is rife with metaphors and allegories for the ways we experience everyday life. Fairy tales are also particularly strange spaces for women. While often moralizing or, conversely, toppling patriarchal structures, fairy tales repeatedly feature women and girls who exist in liminal places; as both princess and monster, both lucky and unlucky, both free and bound.”
“While personal experiences and observations of these kinds of liminal spaces often provide the impetus for my work, I find uncanny relationships between real life and fiction more often than not. In my search for a place where the complications and trouble of life are addressed, I turned to fairy tales. Fairy tales, like life, are places where families fall apart, fortunes are made and lost, impossible tasks achieved, power dynamics shift, and the unthinkable and the inconceivable occur regularly. As the writer, Rebecca Solnit so succinctly states in The Faraway Nearby, “Fairy tales are about trouble, about getting into and out of it, and trouble seems to be a necessary stage on the route to becoming.””
Thus the rich and prolific imagery and ideas of fairy tales have become part of the visual language I employ in my work to address my own understanding of identity, life, and society. My reliance on paper to achieve this change is in large part due to the familiarity, malleability, and relationship to text that paper has. It may be manipulated in a hundred different ways, it may be made and unmade, as well as utterly transformed. A material that is both simultaneously fragile and strong holds the possibility for endless iterations, endless presentations and tellings of the tale. Papercutting itself also has a relationship with women’s work, leisure activities, and creative labor. Toy-like, tenuous, and tedious, papercutting and paper itself are processes and materials that ally themselves both to the anonymous nature of fairytales, silhouettes, environments that begin to border on the theatrical.”
The imagery and composition in Stewart’s work enchant the viewer by conjuring associations with our own childhood relationships to fairy tales. The use of cut paper emphasizes the clarity and innocence of the tropes even while she frames our understanding of the stories in different ways. The physical presentation exploits the dimensionality of the technique and extends the work into fully sculptural forms.
Stewart will be included in an upcoming show at Swanson Contemporary which is being co-curated by Nicholas Cook and KCJ Szwedzinski, and will be on exhibit February 22nd to March 30th.
Hometown: Louisville Kentucky
Education: BFA, Painting, Murray State University; MFA candidate at the University of Louisville.
 Solnit, Rebecca. (2014). The Faraway Nearby. London: Granta Books, 13.
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Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2018 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved. In addition to his work at the LVA, Keith is also the Managing Editor of a website, Arts-Louisville.com, which covers local visual arts, theatre, and music in Louisville.