US-Taiwanese Artist Lu Explores the Monstrous Side of Being the Other in ‘Animal Fancy’

Sometime last year, artist Cole Lu found herself in a hospital quarantine chamber, a doctor informing her that she’d inhaled a disease that could end her life—and in the process, transformed her into something too dangerous to touch. This harrowing experience became the germ of the idea behind “Animal Fancy,” a new exhibition now showing at Monaco Gallery (2701 Cherokee St.), an artist-owned cooperative of which former St. Louisan Lu is a founding member.

Cole Lu ALIVE Magazine St. Louis Monaco Artist

A queer immigrant to the U.S. born in Taipei, Lu’s work has long explored notions of what it means to be othered by society, and the particular loneliness of being perceived as alien. Her experience of contracting tuberculosis on U.S. soil, though, inspired her to study the sense of being someone who is not just othered, but fully “monstered”turned not only anomaly but true threat. In “Animal Fancy,” Lu sculpts beasts in bas-relief before partially destroying her own work like villagers attacking a Frankenstein’s monster. By both using and desecrating imagery inspired by Disney, Thomas Mann’s “The Magic Mountain,” and global mythology, she evokes the agony of exile—and, also, somehow, how exquisite it can be to be something so singular that society leaves you virtually alone.

“Animal Fancy” is on view through July 27. Monaco is open on Saturdays from 12-6 p.m. or by appointment. Read our 2016 interview with Cole Lu.

Photography by Attilio D’Agostino.

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