About the Work:
American painter Alyssa Monks crafted an international reputation through a series of intimate, large, meticulously detailed oil paintings of beautifully vulnerable subjects.
This 2004 piece, Morning After, diverts from the motifs of Monks’ most popular work of the time – which featured figures in the bathroom or shower, obscured by water or steam – but this beautiful vulnerability remains prominent.
As the mid-morning light makes its way into the hotel room, it finds one person sleeping in a bed where, perhaps only an hour or so prior, two rested after a night of intimacy. How the man will react when he wakes to find the other side of the bed empty is unclear, but the softness of the scene suggests that is the connection that formed the night before that matters, not what comes on the morning after.
Monks has a deft hand for creating lifelike paintings, but the sheer amount of detail in Morning After is nothing short of spectacular. From the blending of the shadows to the slight image noise on the wall, it looks like a 70s Polaroid rather than oil on a linen canvas.
That’s not a result of talent, but of reverence. A reverence for the reality of the situation, rather than a romantic version of it. That is the power of her art.
A decade later, Monks’ style would change dramatically to go beyond the intimate settings of the bathroom and bedroom to explore the same themes in nature. Triggered by the death of her mother (who, with Monks’ assistance, would take daily warm showers that became a special ritual as cancer begun to take its toll), the change came from a shift in the way Monks understood beauty.
Monks described the development of this new perception in her 2015 TEDx Talk, The Beautiful Awful. It’s a much-watch for everyone. The lesson Monks shares on responding to grief is a lesson the majority of us will need to apply to our own lives at some time.