MoNoise at Essentia — A Memory Foam Mattress Store

Shotgun Review

MoNoise at Essentia — A Memory Foam Mattress Store

By Meshell Sturgis March 13, 2018

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Meshell Sturgis reviews MoNoise at Essentia — A Memory Foam Mattress Store in Seattle.

It is the opening night for an exhibition of Maurice Noisette’s artwork at Essentia, a memory-foam mattress store by day, gallery by night. The Seattle-based artist who goes by the name of MoNoise mingles with guests while live music mixes in the background. MoNoise’s sketches and paintings display an aesthetic fusion of technicolor and bold ink, and depict musicians like Snoop Dogg, Notorious B.I.G., A$AP Rocky, Erykah Badu, SZA, Janet Jackson, 2Pac, and Ice Cube. The paintings and sketches bring color and cartooning to the still-life hip-hop heads. It seems silly to look at the images upside down—as one can on a bed—but when in a mattress store, it feels appropriate to accept such a playfully intimate invitation. As I lie back, a MoNoise work titled Release (2016) hangs at the crown of my head.

MoNoise. Release, 2016; acrylic; 16 x 20 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Institution. Photo: Maurice Noisette.

Release, a comic-like acrylic painting, calls me to relax and let go of the day. As I stretch my eyes back, the inverted profile of a salmon-toned woman of color comes into view. Her wavy dark hair rests behind her ear, revealing a pearl earring, and like my own, her head is thrown back, her neck exposed and eyes closed. Several lavender words like “cruelty,” “revenge,” “neglect,” and “failure” blow from her red lips in a white plume, as if they were speech bubbles. Foucault analogizes the act of confessing to sexual orgasm;1 MoNoise draws a similar comparison between sensual release and speaking one’s truth.

The woman’s vivid deliverance is like a coming to terms, literally, with the things we folks of color internalize and hold within despite them being imposed upon us from without. To be true to yourself, you must let go of what was never yours. She departs from negativity and, because she does, I am able to bask in her glow of purples, blues, and greens. But this is not my bed, not even one I can afford. In another nearby painting, Elev808 (2017), the gold necklace of the iconic hip-hop dreamer who hangs in the clouds by a balloon-like turntable reminds me that the high-priced mattress setting of the gallery symbolizes the capitalist chains we wear as Black dreamers. The exhibition beckons me to remember the dreams of our hip-hop legends yet simultaneously gives imagery to the weight and noise of our reality.

MoNoise was on view through February 12, 2018, at Essentia — A Memory Foam Mattress Store in Seattle.


  1. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: Volume I, An Introduction, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), 53–65; 71.

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