Monica Cook: Above and Below
The latest works in glass by Monica Cook are marvels of intricacy and power. Glossy snakes, chandelier-like forms seemingly grown through accretion like stalagmites, mysterious alembic vessels, fragile explosions of luminous splinters – Cook’s joy in this medium, a new one for her, is palpable. The forms are writhing, volcanic, simultaneously delicate and dangerous, like a newfound reptilian species.
Above and Below is comprised of sculptural works in glass with mixed and found media; video; and prints. The work deals with themes of transformation, rebirth, and decay. “Snowsuit” is a meticulously crafted act of remembrance and mourning, humanoid and feline merged into a single creature whose physical form is vacated and silent – a shell abandoned or transcended. “Roots” combines sparkling mirror shards with the trunk of a tree, twisted and weather-worn. It is glass that provides the armature and structure of the piece, inverting expectations about strength and brittleness, and what holds us together.
Cook’s gaze is both exquisitely tender and ruthlessly inquisitive. Cook wants to see – and show – the insides of things, the biological clockwork that makes an organism work. She is known for her sculptural animation, represented here in the video “Milk Tooth”, showing the courtship of two beautiful frost-colored simian beings. The guts of her creatures have been assembled from the guts of industrial devices – vacuum tubing, springs, rubber gaskets and seals and nipples paired with startlingly lifelike eyes, teeth, and digits. By literally opening up the body to show its workings, Cook reveals processes of birth, digestion, death and regeneration - and thereby love, nurturing, mourning, and healing.
Here, glass itself is a metaphor. Glass expresses trauma through invisible fracture lines, re-breaking along the scars where it has been broken before. Healing those traumatic breaks requires tempering, rebirth through fiery heat. This process mirrors Cook’s process of uncovering and displaying the broken and wounded things of this earth, and then scorching them into rebirth. These works are born of the organic, malleable, and fleshy characteristics of glass, with skin-like finishes, bark and blossoms, lizards and mosses. The translucence of the medium is also an ideal vehicle for Cook’s visions of interiors made visible, secret places brought into view. As a snake shedding its skin leaves behind an empty translucent carapace, Cook’s newly emerging practice in glass has produced fragile and ghostly presences that signal transformation and rebirth.