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Friday, December 25, 2015


Have you ever wondered why in modern Christmas tradition we do the things we do?  What is the origin of the Christmas tree, with the star on top, decorations about, and all the brightly wrapped presents beneath?  Or the idea behind Santa Claus who jets around the globe in a magic sleigh with flying reindeer – defying both time and space – to deliver the world’s children a bounty of Christmas gifts?  And since when did Santa and the birth of Jesus have anything to do with each other?  Where do these stories come from – and better yet: what are we actually celebrating on Christmas morning?

There are answers to these questions.  And the history is not so farfetched or even that hidden.  You just have to know where to look.  And the first place we look is the North Pole; seriously – in ancient Siberia, near the top of the world.  The story of Santa and his likely origins begins where he supposedly lives: the frigid North.

In this wintry-wonderland, if you go searching for Santa, you may not find him or his Elvin factory – but you will find groups of indigenous people native to what we know as Siberia.  Among these cultures are the northern Tungusic people, known as the Evenki.  The Evenki were predominantly hunter-gatherers as well as reindeer herders.  Their survival depended largely upon the health and vitality of their domesticated reindeer.  The reindeer provided the Evenki and other northern tribes with everything from clothing, housing material, wares and tools from the bones and antlers, transportation (yes, they ride reindeer!), milk, as well as cultural and religious inspiration.

The Evenki were also a shamanic culture.  The word “shaman” actually has its roots in the Tungus word saman which means “one who knows or knows the spirits.”  Many of the classic shamanic characteristics that would later be reflected in cultures all over the world were originally documented by Russian and European explorers while observing the Tungus and related people’s religious life.  This includes the three-world system, the shamanic journey or soul flight, the use of altered states of consciousness, animistic belief in spirit, and so forth.

A significant aspect of the shamanism practiced in this part of the world during that time was linked to Amanita muscaria, also known as the Fly Agaric mushroom.  This mushroom is more widely accepted in the modern world as the Alice in Wonderland mushroom.  It was held very sacred by these ancient people, and was used by the shaman and others for ceremonial and spiritual purposes.  Amanitas – as you can tell by the pictures – range from brightly red and white to golden orange and yellow.  They only grow beneath certain types of evergreen trees.  They form a symbiotic relationship with the roots of the tree, the exchange of which allows them to grow.  One of the reported ancient beliefs was that the mushroom was actually the fruit of the tree.  Due to the lack of seed, it is also commonly held that Fly Agaric was divine – a kind of virginally birthed sacred plant.

Although intensely psychoactive, Amanitas are also toxic.  One way to reduce the toxicity and increase the psychoactive potency was to simply dry them.  When out collecting the mushrooms, people would pick a bunch of them under the evergreen trees and lay them out along the branches while continuing to pick the mushrooms beneath other trees.  The result was something that looked very reminiscent of a modern Christmas tree: evergreen trees whose branches are dotted with bright red, roundish “decorations” – in this case the sacred mushrooms.  At the end of the session, the shaman or harvester would go around to each of their mushroom stashes and put them all in one large sack… a large sack?!!  Remind you of anything?!  Not only this, as the story of the tradition goes, the shaman would then, carrying this large sack, visit the homes of his or her people and deliver the mushrooms to them.  They would then continue the drying process by hanging them in a sock, near the fire!
Another way to reduce the toxicity of the sacred mushrooms is through human filtration.  Once passed through the body, the toxic elements are apparently filtered by the liver and the resultant urine that comes out contains the still intact psychoactive elements.  So they drank the filtered urine.  But that’s only half the story.  Somewhere in the mythic origins of this practice is the reindeer.  Because the reindeer also love these mushrooms.  They dig through the snow to eat them, and they also drink their own urine afterwards.  So perhaps, long ago, one of the first shamans witnessed the reindeer’s love affair with this peculiar mushroom – as well as its propensity for eating its own freshly yellowed-snow – and saw how peculiarly it behaved as the romance heated up.  The curiosity (indeed a hallmark characteristic of a shaman) couldn’t be contained, and the shaman did what he had to do: he first ate some of the yellow snow himself… and without a doubt realized the profound wisdom and magic not only in the mushroom, but in the reindeer.  And so this romance, too, began…

However it may have happened in antiquity, the connection between the reindeer, the mushroom and the shamanism is apparent.  A very common vision that one has while under the influence of Fly Agaric is precisely that: flying.  Massive distortions of time and space occur, affecting scale in dramatic ways.  Not only do you observe yourself flying, but also other things… like reindeer.  It is not that difficult to connect the dots here.  Shamanic people are deeply invested in their environment.  They learn the magical and mystical properties of the natural world, and often assign a great deal of importance and sacredness to the bearers of that magic.  For some of these ancient Siberian people, this power was charioted by the reindeer and the sacred mushroom.  That the reindeer should have the ability to fly is evident not only in the vision, or their clearly altered state once intoxicated, but also in the wisdom they offered to the shamans by eating the mushroom in the first place, and for guiding them to do so just the same.

