|Some photos courtesy of Chanel Eakins|
A once avid attendee of the Downtown LA Artwalk, I came across Katie Monahan's paintings on several occasions, always with sheer enthusiasm. What immediately caught my eye were the series of Reflections pieces done in black acrylic paint & shards of mirror from her Figures in Line collection. I'm always intrigued by things that reflect the juxtaposition between hard and soft or feminine and masculine, so for me it was love at first sight! During my last visit to the artwalk I visited her show again, this time having the chance to experience a few of her newer works like Girl in a Yellow Dress, Baggage, and Intact. I knew at that moment that I had to do a post on Katie. While fashion is an art form, I feel as if she's created a beautiful world right on the line between fashion and art. Combining one-part fashion illustration and one-part fine art, to produce beautiful works that are enjoyed by fashionites and art enthusiast alike.
Checkout my interview and hopefully you'll discover who Katie Monahan really is... For me, she's like that one really awesome charismatic friend who's so down to earth and just simply following her dreams. You can't help but to be inspired by her!
Irene of I.C.Fashion: What was it like for you growing up? Did your parents nurture your creativity?
Katie Monhan: Yes, I took art classes and some community classes. My Mom is an antique collector and my Grandma was a docent at the Detroit Institute of Art museum, so art was always in my community. Although my family enjoyed art, it wasn't looked at as a sustainable lifestyle. In high school and college, I wondered if I could make the transition into doing something that I loved versus a more sustainable career. I definitely had the exposure and that's where I was able to make to make the decision for myself.
ICF: Are you living your childhood dream?
KM: Absolutely! I recently reread some of my journals from 7th and 8th grade and realized that I had the same mentality now that I did then. I wrote things like “I love painting. I love art. I have a sense that I might want to be an artist, but i don't really know what that means. Everyone else knows what they want to do..." It wasn’t until much later that I realized this was something that I wanted to do.
ICF: What was the first piece you created that made you believe you could have a career in art?
KM: It was a piece I made in college in my first ever class that I took for painting. The assignment was to pick an artist work and then re create it. I found this painting by Tom Knetchel who does a lot of really detailed narrative with all these different figures and creatures going on. I felt very drawn to the kind of juxtaposition of the painting, it’s almost like a collage; it was super detailed and we had a week and a half to complete it. At some point while making that painting, I realized this is the only thing that I have patience for. Nothing else gave me the patience. So I figured if I could persevere, I’m going to find a way do this full time.
ICF: Do you feel as if you’ve made it? If not, what do you envision as your “moment”?
KM: My realization has shifted. I no longer see my entrance as an artist as getting to a particular level. More and more I realize that this is just a journey. It’s something I’m taking day by day. There’s going to be some good days and some better days. It’s no one defining moment, as much as I hope that when I get to my death bed I want to be able to look back on my life and my painting and experience and say I did good. This is the way I wanted to live.
ICF:A lot of us “creatives” are uncomfortable with labels like “artist” “designer” etcetera. Are you comfortable with being called an artist?
KM: All the way through school, I was the kid that people would say, ‘Oh my god she’s such an artist’ and I would say ‘No I’m not’. Even after college, when I was painting and showing, I still had to transition into that. Now I’m more confident about calling myself an artist. If you are somebody who is interested in art, there's a certain level of respect that comes with that term. Maybe you want to emulate certain things before you feel like you’re at that point, but you don’t feel like you deserve that title. Now that I’m full time, I feel like I can say yes I am an artist with confidence.
ICF: When I look at your work, I see a lot of fashion inspiration. I feel as if it should be featured in Vogue, maybe as special edition prints. Are you inspired by fashion?
KM: Yes, I love fashion. I love clothing. I love movement. When I started painting I did all of my figures nude and bald. Then I moved into anatomy, then into hair, and into clothing. It’s been kind of a transition, and I wanted to move slowly enough to understand what my intention is in my paintings. I fear that with clothing represented in a painting, they become so time particular, economic or cultural. I didn’t want to take [it] into that direction. But, I would love to do Vogue! When you get that phone number, I will absolutely accept the offer!
ICF: What about collaborating with a fashion brand or company to do a marketing campaign like Stephen Sprouse and Louis Vuitton?
KM: One of my interest in painting is heavily in texture which I think will translate into fabric. If I ever met anyone that was interested in doing that, I would love to work with them.
ICF: Your art is presently on view at the Hellada Gallery here in Long Beach, do you have any other exhibitions coming up?
KM: I will be a guest artist at the Power of Art show October 21st- 23rd (http://www.redondobeachartgroup.org/), which is located in an old power plant where Transformers and the Terminator were filmed. It’s a really cool space! Also, I'll be showing in Westwood and again at the DTLA Artwalk.
ICF: What do you have planned for the future? Would you like to venture into other forms of art?
KM: I have a passionate love affair with ceramics. It’s like my mistress! I have ideas for glass projects that would translate the fluidity and motion in my paintings into sculptures. However, I feel like I'm always going to come back to painting.
ICF: I’m a huge fan of Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods show on the Travel Channel and you mentioned that you love traveling. What are your favorite places to travel and what is the weirdest thing you’ve eaten along the way?
KM: I would be a nomad if I could! My favorite places that I've traveled are Greece, Italy, and Indonesia. I love camping and being outdoors. I think the way a food is presented has a lot to do with things. This one time when I was in Athens, Greece, (I don’t speak Greek) I asked for an English menu, and was given one with a few translations on it. I ordered this thing called "fried fish and cheese pastry". I’m thinking, ok, I’ll get a piece of fish and a pastry with cheese. They bring me this large plate with 30 minnows on it, they looked like raw animals in oil. Like a sea of fish. I was like this is really inedible. I don’t know what to do with this. The pastry was one long round roll of cheese covered in a thin layer of filo pastry. It was pure cheese.
ICF: I really loved in your bio that you said you’re “interested in almost every single thought and thing”. Can you elaborate?
KM: The way I see the world is like a network. We’re connected and related to each other. So, each thing to me is interesting, in that it has this history, it has a past. Each person, whether I immediately connect with them or not is fascinating. I think that each thing that you put your focus and attention on, your perception in a way is really what makes them interesting. It's the same kind of ideas that I try to put into my paintings with the different layers and figures.
ICF: Outside of being an artist, who is Katie Monahan?
KM: I'm a pretty simple person. I love to be outside, hiking, swimming, I love to dance. I’m a pretty down to earth girl. I'm just trying to have more time. All the things that I make are ultimately a means to having more time and finding more peace.
ICF: For all of us Fashionites, what is your favorite thing to wear? Do you have a favorite place to shop?
KM: A well-tailored skirt. The reason for that is if my legs feel strong and free then I feel like my whole posture and expression and perception are a little bit more open and straight. And I like jackets! I have a black jacket by French Connection that I found in a thrift store for maybe $6. It's my one item of clothing that I've worn the most over the past 4 or 5 years. I love the DTLA fashion district, I don’t shop at brands really, and I love to rummage through stores and try to find independent stuff.
Info: website http://www.katiemonahan.com/
Currently on view at the Hellada Gallery thru November 9th
117 Linden Avenue, Long Beach, CA 90802