Actualize: A Conversation with Mónica Palma

I recently had the opportunity to Skype with artist Mónica Palma. I asked her about her work, her process and her participation in Actualize, a show curated by Jessica Langley at Ortega y Gasset Projects. I recorded our conversation as a way of supporting the notes I was taking while we talked. I had no intentions of sharing the clip with anyone. After initial introductions, we began the interview. We talked for about an hour or so. She had just returned from a co-op. I had just returned from the kitchen with a cocktail in my hand. We had a great conversation. I remember “hanging up,” via Skype, and saying to myself, “Sheesh, that was really great!” I couldn’t believe the level of honesty. It isn’t that I think most artists are lying, or being purposefully coy. I just don’t think most of us are equipped or capable of being as honest about our work as we’d like to be.

I talked about my conversation with Monica in my classes the following day and continued to refer to the way that she talks about her work with friends in the days that followed. I rely so heavily on inflection when I speak. I sometimes dislike writing emails because they lack this ingredient. Monica does not however, rely on inflection. It’s just a part of the way she speaks about her work. Her voice is melodic. She is disarming, vulnerable, honest and extremely gracious. I stopped taking notes midway through the conversation and abandoned the questions I had prepared. Her kindness and generosity seemed to require it.

I realized that the most accurate portrayal of our conversation was to share the audio recording. I have edited parts of it in an effort to maintain flow. At one point a sort of blurry dark line appeared on my Skype screen, seemingly from her stomach. It began swaying back and forth almost hitting her nose and face. I exclaimed, “Whoa! What was that? It looked like a, ah… Oh! Oh! Hahaha! It was your cat! That was crazy! It looked so weird, I thought it was coming from your stomach and…” Needless to say, I deleted that part.

In the parts I didn’t mess up, Monica talks about being a Mexican woman, but about not wanting to make “Mexican Woman Art”, but nonetheless about being a Mexican woman who is making art! “What else can I do… What else can I do… This is who I am.” She talks about wanting to be respected, about culling from her experiences as a child. She talks eloquently about drawing and about being sincere. There’s even some stuff about being a sincere hipster and about how to provide the right kind of trauma for being an artist. In all, I found the recording and the way Monica speaks very moving. The recording is linked below.

Mónica Palma was born and raised in México City. In 2005 she moved to Richmond, Virginia where, after a year of living, she entered the MFA Painting and Printmaking Program at Virginia Commonwealth University. Palma has exhibited at such places as Galeria de la Biblioteca Carlos Fuentes in Xalapa, Mexico, Denise Bibro Gallery in New York, and Appetite Gallery in Buenos Aires. Since 2008 she has been living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where she also keeps a studio a few blocks from her apartment.


Actualize, curated by Jessica Langley, included artists Kianna Alarid & Ben Kinsley, Rachel Leah Cohn, James Juszczyk, Veranda Moot & the Los Angeles Meditation Ghostwriter’s Guild (L.A.M.G.G.), Mónica Palma, and Alexis Semtner, and was on view at Ortega y Gasset Projects in Ridgewood, NY January 11 – February 15, 2014.

Images courtesy of the artist.

Ortega y Gasset Projects (O y G) was launched in May 2013 as a gallery and curated project space in the Bushwick/Ridgewood neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens. Formed by artists living in California, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York, O y G operates as a cross-country collective and an incubator for dialog and artistic exchange.

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