by Liberty Finch
Chris Monroe is a homegrown heroine with a style immediately recognizable to many. From her Global Village ads to the Seward Co-op newsletter, Chris has left her indelible inkings throughout the Twin Cities for more than a decade.
Her comic strip, "Violet Days," appears in the Star Tribune every
Friday. It's the first thing I read each week, and many cartoons find themselves
clipped and yellowing on my wall, bulletin board and refrigerator. (“At
the Dog Psychologist with Dotty and Florence the Royal Terriers who Bite”
is a hoot!) Chris recently published an anthology of the strip called “Ultra
Violet: 10 Years of Violet Days.” How lovely to have this amazing cast
of characters assembled under one cover! Her drawings are straightforward, her
characters painfully and hilariously honest. Sure they’re line drawings
(no tone, little shading), but her characters are more real and emotive than
many humans I know. There are kids and dogs, friends and neighbors, cool chicks
and bad boys, and occasional celebrities (Prince, Keanu Reeves).
addition to the comic strip, Chris Monroe has garnered success as an illustrator.
Last year she won Best Foreign Picture Book in Japan for her children’s
book “Totally Uncool.” Her artwork appears on Pizza Lucé
menus and CD covers, including “Duluth Does Dylan.” She even designed
T-shirts with images of Dylan in front of local landmarks. Turns out Mr. Zimmerman
himself showed up at a silkscreen shop in Duluth last fall and bought a stack
Chris is an MCAD grad, and in addition to cartooning and illustrating, she’s
been working in oil pastels for years. Currently she’s part of the exhibit
Artful Upholstery, Drawings, Sculpture and Paintings at Frank Stone Gallery
in Northeast Minneapolis. Her paintings offer us a behind-the-scenes peak at
storybook characters like Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White.
What’s stunning is to see her work large, and in color—the results
are so rich and delightful! “Cake Walk” depicts an outdoor Halloween
party with children in a circular procession for sweets. It’s a veritable
feast of colorful costumes and cakes.
Chris’ sister Meg Monroe is also part of the show at Frank Stone Gallery.
Meg works in upholstery—recovering vintage furniture with retro fabrics
to create stunning sofas, chairs, stools and pillows. It’s a shame that
the candy apple red velvet sofa can’t stay in the gallery—it looks
fabulous. Sometimes the sisters work collaboratively. The floral pattern in
one of Meg’s upholstered chairs matches the blossom that’s rendered
in Chris’ painting above it.
The exhibit runs through November 21. And while Chris lives in Duluth, she’ll
be back in the Twin Cities for a book-signing of “Ultra Violet”
at Borders in Calhoun Square on December 4 from 1 to 3 p.m. ||
Frank Stone Gallery, 1226 2nd St. NE, Mpls. 612-617-9965; Borders Books
in Calhoun Square, 3001 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls. 612-835-0336.