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ICONICarts: Science lover finds photorealism a picture-perfect fit

“Through art, I’ve learned something about the power of personification. I always learned that personification was attributing life-like qualities to inanimate objects as if they didn’t really have such qualities. In my art I have explored, almost as a scientific inquiry, the value of considering all things as energy-holding beings with personalities of their own,” said artist Elizah Monai.

Does this sound more like an artist or scientist? In Monai’s case it is both, seasoned with a good dose of mathematics. Monai graduated from Plainfield High School with a 4.25 GPA and carries a 4.0 as a junior at the Herron School of Art and Design, IUPUI.

Becoming an artist was definitely not in her original career plan.

“I excelled in science and math in high school and thought I would become a math professor. When I graduated from Plainfield High School, I won the senior math award and the senior science award.”

“My worst grade in high school was in art. I was encouraged to try different mediums and techniques but I just wasn’t curious about art at that time.”

In spite of her first indifferent encounter with high school art, Monai took some painting and drawing classes before she graduated and did well. It was then she recognized that she could do realistic work based on a photograph. She had already done a portrait of Marilyn Monroe when she was in the eighth grade that had been very well received so she decided to pursue the art form of photorealism.


Monai then created a drawing of three dogs for a friend to give as a gift. As that work was shown to other people, she received more and more requests. That snowballed into doing repeated work for a couple who bred Mastiffs. New Mastiff owners wanted a drawing of their pets and Monai would oblige.


Last summer she completed a portrait of Joseph B. Homan. Homan was a major in the Civil War and a prominent Danville citizen until his death in 1916. Her portrait is based on a photograph found in the Indiana Room at the Danville Public Library. Some say that it is so realistic, it is as if Homan is looking directly at you through time.

“Photorealism is something I connect with my love for math and science. It is either right or wrong,” Monai said. “I get very focused. Being an artist can be lonely. It is not uncommon for me to be so focused that I work all night. To add some pleasantness to it, I sometimes listen and sing to music, especially the Judds and Bob Dylan.”

Her next horizon in the art world is sculpting using natural materials. It will be interesting to see what this gifted young artist does with that medium.

Story by Peg McRoy Glover