Wesselmann model visits VMFA

Monica Serra

Monica poses with Monica sitting with Mondrian (variation No. 4)

Monica Serra, Wesselmann’s longtime studio assistant, model and a country music singer traveled from New York to savor VMFA’s Pop Art and Beyond: Tom Wesselmann retrospective. Serra worked for Wesselmann and now the Wesselmann studio for the past 20 years. How did she snag such a fascinating job? A mutual friend invited her to an opening at the Sidney Janis Gallery where she met the artist. He invited her to his studio on the Bowery. She arrived, rang the bell and he lowered a key attached to a line on a fishing pole from the second floor window. He was delighted to know that she was a singer, since he also wrote and recorded country music. Upon meeting her, Wesselmann asked if she would model, to which she enthusiastically agreed. Thus began a long and fruitful career. The last room of the exhibition contains an excellent video which includes fascinating footage of the artist at work with Ms. Serra assisting him. In that room you can hear of some of Tom Wesselmann’s music, including the track which is a part of Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain soundtrack. Serra’s visit gives us yet another interesting insight into this artist who was the second artist to be collected by VMFA patrons and donors, Sydney and Frances Lewis. You may see Wesselmann’s work in both Pop Art and Beyond as well as in the Mid to Late 20th Century collection. – Suzanne Hall