From her face paint to her oversized tribal tassel earrings to her lifelong craving for explosive individuals in pain, artist Monica Canilao is a portrait in layers and textures. When it came time for her to remove her lavish (and inspiring) uniform, she unveiled a gentle rawness that’s been made indomitable with pain. For What’s Underneath, Monica ventured out of her comfort zone as valiantly as she cinches a doughty muumuu with two vintage belts.
Abandoned by her Filipino father, who was in and out jail, Monica associated the dark skin that she now embraces to his dark side. “Having abusive energy in my life has been a constant struggle,” Monica told us. When one relationship turned verbally and mentally abusive, Monica began to cut her wrists. She used her “weird” style, like a sock with red stripes, to hide her scars. Deep down, however, she hoped that he would find them and realize how much he was hurting her. “I used to be very conscious about my cutting scars, but now I own them.” Monica declares. “They're a piece of me and I’m stronger by them.”
The guts with which Monica has an open dialogue around the topic of self harm is one of the reasons why we love her so much. Another one? Her answer to our question: What’s your favorite body part? “My hands — they’re are strong and powerful. I've built so many projects and fixed so many things with them. Without them, I’d be lost and useless.”
With warmth and love,
Elisa + Lily