Dreams are so elusive and widely interpreted that they make a great breeding ground for art. For Monica Brown, her latest exhibition incorporates this desire to capture temporal shifts in memory and time, with the deeply personal exploration of grief.
Using inspiration from old photographs, portraits of her late parents, and incorporating unfinished paintings into her current work, Brown has woven a narrative of time travel, warmth, intimacy, love, connection and celebration. She considers these pieces to be a collage of sorts, sprung from a simple desire to move on an idea.
The piece that starts off her exhibition is based on a dream of Brown’s that occurred long after her mom had passed away, but on the day her father passed. While most of the dream was nonsensical, at one point her mother ascended with wings like a butterfly, and it gave her a deep feeling of excitement and peace.
She translated this dream into a stunning painting of her parents in a passionate embrace. It has a surreal quality that shines through while highlighting the sheer romance of the subjects. It seems to speak to the mélange of yesterday and today, the abstract quality of time, and how it contracts. Then there are the spaces in between, like the spaces between intimacy and separation; darkness and lightness; love and what is lost through memory.
Brown also attempts to infuse the energy of Afrofuturism into her work.
“I feel that the ‘Afrofuture’ resides in dimensions/realities/timelines other than the one that we currently occupy including (and especially) the liminal spaces,” she says. “Afrofuturism can also be like timelessness. So a space that’s like eternal, the space that’s into the future and then also into the next dimension. I would say the leaps between this world and the next.”
The exhibition was curated by feeling more than process. As Brown was deciding what to include, she realized that more than one painting, made at different points in time and not necessarily with the same motif in mind, looked like part of the same continuation. She called the denouement “magical.”
A connected but distinct part of “Into the Field of Awareness Dances Time” involves two very abstract pieces. In one, her mother is sitting on the couch. In another, two masses are placed above a different mass, meant to allude to spirits rising from the earth—this one in particular, called “Procession,” seems to convey a loved one’s imprint of memory, the trace of it, even when they’re long gone. She describes the pieces as a way to process “a beginning and an end” and to see just how much she could abstract familiar imagery.
Brown’s exploration with the dance of time shows a gracious respect for this honor, to explore the spaces in between.
“Into the Field of Awareness Dances Time” at ARC Gallery, 1463 West Chicago, through August 11.