It wasn’t only the reindeer who could fly, but the shamans also took flight.  As mentioned, the shamanic journey or soul flight is a keystone in shamanic practice and especially so in ancient Siberian culture.  In order to interact with the spirits, the shaman had to be able to leave this world and enter theirs.  This was accomplished by projecting his or her spirit from the physical and into the immaterial.  They either needed the power to do this on their own, or use a spirit helper to take them.  It is very common for shamans to develop relationships with birds, naturally, as they have the power to fly.  But here, in the North Pole, what better animal to use than the magical, flying reindeer?
There is one other component to the shaman’s flight that corresponds to our Christmas exploration, and this has to do with how they got to the other worlds.  The shamanic cosmology often consists of three worlds: the Lower, Middle and Upper Worlds.  Connecting the three worlds is a cosmic axis, which is also commonly known as the World Tree.  The World Tree served as a bridge or portal that allowed a shaman and spirits to move between the three worlds.  It was the gateway as well as the highway.  In ancient Siberia, the same tree that also bore fruit to the amanitas was also a symbol for the world tree.  The Evenki and other indigenous groups lived in roundish, teepee like structures called yurts.  Sometimes they would place a pine tree in their yurts for ceremonial purposes.  This symbolized the World Tree, and they would harness its symbolic power to propel their spirit up and out of the yurt – through the smoke hole, i.e. the chimney.  Once the journey was complete, they would return through the smoke-hole/chimney with the gifts from the spirit world.  They also believed that the North Star was the very top of the Upper World, and because the World Tree was an axis that connected the entire cosmology, the North Star sat upon the very top of the World Tree – which is where the tradition of placing a star at the top of the tree comes from.

One of the final elements of the Christmas tradition that we know today is the whole concept of gifting.  What are we celebrating?  When you begin to unravel the experience of the shaman’s flight and dance with Amanita, you enter a world that is deeply sacred.  These shamanic cultures were intimately interwoven with their environments through the reindeer and the mushroom in a way that honored and celebrated the mysteries and magic that life and experience brought to the people.  The shaman’s journey and return was ultra-important to the survival of the whole community.  What they brought back with them was often a matter of life and death.  And time and again the shaman and the people, through these experiences that they deemed not only sacred but divine, would learn knowledge and wisdom directly from the sacred plants, their journeys, and from the spirits they interacted with.  This was a kind of life blood for their way of being.  This was the gift.  The celebration was actually a kind of celebration of life, continued survival and renewal; an honoring of the spirits, animals, plants and natural world that gave them the gift of life and knowledge of life.

This brings us to the grand finally, the big present hidden way back under the tree: Jesus Christ, and the timing of his arrival on Earth.  Concurrent with Jesus’ storied birth is a yearly alignment with the sun.  On the December 21st winter solstice, the sun reaches its furthest southern point, bringing the northern hemisphere its longest night.  For 3 days the sun remains apparently unmoving.  On the morning of the 25th, the sun begins its northern ascent once again.  This can be looked at as the birth of the sun, which has spent the winter traveling in the lower world, or the world of darkness.  When the sun begins to climb once again, it is a time to celebrate the light – literally the return of the light, the source of life on Earth, and ultimately the assurance of the coming summer, which also means the survival of the natural world, the animals, the plants, the people and their way of life.  Hence, life and the people are saved.  To indigenous peoples who depended on the seasons’ movement and bounty – and especially for the far northern peoples of ancient Siberia – this was a monumental time.  The sacred Amanita with its red, golden and orange coloring as well as its capacity to offer direct experience and connection with divinity was also regarded as a symbol for the Sun and its life-giving and saving properties.  The Sun – or the Son – is the savior, born on the 25th of December as the bringer of light, harbinger and liberator of life on Earth.

