Monica Lundy – Gabriella
Dimensions: 37 x 29.5″
Media: coffee, burned paper and charcoal on Khadi paper
Artist Monica Lundy has spent her life living in different cultures, often cultures where the rights of marginalized members of society are squelched. She grew up in Saudi Arabia and has lived between Italy and the United States as a mature artist. Lundy paints, burns, draws, and sculpts images of people she never knew, but took into her heart, from photographs and stories she gathered on her journey.
Lundy practices compassion for women who have been mischaracterized throughout history. Many of the women Lundy paints were inhabitants of mental institutions and jails in the early 1900s. She paints from photographs retrieved from psychiatric and incarceration files, always devoting only one portrait as a memorial to each woman. The root of Lundy’s compassion for her subjects comes from the injustices they suffered, such as being locked up for such “crimes” as promiscuity, disobeying their husbands, or being too loud. She does not judge or preach about the past treatment of these women in her paintings; she simply embraces the facts of life of women she never knew, embodying compassion by virtue of her attention. Monica “paints” with coffee and charcoal, incorporating these elements of the everyday reality of the women into her creations, as if the shared materials help her better comprehend their truth. She uses fire as a transformative element of creation and destruction in the portraits she creates, almost as if this primal element has been used to both destroy and empower these (and all) women at different points in their lives. By using materials and presenting imagery of women who suffered unjustly in the past for “offenses” we regard as entirely acceptable today, Monica Lundy helps us experience the feeling of interconnectedness that unites humankind.
-Tonya Turner Carroll
Monica Lundy’s Gabriella is part of her series ruminating on the incarceration of Italian women and girls during the era of Mussolini’s fascist regime (1922 to 1943). Gabriella is one of the works Lundy created during her time in Rome, Italy. This project began in 2017 during Lundy’s residency at the American Academy in Rome, where she started working collaboratively with Dr. Annacarla Valeriano, a historian from the Foundation of the University of Teramo. Through investigating medical documents from the psychiatric hospital archives of Sant’Antonio Abate di Teramo, Dr. Valeriano has been unearthing the stories of daughters, mothers, wives, and lovers who were deemed unable or unfit to participate in society as determined by the demands of the Fascist Regime, and were therefore placed in the hospital.
These women were cited with symptoms such as “Nymphomaniac, irritable, unstable, flirtatious, devoted to idleness, unruly, talkative, inconsistent, irreverent, extravagant, capricious, excited, erotic, insolent, liar, impulsive, nervous, hallucinating, restless, petulant, sensational, threatening, red in the face, exhibitionist” to diagnose the mental illness called “female deviance.”
Lundy renders portraits of these women using coffee, burned paper, and charcoal on handmade paper. The act of burning the paper is a cleansing act, the subject’s history is symbolically reduced to ashes, and the surviving pieces are used to recreate their portrait.
Director, Turner Carroll Gallery