We had the good fortune of connecting with Venessa Monokian and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Venessa, do you have any habits that you feel contribute to your effectiveness?
Kindness. I know it seems odd to say that out of all the things I could list, but honestly, keeping in the habit of being kind has been more than essential to my own personal success. When I walk into my studio space, which I share with many other artists, I make it a habit to say hello and offer them tea. It just helps to set the tone of the space and my work is stronger because of that. I’m an artist, and so much of what I do is dependent on the relationships I develop and foster. For example, during the start of the pandemic, when we were in lockdown, I printed and sent out small works to everyone I could think of ( friends, family, fellow artists, buyers) even those I hadn’t contacted in years. It was an effort to reach out and create a little moment of joy and kindness at a very stressful time. These images became part of a small book I created called “Isolated Thoughts” and five dollars from each sale is donated to an art organization or creative person in need. Helping others, being polite, and courteous has gotten me many opportunities I never thought possible. I also developed long-lasting support from patrons because of this. Luckily, in these strange times, I have continued to sell work and get commissions. In turn, I try to honor that by supporting others.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a very different kind of artist. Playfulness is a big part of my work. This is in the larger understanding of this word. So yes, some work is funny and humorous but other works I am playing with the materials and pushing them outside of how they normally would be treated. This offers those who follow my career a lot of excitement because I am not following a formula for making work. Playfulness is also useful to talk about topics that otherwise feel too heavy to discuss. The works I make create a space that is honest and safe for the viewer to dive into themselves and think more deeply about what it is to be. To be honest about our ugly selfishness, wonderful strangeness, and confusing struggle to be human. I think we can all agree that selecting art as a career is to pick a more challenging path. Trying to think of new ideas, paying bills, struggling with finding opportunities to show. I don’t know if you ever totally overcome these challenges, they kind of never go away. I guess that is what I have learned. You just keep fighting and pushing because you love making art and not having that is far more terrifying.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My go-to day trip for anyone visiting would start at my studio at Box13. I would give them a private tour of the space and introduce them to work by some of the other artists. Then, we would walk 5 minutes to the yummy restaurant Street to Kitchen and order some delicious lunch. After, we’d hop into my car and within a quick 8 minutes or so check out the Orange Show Center For Visionary Art then head to Menil Park — about a 15 minute drive. I love this area because you can just park the car and walk to many different spots. We might also visit Houston Center for Photography, the Rothko Chapel, the Menil Collection, Cy Twombly Gallery, and the Dan Flavin Installation. These spaces all are surrounded by calming parks and green areas where you can take a break and just reflect on what you saw. When my visitor is fully art-ed out, we’d take a quick drive to Alabama Ice House for a few drinks and tacos from Tacos Tierra Caliente. A nice day balanced with good food, art and exposure to the outdoors.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to dedicate my shout out to Box 13 ArtSpace. The pandemic has hit this space very hard and it’s struggling right now. Totally artist run, it is a unique and special space dedicated to fostering creativity. I was so nervous to go into the studio after lockdown and worried that it would stunt many projects I had started. The community at Box 13 worked to find ways to make the space feel safe. With limited resources, they pulled together and were even able to start having shows in their gallery again. It is still very much an uphill battle, but my hope is they will be able to make it through. In late June, they will have their annual fundraiser, and I hope with this shout out, many of you will buy some amazing original artworks. You can also just donate to them on their website. This space focuses on helping to foster the unique voice and creativity only found here in Houston.