Janet Monafo’s extraordinary still lifes transform domestic, everyday objects into grand, spellbinding arrangements of light and color, color and texture, order and disorder, memory and metaphor. With an extraordinary level of control of the difficult medium of pastel, Janet Monafo’s art employs activated, glowing color that awakens her inanimate subject matter (vases, teacups, cloth, and organic matter)–objects that suggest entire universes of association to the imagination.
These household objects are transformed through a vivid choreography of carefully organized shapes and patterns of light and shadow. As such, critics have noted the singular visual feeling of her art, and the nonverbal possibilities of visual metaphor that emerge from her compositions.
Typically working at a large scale, Monafo pays careful attention to the fine details of lighting, scale and spatial relationships, relating light distortions and reflected colors that sing with nuances of hue and light. Monafo’s art has been described as a particularly salient reflection of contemporary realism with its emphasis on the current directions of realist genre painting. Her arrangements of ceramics, textiles, and organic objects echo traditional still life painting and its sense of memento mori juxtaposed with allusions to contemporary life and social mores. The luxurious tactile quality of Monafo’s work evokes the celebration of the inherent beauty in individual objects that one sees in a Dutch or Flemish still life, while her inclusion of modern-day ephemera such as Styrofoam takeout containers and plastic wrap constitutes a brilliant riff on traditional ideas of permanence and impermanence.
Janet Monafo’s pastel paintings have earned her wide recognition and respect from collectors, curators and art writers. She was elected to the Pastel Society of America Hall of Fame in 2002, and her paintings have been included in major gallery and museum exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery in New York, NY, the National Academy of Design, New York, NY, and the Evansville Museum of Art in Evansville, IN, among others.