New York-based artist Alyssa Monks forces us to confront deep feelings of anguish in her newest series titled It's All Under Control. Inspired by the isolation brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic, these realistic canvases coerce viewers into watching the emotional narratives of solitary figures, slightly abstracted by the wet glass of their shower stalls.
From hiding behind their hands to staring blankly at the wall, these intimate portraits depict a range of reactions to the crisis, each with its own unique voice. “At times, the recent global and national devastation, division, and so many disappointments felt like a surreal projection of my own mental states in the isolation of the last 18 months,” Monks explains. “I began to explore the human reliance on control and predictability, and how our deepest suffering comes from our attachment to security, virtue, identity, and the logic of cause and effect.”
Placing the figures in a slightly transparent bathroom stall serves several purposes, according to Monks. “The glass barrier in these paintings between subject and viewer is clouded with vapor that obscures and abstracts the subject,” she says. “This barrier underlines the personal and community-wide preoccupation with virus-laden respiratory droplets and the isolation it creates.” As a result, the viewer's perception of these figures is ambiguous; we cannot see the full expression of their faces or any clear detail. Instead, we are inferring their emotions through the body language and drama of the hazy setting.
Some of the paintings from this series are still available for purchase through the Forum Gallery. You can also find prints of the artist's paintings via her website, and keep up to date with Monks' latest work and upcoming exhibitions by following the artist on Instagram.