The first exhibit of 2007 in the University of Rhode Island Library Gallery is Carapace Awakening by Tony Monahan.
It is obvious that many of my art pieces have common elements among them. One can easily see suns, earth images, and stars. However, by far the most predominant image used in my work is that of the turtle. A carapace is the turtle’s shell (specifically the top half). Its shape and design universally identify the animal known as turtle to all people and cultures. Along with protection and strength, the carapace of a turtle provides intricate designs, color and geometrical structure.
I am often asked the question, “Why turtles?” The question is difficult to answer, other than to say it’s just the way I see things. Artistically, I see and construct the world through the use of turtles, which manifest themselves in various designs and patterns. I can’t explain it, it just is. It may sound a little strange, but turtles have been a fascination my entire life. I make no excuses — it’s all about the turtles.
I create artwork because I am compelled to do so. All of my work comes from pre-conceived images. The images come from visions, which appear to me in various degrees of strength, clarity, complexity and flow. Although the images come naturally to me, it often takes years for me to be able to create what I see. I am not a trained artist, which makes it more difficult to put vision into action. However, I am learning. I consider my artwork primarily to be problem solving. Doing an art piece to me is like climbing a mountain; each piece poses its own particular degree of difficulty and requires a tremendous amount of planning, organization, and procuring of materials. In addition, each art piece requires acquisition of knowledge and skill. I generally consider my art to be educational in nature. My pieces usually contain elements of color, nature, science and mathematics. I also strive for my work to engage children, as well as adults with intention to inform, as well as entertain. The art I have been able to conceive include the use of mathematical sequencing, geometry, representations of physics, astronomy, human anatomy, world languages, and nature, as well as fantasy and folklore.
I have been producing artwork since 1997. I started working with acrylic paints on canvas and soon switched to working with papers. Presently, the majority of my work is made from what I call, Paper Structure. This medium is layered paper on paper, which is thicker and more dimensional than paper collage or maché. In order to construct a piece, I must first deconstruct it into its individual pieces, and then reconstruct it as whole. The work is time consuming, and I am only able to create around three pieces a year.
I do not use paints to color or design the paper. The papers are procured for their color, texture, patterns, and compatibility with the images I am planning. I often spend years collecting the right types of paper before starting an art piece. I also like to use mat board — thick paper used in framing — which often makes the art three-dimensional and heavy. I consider creating this type of artwork to be both a struggle and a joy. The struggle lies in gathering my strength, dexterity, and time to execute the physical aspects and intricacies of creating each piece. The joy occurs when the image that I have been visualizing for years is materialized into something that everyone can see.
I have spent the majority of my adult life as an educator and have had the fortune of working with a wide range of populations, ages and abilities. My work has led me to teaching positions in New York City, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Texas, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Berkeley, California. As an artist, as well as an educator, I strive to learn, experience, and give back as much as possible. I currently work at URI as a lecturer and student teaching coordinator for the department of Kinesiology. I am also working on my third year of coursework in the URI/ RIC Joint PhD program in Education. I am supported at home by my wife Lisa and daughter Marisol, who encourage me and allow me space to express myself creatively.
As I have already mentioned, I am compelled to produce art. It has become a labor of love that I consider very important. Although I have done several commissions, I primarily enjoy sharing my work with the public through charitable donations. This is the first time a collection of my pieces has been on public display. I would like to sincerely thank Karen Ramsay and the University Library for sponsoring this exhibit. I hope you enjoy.
Acrylic on Canvas: Big Daddy Turtle
Acrylic on Paper: Sol y Luna
The Library Gallery is located on the main floor of the University Library, 15 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 02881. Library hours are:
For more information, please contact Karen Ramsay at 401-874-4625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.