In early February, Louisville artist Monica Stewart was honored with the 2019 Emerging Artist Award by Louisville Visual Art at its annual LVA Honors luncheon. The program celebrates impactful contributors of the past, present and future to the area’s visual arts scene.
Stewart falls into both the present and future categories, and she’s just beginning her career and already has a few exhibits, even a solo show, under her belt. Lately, she’s been working primarily with paper art, but she’s also comfortable with painting, drawing and woodwork. Stewart has her bachelor’s degree from Murray State University and is currently pursuing her master’s at the University of Louisville.
Stewart says she’s always been interested in art as far back as she can remember, as her parents encouraged her to draw and color. And as she aged, she learned new ways to express herself.
“I always half-heartedly messed around with drawing on and off again until I got to college,” she tells Insider. “I really fell in love with oil painting in undergrad — that’s the first medium I really remember being completely enchanted by — but I also had the opportunity to try ceramics, metals and wood, which I also really responded to.”
When she was a teenager, she participated in a summer art program hosted by LVA called Studio 2000, where she was first introduced to silhouette and paper-cutting techniques. She really got into the art form, but then left it behind as she worked to complete her bachelor’s degree.
Eventually, though, she found her way back to the scissors.
“After I graduated, I had a very small, very dim place to paint, and painting just didn’t feel the same,” explains Stewart. “I was also working full time, and with little time and little space to paint, I started cutting paper again. I began with cards and small pieces to send to my college friends, and then they kept getting bigger, and I’ve kept on cutting paper and haven’t looked back since.”
Stewart had her first solo show, titled “Short Cuts & Paper Tales,” in May at Revelry Boutique Gallery. And then the LVA honor followed after, which was a surprise to the artist. Years ago she was gifted a membership to the organization, but with grad school obligations, working as a teacher’s assistant and still finding time to work on art, she figured she had fallen off their radar.
And then she found out she was included in this year’s LVA Honors, alongside artist Ed Hamilton, art collector the Rev. Al Shands and UofL professor James Grubola.
“I was completely floored,” says Stewart. “I had no idea I’d even been nominated, so I was both excited and totally confused at the same time.”
As for her future, Stewart will have a print in an upcoming Swanson Contemporary show titled “Freeze State.” And in the meantime, she’ll be writing and prepping for her MFA thesis exhibition in April.
We caught up with the artist to ask her some very important questions …
What was your first concert?
I think I was 16 or 17 and saw Blondie on an anniversary tour of the release of their “Parallel Lines” album.
What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
Art and artists I love.
What job would you be terrible at?
I would be a terrible bouncer and an awful physicist. I’m not very intimidating, I always over-exaggerate the actual number of people present at any party, gathering or even restaurant I’m at, and I am really, really bad at the magic places where science and math meet.
What is your favorite restaurant or bar?
Louisville is such a wonderful food city, but I’m pretty partial to Oskar’s Slider Bar. The food is amazing, and the atmosphere is great, and they also have a bear I know (the owners gave me my first — and biggest — commission to date).
What is something you think everyone should do at least once?
Oh wow, this is a daunting question for me, so I’m going to say, if you haven’t had a really good grilled cheese sandwich with dill pickle slices (on the outside), that’s worth a try.
Where would you direct a newcomer of Louisville to get a feel for the city?
Louisville has so much to offer and is so spread out! That’s a difficult one — I’d probably suggest they start visiting Waterfront Park or taking a walk on the Big Four Bridge for some beautiful views.
What keeps you here?
Family, friends and currently school.