Jan. 12 2011 11:37 AM

The woman behind the portrait of Janelle Monáe on the front page of this week's CityBeat


Janelle Monáe's hair takes center stage in artist Monique Jenkins' portrait, aptly titled “Miss Monáe.” The piece is part of a bigger series of paintings—she has six so far—featuring mostly musicians in the “underground” music scene.

“Underground in my eyes,” Jenkins clarifies, “in the sense that their style or skills are underground or under-appreciated.”

Each of the paintings in Jenkins' “Umbrella Series” was painted live at an art show or event starting in September of 2010. She says she doesn't mind painting live even though she's relatively new at it. Thumbprint Gallery was the first to scoop Jenkins up and introduce her to the local art scene, and, thanks to the networking she's done at the live events, she's been pretty busy with shows ever since.

One question that comes up when Jenkins is out painting is: What's with the hair?

“That's a good question,” she says. “The thing is that I tend to exaggerate it in a way. I'm playing with negative space. Playing with filling up the space with who they are by playing with their hair.”

Jenkins' materials of choice are large canvases, spray paint and oils, and her finished pieces are almost always urban in tone and setting. Jenkins' dad is from Queens, N.Y., so a lot of the imagery she ends up painting comes from him.

“He always tells me stories about how, when he was young, he used to sit on the stoops with his friends,” Jenkins says. “That's all he did. They use to sit on stoops and listen to music, so that's always been an inspiration.”

Monique Jenkins will be in a group show at Bar Basic (410 10th Ave. in East Village) at 7 p.m. Jan. 25. See more of her work at theculturedclass.com.


See all events on Wednesday, Nov 25