Alyssa Monks: Photo-realistic paintings

Alyssa_Monks_1977Alyssa Monks began oil painting as a child.

Born 1977 in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Alyssa Monks studied at The New School in New York and Montclair State University and earned her B.A. from Boston College in 1999. During this time she studied painting at Lorenzo de’Medici in Florence. She went on to earn her M.F.A from the New York Academy of Art, Graduate School of Figurative Art in 2001. She completed an artist in residency at Fullerton College in 2006 and has lectured at universities and institution nation wide. She has taught Flesh Painting at the New York Academy of Art, as well as Montclair State University and the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts.

“Using filters such as glass, vinyl, water, and steam, I distort the body in shallow painted spaces. These filters allow for large areas of abstract design – islands of color with activated surfaces – while bits of the human form peak through. In a contemporary take on the traditional bathing women, my subjects are pushing against the glass “window”, distorting their own body, aware of and commanding the proverbial male gaze. Thick paint strokes in delicate color relationships are pushed and pulled to imitate glass, steam, water and flesh from a distance. However, up close, the delicious physical properties of oil paint are apparent. Thus sustaining the moment when abstract paint strokes become something else.”

“When I began painting the human body, I was obsessed with it and needed to create as much realism as possible. I chased realism until it began to unravel and deconstruct itself,” Alyssa Monks states, “I am exploring the possibility and potential where representational painting and abstraction meet – if both can coexist in the same moment.”

Monks’s paintings have been the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions including “Intimacy” at the Kunst Museum in Ahlen, Germany and “Reconfiguring the Body in American Art, 1820–2009” at the National Academy Museum of Fine Arts, New York. Her work is represented in public and private collections, including the Savannah College of Arts, the Somerset Art Association and the collections of Howard Tullman, Danielle Steele and Eric Fischl.

Alyssa has been awarded the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant for Painting three times and is a member of the New York Academy of Art’s Board of Trustees. She is currently represented by David Klein Gallery in Birmingham, Michigan. Alyssa Monks currently lives and paints in Brooklyn, New York.


Monks’s paintings are larger than life. They evoke a response that is serene and emotive. In a translucent surrounding, New York artist Alyssa Monk has created striking visuals of human expression.


Conversing in her Williamsburg studio, one becomes drawn to the canvases whose prominence equal the high-vaulted studio space which house them. Her bathtub series, a collection of portraits, feature partially concealed forms obscured by a foggy haze. Devoid of context, they appear as snapshots isolated in time focusing on pure sentiment.

Comply, Oil on Panel, 2013, Alyssa Monks

Comply, Oil on Panel, 2013, Alyssa Monks

Alyssa Monks, Painting: Comply, Detail

Alyssa Monks

Alyssa Monks

The series marks the result of a process developed over the last decade. The artist has created a seamless barrier between the viewer and subject. There is a sense of depth in a composition that lies on a two-dimensional plane. Expectations are deceived. But, this only adds to the singular impression.

Alyssa Monks, painting

Alyssa Monks

With a background in figurative painting, the ability to work the canvas speaks of her long time fondness for the human form. It has led the series to be labeled as photorealistic, but close inspection reveals images that are a compilation of brush strokes. Together they create one continuous image. Detached, they are abstract and individual, an aid that gives human shape.


The most recent work has taken a new direction, seen in a modified technique and looser representation of the body. The same images move towards greater abstraction, necessitating the interpolation of line and image. There is something natural and familiar about the expression.

Previous text from: Dadada Magazine

Alyssa Monks

Interview with Alyssa Monks


At first glance this image may look like an intimate snapshot caught by a photographer. But these touching shower scenes were not captured by a photographer, but painted by hand by a New York-based artist.

In one painting a girl peeps out from inside a steamed up shower and seems to peer into the camera lens.

And in another image a bikini-clad woman floats effortlessly underwater, showing off the engagement ring on her finger Alyssa Monks paints these images, paying meticulous attention to detail. The 31-year-old said: “I have always wanted to paint for as long as I can remember. “I took classes at school and then went to college and University before ending up at the New York Academy of Art”

“The girl in most of the pictures is myself,” she said. “I have used my own image many times because I do not have to worry about issues of self-consciousness that might arise with models…”

“…However, I have been exploring the faces of family and friends recently too, I prefer to work with people that I know personally and have a relationship with”

“The paintings are very intricate and they take a lot of work to get right. It is all about the desire to try and create an image of a person that is realer than real, beyond what even a photograph can portray”

Alyssa takes about 1,000 pictures for a small series of paintings, using the images to play with the colour and get the paintings as real as possible.

Alyssa added: “I use the photographs I take to help me compose and play with the colour, although I invent a lot of the water and steam effects from memory”.

The New York artist is in demand, currently showing at a prestigious exhibition at the National Academy Museum.

Plans are also afoot for an exhibition at the Kunst Museum Ahlen in Germany and a museum show at the Noyes Museum in New Jersey for next summer.

“I am excited for my exhibitions in the future and I am currently exploring the effect of figures pressed against glass,” she said.

Alyssa Monks paintings show that while the camera may not lie, the paintbrush sometimes does.

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