Every parent has probably dealt with a child’s nightmares about monsters. Fort Worth painter Katie McKay Jones has found what may be a novel method. She’s making her solo gallery debut with an exhibition of painted fears — called “Little Monsters Everywhere.”
Yet Jones’ paintings don’t look nightmarish at all. They’re colorful, geometric shapes. There’s a simple, naive feel to these abstractions. In fact, they can look like cheerful designs for game boards or infant toys — especially with titles like “Marshmallow Fur” and “Pink Dinosaur with Lemon Cake.”
In many, the entire painting is a simple square, and inside the square are three short, vertical stripes.
This repeated design, Jones said, represents the open mouth of a monster. The monster has no eyes, no ears. It’s just a square mouth with bared teeth.
Meanwhile, the quick, ‘dashed’ brushstrokes that sometimes frame the mouths represent the monsters’ fur or hair.
And the scribbly, finger-painted bit that often appears? That, she said, is “the chaos within.” These monsters, “they’re all noise.”
The painter started creating this series in response to her two children — Ruby and Finn, now 8 and 5 — who had nightmares about monsters under the bed.
“I just kept trying to convince them,” Jones said, “‘You’re safe! I’m here! There’s no such thing as monsters!’ Really, the more I tried to convince them, the more I had to grapple with my own idea of what a monster is in the world.
“I’m thinking of the pandemic, oppression. These things that we all work through: loss and grief, disease and trauma.”
The series is now on display at the Pencil on Paper Gallery, which recently moved from Farmers Branch to Dallas’ Design District. The gallery opened its new space with Jones’ show.
To create these monsters, Jones regularly painted in her home studio with her children present. They would talk about the monsters while she painted.
That’s because there are monsters in the world, Jones said. And some day, she won’t be there to protect or comfort her children.
But they’ll have witnessed one way their fears can be transformed.
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