Monica Ong: Planetaria

Monica Ong, The Star Gazer, 2021, Die cutting, letterpress, gold foil on stock, Produced in collaboration with Boxcar Press, Courtesy of the artist.
May 21 - September 3, 2023

Art and poetry have long been companions, raising the question of whether one should talk about poet-artists or artist-poets.  However, there is no word in English to describe the work of Monica Ong. For her, poetry and art are not conjoined; they are indissoluble. In Planetaria, concept, content, and form have coalesced in each artwork.

Context is an essential element in Planetaria: Ong has studied the ancient Chinese cosmos, the social and cultural ideologies and mythologies that emanate from ancient Eastern philosophies. She is cognizant of their complex and resonant connections with contemporary social structures. Inventive and imaginative, they reveal attitudes and behaviors, past and present. Knowledge of astrology, astronomy, science and poetry are catalysts for the artist’s critical awareness of the traditional roles of women. The “female gaze” is an over-arching component of Monica Ong’s art.

The underpinnings of Planetaria, are illuminated by the forms that carry their intent. These include figurative images, star charts, pages of fictional antique medical texts and a collaborative tarot deck. In Planetaria words have linguistic meaning, emotional, historical and mythological content, and are themselves integral to each composition, subtly directing the visual and informational pathways though each piece. 

Planetaria is an extraordinary and unique constellation of work, best explained in the artist’s statements. Brief interpretations by the artist accompany the art to provide context for the viewer unfamiliar with the ancient Chinese cosmos. In addition, a video film of the work “Insomnia Poems” may be seen and heard in the lobby.

Hildreth York

Monica Ong, The Star Gazer, 2021, Die cutting, letterpress, gold foil on stock, Produced in collaboration with Boxcar Press, Courtesy of the artist.

About Monica Ong

Monica Ong is the author of Silent Anatomies (2015), winner of the Kore Press First Book Award in poetry. A Kundiman poetry fellow and graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Ong’s visual poetry innovates on text+image to surface hidden narratives of women and diaspora. You can find recent work featured in POETRY Magazine, Scientific American, Waxwing Magazine, & Asian American Literary Review.

Ong’s visual poetry has been showcased at the Poetry Foundation gallery in Chicago, the Center for Book Arts in New York, and the University of Arizona Poetry Center, to name a few. She is the founder of Proxima Vera, a micropress specializing in fine press visual poetry editions and literary art objects, many of which have been acquired by institutional collections and museums nationwide.


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