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MATH MONAHAN 1112 E Hamilton St Milwaukee, WI 53202 414.810.2230


Whether you live the life of an artist, baker, “The only books that influence or candlestick maker, your history affects not only decisions you make but the way us are those for which we you live your live. This kind of influence are ready, and which have can have life changing effects only seen in gone a little farther down our a grander sense. The influence that most affected my life as an artist, and what really particular path than we have lit the furnace of creativity within me, was yet got ourselves.” my grandparent’s farm here in southeastern - E. M. Forster Wisconsin. From the age of 5 to age of 13, I lived and worked on this farm. In the first couple years there wasn’t much I could do to help. I worked along side my parents in the fields picking potatoes and clearing rocks. When the adults went into the barn to work with large machinery, I was left to entertain myself outside. The farm didn’t have much available to entertain children, like toys or swing-sets, so I learned to make due with what was there. Using discarded machinery parts and the dusty paths between barns, I mapped out treasure charts that led to these prized knickknacks that anyone else would’ve kicked aside. I fashioned toy weapons of sticks and baling twine after those of my favorite television heroes and battled monsters until dinner. It was clear that the

dinner. It was clear that the things I created were a form of self-entertainment and exploration, but the creativity that developed began a lifelong desire to create, problem solve, and interrogate my surroundings. I wonder, sometimes, if this has continued to be the motivation of creation in my life as an artist.

Timeline, 2009

One of the key concepts, and most powerfully significant ideas in Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth, is the “present moment.” He explains that the majority of thoughts people have are about one of two things: the past (be it years ago or just yesterday), or the future (i.e. where can I go from here). He points to the universal truth that “there is only the now”. Through understanding this, however, I brought stillness (spiritually) to my life and work.

Everything you’ve ever experienced, you experienced in the present.

Memory Book, 2011 This unique book is an expression of time and memory recorded in rippling pages where the outer page represent the present moment and each page within is a memory or event designed to be seen through the present similar to how we perceive our own memories through the context of our present state. As each page moves closer to the center, symbolically further back in time, the abstract imagery become more vague and faint representing the deterioration of memories according to the Decay theory proposed by Edward Thorndike. Mylar, ink washes, goldleaf, handmade paper, book board and screen printing.

THE DISCIPLINE gained from having the stillness and focus within my artistic practice has led me to pursuing a higher education where I can use my problem solving qualities as well as my exploration in various media, research and experience. I am at a point where I have the skill and focus to explore my own ideas and practices. It is the influences from my life that push me to take the next step toward graduate studies where I can utilize the resources of an institution fully. I once thought that influence could only be seen through response, believing response to be visual: through one’s work. While I still believe this statement, it’s meaning has grown deeper. Now, response has a variety of levels. These levels include the ways I experience my work, and the beginning source of creativity. While these are not always visually apparent in my books, photography or drawings, they have an affect on my creative work and myself as an artist.


FOR FOUR YEARS I have been working in bookmaking. How the pages feel between your fingers as you turn them, the weight of the book in your hands, and how the book unfolds are what drive me to create them. The process involved in bookmaking is remarkably tactile. This is one of its main draws. Often, my goal or intent in a piece is to challenge my current definition of what a book should be by letting the

materials and binding inform the final work. In an altered book project, I reappropriated a large book consisting of a catalogue of all the types of North American trees. It included many pictures and a large amount of text describing these trees and their characteristics and so on. I cut shapes into the book that went from the first page to the end of the book mimicking the rings of a tree trunk that has been cut through.

By removing the information, and making it impossible to read, I ask the viewer,

“Is it still a book?�

I also bring into question the idea and book. Understanding a book without process of a book made from plant material: experiencing it is a concept I am moving away cutting and processing, paper printed and from. My current direction is what drives me bound into a book that holds information to create books; the interaction and experiential about the very plants destroyed in the qualities they hold. In another project, I process. By exploring created a book to see this idea I tried to Keith Smith describes what happens when give the book back to it stretched across the the trees in a sense. artist books as “a single room in accordion fold Removing sections experience, a compound pages snaking back of the book removed and forth. It exists to picture of the many its functionality create the experience and recreated more of what it’s like to be separate sheets.” natural forms. The near a book that is success of the book is contained in the longer than yourself, and to see what this does challenge of the form and the challenge of to the space of the room and how you move the process in the original intent of the book. around it. The viewer must be there interact with the book and understand the piece. In the altered book the intent can be explained THE ACT OF VIEWING A BOOK IS AN EXERCISE and understood without even holding the O F B E I NG I N THE PR E SE NT MO ME NT.


The experience of making books is as important to me as the experience the viewer has with the final piece. When I create I am focused and alert. Through much of our lives we are distracted by things around us, such as, what we’ve done and what we have to do. Both consume the majority of our thoughts.

I cannot focus on the path the blade makes through the paper and think about my to-do list for tomorrow in the same stroke. While cutting the pages for a book or sewing the signatures together, I am completely present in the act. While creating an edition of books, I had to cut out each page of the book individually for all 20 books. If the page was to be cut crooked or the silhouette cut wrong the book would not fit together. The intense concentration involved in the gluing of the covers or the pages utilized all of my focus. Each step pulled me out of my own hectic, occupied mind and back into the chair I was working in. This alertness invests an ineffable quality in the work that someone not fully present would be unable to do.


Theater Book, 2011 (1/5)

MY WO RK A S AN AR T IST always explores one or more root purposes: interaction with the book by the viewer, “presence� through the process of creating, and/or an experience through the physical form of the piece. These are the most important elements of my practice and in exploring them I can explore how they affect my work outside of bookmaking in drawing and photography. Each of these disciplines provide a key foundation to my artistic process through their own processes. The immediacy of drawing provides an intuitive perspective, photography strengthens a visual approach to composition and other traditional issues, and book making provides discipline through drawn-out, often tedious processes. By selecting an MFA program that allows for multidisciplinary artistic practice, I will be able to direct the progress of my work in the most appropriate media for each piece without the burden of bending the work to fit a concentration.

MATH MONAHAN 1112 E Hamilton St Milwaukee, WI 53202 414.810.2230


A consise recording of the influences and intent of my creative journey.

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