MONICA PETTY AIELLO - Artist & Educator

"Though we don't often give it much thought, art has been locked in a love-clutch with science since the first caveman picked up a cinder and used it to draw on a wall. And while a lot of that has to do with things like chemical reactions, makeup of mediums and even the speed of light, there's also an infusion of scientific study and thought that orbits around the work of making art. Leonardo Da Vinci did it, and in modern times, so does Denver painter Monica Aiello, who's known for her works inspired by the beautiful topography of distant planets distilled from NASA images."

Susan Froyd, Westword Magazine Blog


Since the dawn of civilization, humanity has been fascinated with the heavens.  What lies beyond our own tenuous atmosphere has inspired culture and religion; awe and fear. Our fundamental curiosity as human beings manifests itself in a need to explore with the hope of providing purpose for our very existence.

Painting is my personal exploration - a journey through processes, themes and materials.  Through my work, I have been exploring my childhood love of science, particularly that of space science. Largely inspired by planetology, my work addresses celestial and geological forms while comparing their relationship to our own origins, evolution and life itself.  At first glance, my work may appear to be purely abstract; however, upon closer inspection, one finds depictions of specific subjects - the pieces are actually topographical landscapes of the planets and moons within our solar system.  From the diverse geology of the Galilean Satellites, to Saturn’s frozen moons, to our own fragile planet Earth, I hope to capture these mysterious landscapes in paint.

Planetary scientists often reference the need to study the cosmos in order to gain a better understanding of ourselves. I also ponder these unearthly landscapes in reference to our own humanity.  In preparation for my work, I consult with the NASA scientific community to better understand of the bizarre geology and unique processes present on these fascinating worlds. Philosophically, I am struck by how such foreign and seemingly lifeless places relate to our own terrestrial system.  Visually, I am captivated by the commonality of forms within our universe - shapes which seem as easily viewable beneath a microscope as through a telescope. These universal forms, which I term Cosmorphology, form a visual vocabulary which repeats throughout my work.

I consider my work to be “conceptual landscapes.” The pieces are indeed representations of real places, albeit perhaps unfamiliar vistas.  More than just representing the visual landscape, I am interested in emulating the geological processes which formed planetary surfaces.  The paintings are highly sculptural, and are meticulously built with layer upon layer of mixed-media - placed like strata to interpret surface geology.  I use acrylic, paper, ink, gel, fiber, heat, air, gravity and water in attempts to convey the planetary terrain, celestial forms and geological processes I find so fascinating.  Sensual, watery films of varnish and ink are interwoven between textural layers to create deep and tactile surfaces.  Thinly applied veils of iridescent inks are intermixed to create surfaces which alter with the light and viewing angle. The resulting work resembles thick, color-infused slabs of shiny resin encasing a tapestry of tactile nuance - a view through the looking-glass at an untouchable realm.