This is the gift and the meaning of the holiday we know as Christ-Mass.  When you are decorating your tree, hanging the star, and doing your thing with red and white and presents – perhaps take a moment to reflect on the esoteric meaning of the shamanic origins of Christmas, and what the spirit of this tradition was and is all about.

http://www.dosenation.com/listing.php?id=5514The Shamanic Origins of Christmas

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Linda Montano

Elizabeth Stephens & Annie Sprinkle
Seminal performance artist Linda M. Montano’s archive is for sale. The buyer must insure that her life’s work will be properly preserved so it can be studied and enjoyed by future generations. Several major art institutions have nibbled and it won’t be long before one bites. Take a guided tour of the archive anytime; go to You Tube, search “Linda Mary Montano Archive For Sale.” Linda herself is the tour guide. There are three levels. Level I includes her paper writings, books, reviews and letters. Level 11 includes Level 1 plus her clothing, photo documents, early paintings, and items she used in her every day life, signed as performance art ephemera, as her “life is art.” With Level 111 the archive comes with a two-story building; “The Art/life Institute” in Kingston, New York, an artfully restored bakery, which Linda rebuilt and decorated herself.
At 69 years old, Linda Montano is going strong and her archive continues to grow. During a recent public intervention she spent three days in front of the Empire State Building performing as Mother Teresa of Calcutta where she greeted passers by and spread the love. Montano’s work has always been humanitarian in nature. The sari with the blue trim which she wore, will be added to the archive. These days Montano is a self-described “Catholic Performance Artist,” creating yet another groundbreaking genre of performance art. This is “testimony to my Catholic childhood and need to re-see early roots.”
Montano’s many endurance and durational pieces have strongly influenced contemporary performance art. Her visual art, her teaching, and “life as art” performances have profoundly moved and inspired many. She began doing performance art full time in 1971. Before that she lived in a Roman Catholic convent for two years preparing to be a Maryknoll nun, on a mission to help those in need and “cure leprosy.” When she became severely anorexic she had to leave the convent, and then she discovered that art making was her best medicine for recovery. Thus began her strong connection between art and life, and her conception of “life is art.”
Montano went on to get her MA in sculpture at Villa Schifanoia in Italy, then her MFA at the University of Wisconsin. She lived and worked in San Francisco from 1970 to 1975 and returned often to teach classes and workshops. She lived in a Zen Monastery. Later, she studied for thirty years at the Ananda Ashram with her spiritual teacher, Dr. Ramamurti Mishra. Montano taught performance art at many universities including the San Francisco Art Institute, Bard College, Temple University, Ohio University and University of Texas. Linda Montano has initiated many people into serious art practices and has given permission to others to make art of their life.
A few of Montano’s historic performance pieces are Rope Piece, where she and artist Tehching Hsieh tied themselves together with eight feet of rope between them for one full year during his Art/Life: One Year Performance. They never removed the rope and never touched. She has performed two seven-year-long pieces; 14 Years Of Living Art 1984-1998, where each year of her life was devoted to a different theme and color, and different commitments based on the theology of the seven chakras. During the first seven-year piece, once a month she sat in the window of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in Manhattan, read people’s tarot cards and gave them Art/Life Counseling as art. The lines were continuous and many people reported that the experience changed their lives for the better. Her videos such as Mitchell’s Death and Learning to Talk are part of any respectable history of performance art class and have played in the world’s finest museums and galleries, including the Guggenheim and the Museum of Modern Art. From 1998 To 2005 Montano “experienced” seven years of “Dad Art,” caretaking her sick father who eventually passed away. She states that, “this event was the culmination of my entire practice as an artist.”
Fourteen years ago, Linda Montano put out a public invitation to other artists to utilize her seven-year Living Art performance structure and do their own life’s version of it. This project is titled Another 21 Years of Living Art 1998-2019. Currently 14 other artists are doing her piece incorporating their own unique vision, including an eight-year-old boy in collaboration with his artist mom in Australia. We are fortunate to be part of that group, and the experience has been extraordinary.
Interview by Elizabeth M. Stephens and Annie M. Sprinkle
Beth: Which do you use, “life as art” or “art as life?” And how did this term get into circulation?
