Monica Wyatt is enamored of the textures, surfaces, eerie materiality and shapely splendor of overlooked, abandoned, utilitarian objects and their components. She’s especially intrigued when the tactile, reflective, strange bits and bobs are removed from their functional contexts, and gathered together en masse to generate something entirely new. In both singular sculptures and sprawling environmental installations, Wyatt’s elevation of wires, plastics, mechanical and laboratory-looking supplies, gears, bulbs achieves a charming kind of alchemy, in which the accumulated contributions are both transformed and celebrated. Her new work is on view at MorYork.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
MONICA WYATT: There wasn’t one pivotal moment when I knew I was an artist, although I was always artistic. I grew up in a household in which my parents struggled financially, so becoming an artist was never discussed as a career option. During high school I worked as my physicist/inventor dad’s janitor and chief bottle washer. His Dr. Demento-like lab was a wonderland of invention, with petri dishes, test tubes, confounding gizmos, and lasers. Here I witnessed the spirit of creation, making something from nothing, which would come full circle for me many years later.
I graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in English and worked for almost 20 years as a producer/director in television, a career in which I delighted in helping tell other peoples’ stories in 2-D. Shortly after the birth of my second child, I hung up my television spurs to devote myself to my family. I started slowly creating my own stories within shadow boxes for special occasions like anniversaries, birthdays, and Father’s Day. As my creative confidence grew, so did my sculptures and I broke out of the box by constructing bits and bobs into larger scale three-dimensional pieces. Over the last five years I’ve preferred working with enormous numbers of materials and combining and transforming them into sculptural creations.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
I’m an assemblage artist who makes strangely beautiful biomorphic-shaped sculptures out of unconventional materials. I work with ordinary man-made objects — zip ties, hairnets, electrical components, wire — and fuse them sculpturally into pieces that look like they’re a seamless whole.
My process is experimental, intuitive, and begins with inspiration derived from the materials themselves. A recent body of sculpture started with an auction purchase of 5,000 steel sewing machine bobbins. When the retiring sewing supply company owner asked what I was going to do with those, I said, “I have absolutely no idea, but I know that there’s something there.” And then I let the materials sit and build up energy…until I’m roused to start exploring and transforming anew.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
My first career as a television producer was in Los Angeles. I met my husband in that world and we’ve raised a family here. Now, during my second chapter, I’m thankful to live in this robust city as an art participant, spectator, and a member of an extraordinary art community…wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!
When was your first show?
My first show was at Gallery 825 in 2013. I felt like I had just won the lottery when Timothy Yarger juried me into a group show called Radical Stimulus.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
I have a solo exhibition called c u r i o u s e r at MorYork Gallery in Highland Park which runs until May 7. Most of the pieces were created during the pandemic and I’m thrilled to be exhibiting them in MorYork, a kaleidoscopic 7,000 square foot space in which my creations cohabite with gallery owner and artist Clare Graham’s.
I’m deep down the rabbit hole with my exploration of materials in this show, where I can take them, and how they converse in concert with Clare’s. MorYork is a Los Angeles hidden gem, a massive cabinet of curiosities that is usually closed to the public. But I’ll be there with doors wide open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-5pm and Saturdays from noon-4pm (and folks can email me through my website for appointments at other times).
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
I would love to work with Eva Hesse…you need to know there wasn’t a moment of hesitation answering that question, though I would insist that we both wear respirators!
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
I sometimes listen to music when I work, but I’m admittedly an audible book addict. I’ve loved too many to list, but some favorites include Where the Crawdads Sing, The Book Thief, Small Great Things, The Power of One, The Elephant Whisperer, and City of Thieves. And I’m always appreciative of new suggestions!
Website and social media handles, please!
FB: Monica Wyatt Art