In the heart of Oakland, California, Monica Canilao spends her days stitching, painting, printing, and breathing life into the refuse that dominates our time and place. Moving across media, sometimes with friends and sometimes alone, Canilao makes a delicate visual record of the personal and communal. She received a BFA from California College of Arts and Crafts and has shown in galleries, community spaces, abandoned places and … worldwide.
The only constant in my life has been that I’ve always wanted to be creating, building, drawing, altering. My art practice is a way to generate a personal and living history. My community and collaborators, my roots and their nearly lost traditions, my neighborhood and its trash piles are all integral, necessary parts of my life and art. The way I go through the world, the beauty of people’s effort throughout time, and their subsequent decay end up in my pieces. I look as much to the loving meticulousness of handicrafts as to the techniques of high art. Taking something as ordinary as wood pulp or cloth and passing thread through it can make common things beautiful and useful.
From boats to portraits, everything I make I use to reimagine the meaning of home, the power of collectivity and the imprint history has left on me. By using images that are rooted in commonalities of personal history, I attempt to create a visual vernacular that resonates beyond verbal and individual differences. These works bear an encoded meaning with the intent to trigger some lost need, a feral want for human connection, and collaboration with others and the living world. The more I experience, the deeper I dig, the more I realize is possible and that means I can’t always predict where I am headed.
Art is a way to communicate and engage with others transcending distance, time, or place. My images and installations, like the communities and experiences they draw upon, become symbiotic. My life and art are modes of intentional living borrowing from native traditions and contemporary subcultures. You take care of one another. You draw strength and nourishment from your roots. You use and appreciate what you have. I focus on the points of sincerity that stand out and go on to create new stories built around these truths. These reworkings of history and newborn mythology are shaped and guided by my experience in the moments of their creation. The value of these pieces is found not in the final form or in their ability to be sold. It is what they give me in the process of making. For me, making art is about making living sacred.