Linda: It is interchangeable and I learned it from Alan Kaprow who studied with Suzuki. I was in San Francisco in the 70’s and was also influenced by Tom Marioni, Terry Fox, Howard Fried, Barbara T. Smith, and Bonnie Sherk who created the FARM. I see ART=LIFE/LIFE=ART as an Asian concept—that the sacredness of life touched everything– that art is indistinguishable from life. That’s why Kaprow along with John Cage and Pauline Oliveros, became enamored of chance operations. They took away the “judging head ” and broke down barriers. Then, moving to San Diego, I continued to be influenced by Pauline and Kaprow and Ellie Antin who taught at UC San Diego as well. Pauline had put her tape recorder on the windowsill and decided to tape everything, listen to everything and compose with that spaciousness….sound=music.
And of course the Women’s Building in Los Angeles, was a giant ART/LIFE experience/experiment.
Beth: So if you think about the work you’ve done and where you have been, what do you think your most important contributions have been to the art world?
Linda: Humor, an ironic twist that pushes things to another level and takes away the kind of seriousness and pomposity that could be a kind of elititism, and birth a world of artists who have gifts and brains that would set them apart from the populous, the people.
Annie: Do you have a favorite work you have produced?
Linda: My favorite “piece” really was taking care of my father. That was a quintessential art life piece. I used my video camera not to make art but to hide behind because of the pain of having to watch him with my own eyes. When I started seeing it as art it was easier to witness, see and transform what was happening. Then later after my Dad died, I made a two-hour movie about him. That was pivotal, because it changed me from what I was before to what I am now. I went back in time, back into my child house, my childhood. Being so near my father, and the intensity of that, I became another person. Humor was my gift in my early work. I see the humor somewhat now, but it’s not a consistent humor. There is something else, and I’m not sure what. Something more real has entered. It’s not that I have given up humor. I just performed as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, which had a twinge of irony because here I am a “dystoniac”(I have cervical dystonia) bent over in spasm, and making believe I’m her. That’s funny, no? There is also something else that is interesting that is happening. In 1970 I sat in front of a video camera for a year and became different characters. Now I’m wanting to become live people. Now I’m wanting to not be make-believe people, but Mother Teresa, Bob Dylan, and Paul McMahon. Before I was Dr. Jane Gooding, and it was fake. Before I was trying to get out of myself and now I’m trying to get nearer to people, to get out of isolation and into intimacy. I will be “you” because I need to share my life. Before it was I’ve gotta get out of my life and be these false people. Also I just finished an essay on this titled “Masks.” See my blog: (HTTP://LINDAMARYMONTANO.BLOGSPOT.COM) I talk about the four levels of consciousness: unconscious, subconscious, conscious and superconscious and I see that I have portrayed all four levels in my persona work: the alcoholic, the professional, the real person(Bob Dylan) and the Guru. It all revolves around accepting all aspects of the self. The neurobiological aspects of rehearsing being another person, changes my brainwaves.
Annie: I adore your humor. Your humor starts in my gut and radiates out my body. It’s not a surface humor that goes inward but a very deep humor that explodes outward. It is spiritually that provides spiritual nourishment.
Linda: Thanks Annie. My grandmother was very funny. She would take her teeth out on holidays and sing. And my mother dressed up on Halloween and went trick or treating.
Beth: My grandmother would take her teeth out too! It was very funny, and very scary. What do you think is the highest form of life-art?
Linda: Anything that creates an ecstasy in the artist; where there is a suspension of time, of judgment. Suspension. There’s a riding the wave of ecstasy when everyone is on the same page. No one is dragging the rudder of judgment or disbelief. It is when the artist is in the state of creation… Or when the artist is co-creating with other ARTISTS/LIFEISTS and they are riding the same train in the same manner and don’t care about time or space. In Catholicism it is called The Mystical Body of Christ. In life, it is ecstasy.
Annie: Are you proud to be an artist?
Linda: I’m very, very happy that I was chosen. I don’t think you choose. The universe chooses people. I am honored to be chosen to be an artist. I don’t think I have anything to do with it.
Beth: What’s the most fun you have had making art?
Linda: I love being different personas, I love being other people. The first time I was Mother Teresa I blew myself away. Me blowing me! And that is so correct because we think… is this blowing the audience away? No, that is the wrong thinking. We have to blow ourselves into ecstasy. When I was studying sculpture in Italy, I dropped the idea of being a studio artist. I collected Italian found objects , audience members picked up an object (according to numbers) which they individually assembled and make a sculpture. That was the beginning of my liberation. Another one happened when my college teacher and mentor, Mother Mary Jane at the College of New Rochelle, gave me “art-wings” and I made a group ceramic mural on a public wall in 1965. Oh yes, freedom for sure.
