Monroe Among New Superstars of Southern Art

Mark Monroe, a recent graduate from the College of Fine Arts and Communication, was recognized in a recent issue of The Oxford American as one of the “100 under 100″ New Superstars of Southern Art.

The magazine featured 100 most talented and up-and-coming artists in the South who paint, photograph or draw. The group was selected by art gallery directors, gallery owners, curators, critics and other artists. Monroe, 22, is one of the youngest artists in the group.

“I never thought that my efforts as an artist would be recognized this way,” Monroe said. “To be a part of a group representing the first batch of southern art superstars is a huge honor.”

Learn more about Monroe’s artwork.

Barclay McConnell, the director of Baum Gallery, nominated Monroe for the honor.

“I felt his work was competitive with more established artists even though he was still an undergraduate student,” she said. “Mark has an ideal combination of talents including fearless artistic vision, significant skill and rigorous work ethic. He consistently impresses all who experience his art and it is easy to recognize his potential to be an enormous success in the art world.”

One of Monroe’s most recent work focuses on social media. His artwork investigates personal identity in a space where intimacy no longer exists. Monroe uses materials and processes that serve as metaphors for popular forms of Internet communication such as text messaging and social media, he explained.

“By creating interactive sculptures, I invite people to question their online relationships by highlighting the disconnection between the virtual and actual self,” he said. “By focusing on what is absent in those disembodied exchanges, my work encourages tangible relationships outside the virtual world.”

Monroe was awarded a Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship grant to fund the exhibit.

“The exhibit addresses a social concern that I have with Facebook and our identities in which we’re portraying online. In a way it kind of limits us offline in that we have to live up to this virtual identity,” he said.

The idea for the piece originated when he was at his grandfather’s funeral precession with his family. His mother took a picture of their last moments with his grandfather. She posted the picture on Facebook and that brought up a red flag for him, Monroe explained. He said he was not particularly angry with his mother but just concerned with the generation’s usage of social media.

“We need to be a little more cautious on how we use [social media],” he said. “Identity is fragile in itself.”

Sandra Luckett, mentor to Monroe and an assistant professor of art, described Monroe as a “disciplined, mature and sophisticated artist.”

“He is especially well suited to examining this specific concept because his artwork often explores human relationships, both public and private,” Luckett said.

Monroe, of North Little Rock, is currently in New York participating in an art internship with world renowned sculpture artist and his personal idol Diana Al-Hadid.

Monroe’s social media exhibit is one of many to come.

“This is just the beginning for me,” he said.  – Spencer Griffin