Priscilla Monge

Costa Rica, b.1968

Lives and works in San José

Priscilla Monge, a leading Central American artist, works in various artistic mediums, employing domestic items like fabric, soap, and fine china to delicately depict narratives of cruelty and innocence. Her multidimensional practice spans painting, sculpture, installation, performance, and photography.

Expressing herself with both simplicity and brutality, Monge utilises text as an empowering and healing tool, finding a voice to speak about the unspeakable. For example, in her polaroid paintings, she captures immediate feelings with abstract colours like green for nature or red for suffering. One polaroid contains the line “This is a wounded Text” beneath a deep red polaroid image, creating a visceral fusion of image and language while evoking palpable sensations of pain and death.

Themes of childhood and the loss of innocence persist in her work, notably in her series “Pensum”, where Monge challenges education and punishment norms. She writes lines on a chalkboard that transcend innocent musings, presenting clichés about women and child abuse. In her series, “The Archived Body”, Monge references Costa Rica’s involvement in wars that took place in Central America and questions who has the right to bear witness to the pain of others.

In a powerful 1997 performance, Monge walked San José’s busy streets wearing trousers made from sanitary pads. As the trousers absorbed her menstrual blood, the spectacle challenged societal perceptions, symbolising the internal violence women endure within their bodies and unraveling emotions of fear, pain, shame, and regret tied to menstruation in a patriarchal society.

“Black Magnolia” is the name of Monge’s most recent series of works, which features low temperature, black clay ceramic bowls with a deep black, matte glaze. Monge forms irregular, undulating shapes with uncanny, organic qualities, which blur the line between art and life, and invites contemplation on the inherent living qualities within inanimate objects.

A recipient of the Francisco Amighetti National Prize in 2018, Monge’s global impact is evident through her participation in prestigious events like the Venice and Liverpool Biennales and exhibitions at institutions such as the Reina Sofia in Madrid, MoMA in New York City, and the Museum of Latin American Art in Los Angeles. Additionally, Monge’s work features in important international collections, such as the Tate Modern in London and the Museum of Fine Arts in Taipei.

Priscilla Monge in her studio, 2023 (Photography by Julio Sequeira)

“Art is a tool that confronts us with our privileges and with the suffering of others.” Monge, 2023

Other Artists