A Florida native, Gary Monroe has long been interested in all things that define the state’s culture. Upon leaving the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1977 with a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts, he returned to his home in Miami Beach to photograph the old world culture of South Beach. Since then he has photographed extensively in Haiti and throughout the world. Eventually his curiosity led him in an additional direction; he began to write about vernacular and outsider art that was found in Florida.
Mr. Monroe's first book, Romer’s Miami, was published in 1985 after curating the life work of Miami photographer Gleason Waite Romer. He is most recognized for his books about the artists now known as the Highwaymen. In 2001, with the publication of The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Painters, Mr. Monroe set off an unlikely phenomenon of consumer interest in the artists and their art. Harold Newton: The Original Highwayman, followed in 2007. The Highwaymen Murals: Al Black’s Concrete Dreams was published in 2009. Mary Ann Carroll: First Lady of the Highwaymen, published in 2014, is the latest book about this saga.
In Extraordinary Interpretations: Florida’s Self-taught Artists, issued in 2003, Mr. Monroe surveyed the lives and works of 62 contemporary folk artists. Silver Springs: The Underwater Photography of Bruce Mozert, released in 2008, exposes the photographer and his photography that defined the theme park during its banner post-war years. Mr. Monroe’s Florida’s American Heritage River: Images from the St. Johns Region, published in 2009, captures and celebrates the works of renowned artists as well as many self-taught Floridians. His 2016 book, E.G. Barnhill introduces this significant but forgotten innovative Florida photographer and positions his unique uranium dye prints as an important contribution to the Florida’s image and imagery.
Gary Monroe was appointed to the Florida Humanities Council's Speaker's Bureau in 1998, and has delivered 300 lectures about Florida self-taught artists. He has written articles for publications including Raw Vision, the international outsider arts journal, and Smithsonian Magazine. He continues to discover work by self-taught artists, and consults with collectors and museums in interpreting their art and curating exhibitions.