In the heart of Oakland, California, Monica Canilao spends her days stitching, painting, printing, and breathing life into the refuse that dominates our time and place. Moving across media, sometimes with friends and sometimes alone, Canilao makes a delicate visual record of the personal and communal. She received a BFA from California College of Arts and Crafts and has shown in galleries, community spaces, and abandoned places… worldwide.

Canilao’s art compiles a living history. A narrative that weaves her experiences with physical remnants of past lives. Exploring interconnections between what’s past and present, personal and collective, the commonplace and the sacred. These elements combine themselves searching for a vision of home and a feral desire for human connection within the modern world.

Born In Redwood City, California, Canilao received a BFA from California College of Arts and Crafts. She has shown extensively within the United States and internationally in both traditional and non-conventional gallery spaces. Her work has been shown at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Luggage Store Gallery (SF,CA), Deitch Projects (NY), Black Rat Press (London), Di Rosa Preserve (Sonoma, CA),, The Santa Cruz MAH, Oakland Art Museum, Miami’s Scope Art Fair and more. She has done countless public art projects in places like The Navajo Nations reservation, the Oakland Airport, Washington DC, The Detroit Treasure Nest and is currently working on a photo project and book about shelter in the desert with National Geographic photographer Aaron Huey. In 2013 The Felishhacker Foundation awarded her the Eureka Fellowship. In addition Monica teaches art workshops to children and adults, welcoming the opportunity to share skills and connect with her community as often as possible.


Artist Statement

The only constant in my life has been that I’ve always wanted to be creating, building, drawing, altering. My art practice is a way to generate a personal and living history. My community and collaborators, my roots and their nearly lost traditions, my neighborhood and its trash piles are all integral, necessary parts of my life and art. The way I go through the world, the beauty of people’s effort throughout time, and their subsequent decay end up in my pieces. I look as much to the loving meticulousness of handicrafts as to the techniques of high art. Taking something as ordinary as wood pulp or cloth and passing thread through it can make common things beautiful and useful.

From boats to portraits to wearable alters, everything I make I use to reimagine the meaning of home, the power of collectivity and the imprint history has left on me. By using images that are rooted in commonalities of personal history, I attempt to create a visual vernacular that resonates beyond verbal and individual differences. These works bear an encoded meaning with the intent to trigger some lost need, a feral want for human connection, and collaboration with others and the living world.

Art is a way to communicate and engage with others transcending distance, time, or place. My images and installations, like the communities and experiences they draw upon, become symbiotic. My life and art are modes of intentional living borrowing from native traditions and contemporary subcultures. You take care of one another. You draw strength and nourishment from your roots. You use and appreciate what you have.

I focus on the points of sincerity that stand out and go on to create new stories built around these truths. These reworkings of history and newborn mythology are shaped and guided by my experience in the moments of their creation. The value of these pieces is found not in the final form or in their ability to be sold. It is what they give me in the process of making. For me, making art is about making living sacred.


MCXT /// Artists statement

MCXT is a creative partnership between Monica Canilao and Xara Thustra, born from a joint desire to communicate care and empowerment. Their collaborative work combines and compliments each other’s individual style and voice, making space for their joint need to create a vibrant, interactive and accessible world through art and activism. MCXT collaborations have emphasis on celebration, self worth, and self determination resulting in murals, performance, happenings, installation, painting, costuming and film in both traditional and non-traditional spaces.

Their individual histories lend to their compatibility for collaboration. Canilao is a Bay Area native with a deep investment in home, community, and the passage of time. These recurring themes are interwoven into her daily life and throughout her art practice. Fascinated with the imprint people leave behind, she utilizes recycled materials in both her art practice and personal life generating a personal and living history. This visual record from salvaged objects and weathered images results in work spanning from massive paper and fabric structures, site-specific installations, murals, meticulous paintings, mixed media works, jewelry constructions, sculptures, costuming and performance art. Her practice and collaborations create a visual vernacular that resonates beyond verbal and individual differences and weaves her experiences with physical remnants of past lives.

Thustra’s hand provided many of the signature visual images of the anti-displacement and anti-war struggles of the 1990s. Inseparable from resistance and queer community for three decades in San Francisco and the Bay Area, their work first appeared as graffiti during the height of the first dot-com boom. This led to artistic collaboration with and in support of neighborhood organizations such as the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition, and the Coalition on Homelessness. Their work evolved into elaborate performance, filmmaking, and collaborations including now legendary Bay Area art events and spaces such as: the Anti-Capitalist Fashion Show, the 949 Market Squat, the band ManhaterRR, Clarion Alley Mural Project and the Mission Neighborhood Health Center. Thustra’s work as a revolutionary artist has grown and extended to touch quite a lot of people.

Together as MCXT, Canilao and Thustra’s combined histories and futures are devoutly dedicated to centering and uplifting the most vulnerable people in society first. They support these communities with mutual aid and actions generated through their creative practice using combined talents, resources, and networks. Through their act of creating illuminated immersive art, MCXT upholds a narrative of both change and joy.




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