Alyssa Monks Captures the Energy and Anxiety of Being in Paint


Alyssa Monks, “It’s All Under Control” (2021), oil on linen, 62 x 90 inches 

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — As artist Alyssa Monks and curator Emma Saperstein stood together outside the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art (SLOMA) waiting to speak at the Member’s Preview for Alyssa Monks: Be Perfectly Still, a Retrospective, they radiated the easy camaraderie of good friends. Saperstein was just 16 years old when she first contacted Monks after seeing her work online and being captivated by what she saw. “It resonated with me personally,” Saperstein recalls, “and I have been following her work and staying in touch for more than ten years now.” 

Appointed SLOMA’s chief curator in 2021, Saperstein has drawn on her deep knowledge of Monks’s oeuvre and assembled an exhibition that primarily showcases the artist’s characteristic subjects: paintings that disrupt and veil the nude female figure with water droplets, vaseline, shower curtains, glass, and mirrors. Observing the public response at the exhibition’s opening — where she counted seven people brought to tears — has validated Saperstein’s own confidence in Monks’s ability to expressively render human vulnerability. 

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