I think about you when I lay in bed
Yearn for you inside my lungs
Crave for you inside my belly,
I think of you when winter comes
Waiting for your cuddle
Touching my skin with your warm hands,
I’m not supposed to want you but I do,
As the winter fades, you come back,
I let you fill me as I gaze my eyes at you
Aged and dry
I need you,
Wrinkly and veiny
Enamored by you,
You’ve shriveled me again and again
Pruny like a raisin,
But as winter comes
I think of you
– Monica Kim Garza, 2023
Monica Kim Garza’s works are full of quasi-self-portraits of robust women of color. They commune, lounge, booze, smoke, play sports and are otherwise occupied in a variety of mundane activities. In Raisin, the miseen- scene is familiar; we find Kim Garza’s alter-egos enjoying the beach. Donning quaint swimming caps and barely-there g-string bikinis, they play in the surf, swim laps with their dog, or rest beneath parasols. Their skin is tan to the point of burning, yet they embrace the ultraviolet onslaught; some even lie flat on their stomachs with unseen faces in a position of total submission, almost sacrificing themselves to the sun: “I’m not supposed to want you but I do”. The sun wears you down, life and love wears you down, and you always come back for more.
Even when it’s cheerful and frivolous like a pop song, the surface of Kim Garza’s work peels back at further examination, revealing an artist who excels in the subtle, day-day nuances of quotidian life, particularly the experience of millennial women. And as she makes her way through her 30s, so do her alter-egos, who remain cheekily unapologetic in a world whose attitude towards aging women alternate between disregard and judgement. Kim Garza explores the theme of aging with both gentle irony and sharp wit, evoking the ambivalent wisdom of growing older: They Call It a problem, I Call It a Solution, one of her body doubles says, sipping from a glass of wine with a knowing smile. Elsewhere, they pose in solitude, or go about their daily rituals, lost in thought, quietly longing for something or someone unknown beyond the frame. Kim Garza’s, otherwise unfettered, utopia of female joy and leisure seems interrupted by a feeling of melancholy.
The paintings are monumental and simultaneously intimate. These figures loom over you larger than life, their scale almost contradictive to the prosaic subject matter and leisurely mood. Here, as in all Kim Garza’s work, we sense that narrativity is not necessarily the end objective. The figures, their backgrounds and foregrounds dissolve between countless brushstrokes and contours like vague memories fading into each other. Beaches turn into a café, and the café transforms into a desk, but the essence are the women; sensuality, humor and ambiguity emerge from them – a testament to the body as the timeless site for the expression of human emotion.
Monica Kim Garza (born 1988 in Alamogordo, New Mexico, USA) lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. She holds a BFA in painting and drawing from California College of Arts and has exhibited widely throughout United States and Europe. Recent exhibitions include Under the Crescent Moon, Galerie Julien Cadet, Paris, France (2022), A Sliver of Salt, Soco Gallery, Charlotte, SC, US (2022), Baguettes, The Hole, New York, US (2021), and Summer I Miss You, Ruttkowski; 68, Cologne, Germany (2021). Raisin is her third solo exhibition with V1 Gallery/Eighteen.
Text by Astrid Wang
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