Janet Monafo's still life images transform everyday objects into grand arrangements of light and color, hue and texture, order and disorder, memory and metaphor. Strikingly contemporary in their composition, these remarkable oil pastel paintings take the age-old tradition of meticulously rendered still life into the 21st century. With an extraordinary level of mastery over a challenging medium, Janet Monafo infuses her works with activated, glowing color that awakens her inanimate subject matter (vases, teacups, fabric, fruits, takeout boxes, plastic water jugs, and glowing metallic pots) – objects that suggest entire universes of memory and association. These quotidian household objects are transformed by Monafo through a vivid choreography of carefully organized shapes and patterns of light and shadow.
With her still lifes, Monafo has taken a format long enshrined in centuries of tradition, and has brought it into a vigorous new reality. The imagery depicts specific objects that are often part of our daily lives, yet her references are oblique. As such, Monafo includes allusions to contemporary life and social mores; her inclusion of modern-day ephemera such as Styrofoam takeout containers and plastic wrap constitutes a brilliant riff on permanence and impermanence. In a modern material world, her juxtaposing both treasured objects and those that are disposable – each privileged equally in Monafo’s glowing arrangements – might be read to suggest that it is beauty that endures, not things.