meet an artist mondayEmerging from dynamic layers of paint and other mediums, applied, distressed, applied again; embedded with texts, figures, and raw expressive gestures, the message in artworks by Monica Marks is ultimately about healing—and so is her own creative process.Throughout her career, her interest in art has always been entwined with her practice as a therapist, engaged in how the power of art amplified her work in healing others; in the past several years, she’s steadily redeployed these skills in a program of healing herself. Her latest exhibition opens in downtown Los Angeles this weekend, presenting new works that explore the disconnect between who we are on the inside and who we pretend to be in public out of fear, guilt, shame, or a simple lack of confidence. Through her agitated color fields, affecting textures, and power words, Marks seeks integration and transcendence based in honesty and emotional freedom.

monica marks

Monica Marks: Spring Back, Mixed Media on Wood, 28 x 48 in

L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?

MONICA MARKS: In elementary school my friends saw that I could draw profiles and Mickey Mouse heads and asked me to teach them how to do it; I realized then that drawing was the one thing I could do better than anyone my age. When I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was always “Artist, and…” For example, artist and writer, artist and singer, artist and nurse… but always, artist. In fact, my first day of middle school in art class, when the teacher asked us to draw what we wanted to be when we grew up, I drew a building with a big sign on it, and on the sign I wrote the words “Hallmark and Rickler” (my maiden name). I never had a doubt about who I was.

No Body Love Mixed media on Wood 36x36 1

Monica Marks: No Body Love, Mixed media on Wood, 36 x 36 inches

What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?

I shine a light on the things we want to hide. We all wear masks, we all have a public and private face, and an inner and outer persona. We often try to hide the publicly unacceptable parts of ourselves, and those are the things I want to show, whether it’s an Invisible Disability or the undesirable bodies we hide under our clothes. I use assemblage, found objects, paint, and sculpture to shine this light.

 

What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?

I worked many years in the mental health field as a licensed family therapist and registered art therapist, balancing that life with my art life and home life. From 2009 to 2019 I was in a supervisory position running the clinical department of a special education school; it was so all-consuming that I stopped creating my own art. It was during the pandemic that I found the time to return to creating, and by 2023 I was a full-time artist. My work in the mental health field informs my work as an artist; if I wasn’t an artist, I would still be working in the mental health field.

Giving Voice to the Voiceless 36x36 1

Monica Marks: Giving Voice to the Voiceless, 36×36 in

Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?

I graduated from CalState Northridge with a degree in 2D Art. But an introductory Art Therapy class in my junior year changed the trajectory of my career, and after graduation I went directly to Loyola Marymount University for my master’s in clinical art therapy. I continued creating my own art, working in the graphic arts field, and started using art therapy as a tool in the mental health community. Most of what I do now is creative experimentation and self-exploration; I never want to stop learning and trying new things.

 

Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. When I was little my dad took me to LACMA and my mom drove me to Barnsdall Art to take classes. I’m very connected to my family and now to my “art family” which is the art community of Los Angeles. I have a small studio in the backyard of our home, and I do a lot of driving, seeing other artists, art, and being involved in group exhibitions. I’ve found the L.A. Art Community to be very supportive and I feel like I can really be myself here.

Speak Your Truth Mixed Media on Canvas 36 x 48

Monica Marks: Speak Your Truth, Mixed Media on Canvas, 36 x 48 in

When was your first show?

My first show, “What We Hide: An Exploration of Invisible Disabilities and Identities,” was in 2021, curated by Kristine Schomaker at Shoebox Projects. At my house, we transformed our newly enclosed sunroom into a small gallery so that, in addition to the online exhibition, I would have a physical space to invite people to see. My work in that show was vulnerable and challenged attendees to explore what they chose to keep secret and what they chose to reveal. The response to the show was overwhelmingly positive.

 

When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?

I am thrilled to work with Shoebox Projects once again for my new show, “Inside Voices,” which opens on Sunday, January 14th from 3-5pm at the Shoebox space at the Brewery Artist Lofts. The show runs until February 3 and is open by appointment after the opening. “Inside Voices” are the thoughts we hold internally about the world around us. In the series I created for this show, I took my inside voices and let them out in layers of paint. The base layers are hidden over and over again, playing with translucency and opacity, until the final layers reflecting personal growth and more positive affirmations. These pieces represent the power and strength of inside voices and how influential they can be.

Real Women Have Power Mixed Media on Wood 36 x 48

Monica Marks: Real Women Have Power, Mixed Media on Wood, 36 x 48 in

Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?

I’m addicted to public radio and often listen to LAist while I’m working. If I feel like listening to music it’s really whatever feels right at the moment. My tastes are so eclectic I don’t think Spotify knows what to do with me; I like Big Band, New Alternative, Old Country and Bluegrass, Musicals, Folk, Classic Rock… I could fill the page with options, and it really depends on my mood. Sometimes, though, I need the silence, especially if I’m working outside on the patio in front of my studio. Sometimes my music is simply the occasional airplane overhead, the mourning birds on the power lines behind our house, a leaf blower nearby, or the laughter of kids playing in the yard just on the other side of the wall where my studio is.

 

Website and social media handles, please!

Web: MonicaMarksArt.com

IG/Threads: @monicamarksart

FB: MonicaMarksArt

 

WIP PC Amanda Marks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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