Multi-media artist Monica Cook (B.F.A., painting, 2006) is a self-described scavenger. The materials and objects she finds in places both obvious and unthinkable are the basis for her life-size sculptures, which bear the same overt realism as her paintings. She makes these creatures, a blend of human and animal, to be posable so she can bring them to life by shooting them frame by frame for animation. The thrill of the hunt, and her knack for it, helped Monica stumble upon her dream studio in Brooklyn, where she creates pieces that have been acquired by collectors like Louisville’s 21c Museum Hotel, which recently purchased Phosphene.
Monica’s upcoming shows include Beautiful Beast (Jan. 27 - March 8) at the Wilkinson Gallery in New York and Milk Fruit (Feb. 3 – March 19) at the Cress Gallery in Chattanooga. These images by Adam Kuehl (B.F.A., photography, 2005; M.F.A., photography, 2014) take us inside the laboratory that’s home to Monica’s prolific practice.
Thread: What is your ideal work environment. What can’t you work without?
Monica Cook: Natural light and good music.
T: It appears that you prefer a space that’s a clean, blank slate. Is this related to the nature of your work?
MC: I have to be very organized, otherwise I will spend all of my time searching for materials. I also prefer not to have old work around because I feel it holds me back. If my studio is orderly, like a blank slate, my mind feels freer and clear.
T: Has your studio changed as you’ve transitioned to 3D?
MC: Yes, drastically. I've had to collect so many more materials, tools and supplies. Also, I need a big, open space to create large-scale sculptures and animation sets.
T: Where do you get the pieces for your sculptures?
MC: I get the materials for my sculptures at junk stores, flea markets, eBay, or found on the streets and in the garbage. I have shelves of storage bins that are organized by object.
T: How did you find your studio?
MC: My studio is in Bushwick, Brooklyn. About two years ago, I needed to move to a larger space. I literally found my dream studio, but it was way out if my league financially, and I was scared to make such a leap. I called my mom and told her. She asked if other people in the building had such large spaces on their own. I said, "Yes." She said, “Well, what's the problem then? If they can do it, so can you.” So I did, and by the grace of God I have made it work. Having such a large, inspiring space has helped me and my work grow tremendously.
We'd love to be invited into your studio for this series. Please tells us about your workspace in the comments below or share your tips for keeping your studio organized and productive.