Feelings of loneliness, fear and the unknown have engrossed the globe since the outbreak of COVID-19 back in March 2020. The pandemic can take its toll, pushing people further from others and leaving many feeling like they are living in a surreal world. Stickymonger conveys these difficult emotions across her latest body of work, but also incorporates the unpredictable, magical moments of everyday life to instill hope and positivity amid the difficult circumstances posed by the pandemic. These otherworldly pieces will fill New York City’s Allouche Gallery as part of a solo exhibition entitled “Still Smiling.”……Keith Estiler
Stickymonger’s studio practice blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. Using various types of spray-paint, she creates emotive and textural portraits of young girls rendered in a nostalgic, manga-esque fashion with subtle hints of surrealism. The artist counts her experimentations with this medium as one of her main motivations for pushing the boundaries of her practice. “I really enjoy spray-painting more than ever,” said Stickymonger. “I’m exploring these new types of material by hacking the caps and manipulating technique to attain my own, unique visual language.”
For “Still Smiling,” each painting in the show acts as a self-portrait or “inner avatar” that mirrors the artist’s shifting moods and personal challenges amid these anomalous times. Included in the presentation, is a new selection of portraits called Pandemic Drifters that features a monochromatic cast of contemplative girls in various outfits. Although distinct in their respective appearances, the characters are all carrying suitcases — a visual metaphor that represents one’s yearning to escape from their current condition, but must face the reality of being stranded in a particular space. The black backdrops of these portraits coupled with images of ghosts also induce a fear of being lost, of forever floating in a phantasmagoric atmosphere.
Another series called Waiting consists of two paintings: one piece portrays a row of girls standing beside each other on a sidewalk from 1980 and the other from 2020. The group of figures in each painting are from different time periods and wear unique ensembles based on their eras. Although both groups shown in these black-and-white compositions are seemingly poles apart, their expressions verge on the same sentimentality of “endless waiting” for an unknown future.
Contrasting the stark and brooding imagery of Pandemic Drifters and Waiting is a lineup of vivid paintings that touch on the unknowingly beautiful scenarios of the everyday mundane. For instance, in her body of work entitled Portrait of Today, the artist created closely-cropped paintings of introspective subjects that are wallowing in a state of hope and joy. These works channel the artist’s current emotions of positivity, allowing herself to be more appreciative of her present situation and not looking back at the past or towards the future. Moreover, pieces under the title, Indecisive, depict glittery-eyed girls that are in humorous situations of not being able to choose a snack or beverage item to consume.
“I’m now painting characters that are filled with things that bring me happiness like Peko Chan candies,” says Stickmonger. “Although times were strange and sad, I’m still smiling.”
Stickymonger: Still Smiling will be on view March 13, to April 17, 2021 with Opening from 6:00-8:00pm on March 13th. Allouche Gallery is located at 82 Gansevoort Street in the historic Meatpacking District, across the street from The Whitney Museum at The High Line.