Women overflowing with joy a for life who enjoy themselves without restraint. Often completely naked, always confident. They sit at a table tasting freshly grilled food, stand at the bar and calmly smoke long cigarettes, twerk, enjoy sex, relax on a deck chair by the pool, get a foot massage while cuddling with their cat, but most of all - do sport. They chase a football, jump to the net deflecting a volleyball spike shot, play golf, lift weights, fly over the table to playback the table tennis ball, swim in the ocean, jump high to perform a slam dunk.
Monica Kim Garza understands the importance of the connection between mind and body and shows that understanding through her masterful painting expression. In an interview for Juxtapoz magazine, she stated: “It’s amazing to see what athletes can do with their mind and body. It takes a lot of dedication to be a great athlete, and I love and respect that. I also like working out for my own mind and body. Sometimes I paint those actions because I’m genuinely interested in the act of it, as well as the new scenes or shapes I can create. Everything allows you to explore other ideas in painting when you switch scenes.”
If you know what Monica looks like, it becomes obvious at first glance that she shares features with the figures in her paintings. We look at her doppelgangers, her mirror and her soulmates. Attractive brown women refer to her cultural heritage (her mother is Korean and her father is Mexican). And while are her full-bodied characters often compared to Gaugin’s Tahitians, they don’t emanate that kind of colonial distress. On the contrary, Garza cherishes them beautifully, places them in happy situations and gives them freedom. Usually, she draws from her life and experiences she considers interesting. When someone asks Monica if she intentionally presents a body-positive approach in her work she always answers neutrally: she likes to leave space for fantasy and personal interpretation.
Garza also encourages fantasy in the use of the paintings’ technique. Both the characters and the surrounding environments are created by seemingly quick, inexorably desperate gestures of the brush which only go into so much detail that they allow for our fantasy to work with full force. Along with the figures, colour and specific shapes play an integral role in her works. When in the studio, she says she likes to work on multiple paintings at once: „I work on about four to eight paintings on rotation because I have a lot of ideas and want to chop through them.“ She often lets (un)happy accidents take the role of a tool for creating new original shapes and themes. Garza works with oil paint, she layers and builds up her canvases with strong strokes of the brush which culminate in a tactile texture.
Garza has been painting since childhood but growing up in the small American town of Georgia, studying art seemed utopian. In an interview for Artsy, she said: “When I heard about people studying art in school—we didn’t have that. It was just sports.” She visited her first art exhibition at 18 with her father who encouraged her work. After, she left for San Francisco where she studied painting at the California College of the Arts. Until then she based her figures on a thorough examination of the works of old masters, like Tizian and Michelangelo.
However, rather than hard work, her school valued good relations with the teachers, which Monica disliked. Even though she graduated in 2010, her studies left her so frustrated that she didn’t pick up a brush again for several years. Eventually, she became dissatisfied with her everyday life and work and returned to painting. Soon her work drew attention and in 2015 she launched her first solo exhibition at New Image Art in West Hollywood. She has also exhibited in Europe where she took part in a group exhibition at V1 Gallery in Copenhagen.