Annie: You’ve been using recycled materials for a LONG time. Would you say you’ve been in the environmental art movement?
Linda: I think it’s more that I learned thrift, a frugality and a respect for matter from my family. I remember my dad drawing one bowl of water to wash in the morning; everything was done with this one bowl of “sacred” water. Our life was very monastic. My grandmother recycled everything and had a whole album full of condensed milk cows cut from labels. Yeah, recycling is natural to some people because they grew up that way. And then it becomes a movement like Art Povera or Eco-art.
Poverty, war, recessions, depression, a non-consumerist ethos allows for a neo environmental-green that is now au courant.
Beth: Is there such a thing as a failed art project in art/life?
LINDA: We must always think about consequences even though we are these freedom-fighting-geniuses called artists. I would say, as a cautionary word, that the beauty of our calling as artists is to see beyond; we must be the creator, beyond limits, and regulations, and beyond consequences. And yet in the world of reality there ARE consequences. That’s the paradox and makes some of us want to stay in the cave. It takes time and wisdom, and it takes stumblings, and those kinds of haphazard and consequential mistakes to realize that first flush of, oh, I’m going to do this and its going to be fabulous, without thinking of the consequences. Horribleness happens. It is part of the game. But as I age, I can take less and less of it as my stress level seizes me up. Honestly I’m quite content sitting in the kick back chair and watching Entertainment Tonight re-runs. Its good ART/LIFE for me and I am failure-free!!
Beth: So do you think there is such a thing as failure, or is it just part of the process of becoming an artist, and an adult?
Linda: I think that there are no mistakes because there is reality in both. It is “What can I stomach?” I just wrote a “hell” poem inspired from my college days studying the Divine Comedy. My version is composed of layers of hell with exclamations of pain. The poem is titled ENTER (see blog). It is about serial failures and it was so cleansing to write. Failure as art. Exorcising the dark….
Beth: Can you talk about being a Catholic performance artist Linda?
Linda: In these complex times of recessive recessions, downsized possessions, boundaried vacations, medical quarantines, folded funding, foreclosed dreams, I decided or felt called to Become a Catholic Again! It is an exciting return and also has its own challenges. Being a Catholic artist is very new for me, about 10 years old. It came from teaching at the university because there, I had “art children” and I didn’t know how to be an “art mother”. I had been a gig-er before that. I went to gigs in different cities/countries, did my thing and left. No consequences, no muss, no fuss. But teaching for seven years with a group of young people at the same place was a whole other ball game. I had to be a moral compass and protector of their physical/psychological/spiritual safety. Not having had children, I had no idea how to do that so there were times when there were flower-child-art-students, running aesthetically in the halls and a whole lot of performative incredibleness happening that Linda-art loved but Linda-teacher had no idea how to decipher. I went to the Church to get help!
Beth: If you had a young student now that wanted to do life art what advice would you give?
Annie: I’d say ‘call Linda Montano because she’s the best art mother there is.’
Linda: Annie, you are always so generous and supportive of me, and I tear-up with it always… What would I say? Don’t be scared, yet be careful. I’m watching an extremely ill friend who is in her sixties. She had a stroke. Kathy Brew and I were standing next to her bed. She was in critical care. We sang to each other, because we were both feeling the same thing, “What’s it all about Alfie?” And I guess we both agreed that it doesn’t matter how long that resume is when it comes down to the deathbed and final breath. I think I’m coming to that kind of realization which time and age reveal… How to illustrate this? I think when people begin aging and see other people age and when things change so drastically, like my father’s illness, and then returning to Catholicism, having a medical issue where I’m so health focused… I think priorities change.
Can I now be as spicy, and as loyal to the image, to my students, to the video, to the performance, to my brilliance, or to the painting as Georgia O’Keefe was in an interview of her I saw when she was ninety-two. She looked as sharp and committed and focused on being an artist… just like a rattlesnake watching her prey ….and this I could see as she was getting out of her car, going up into the woods on her way to paint New Mexico sunsets. I want to bull dog my way to the end and hang on to the bone of my art and life in a dignified, totally comical, graceful, divinely directed and correct way just like Georgia. Fate might deal me a different strategy. Thanks to my belief-system, it is all, no matter what, wonderful art and a wonderful life.
Beth: Do you think your work is interventionist art? And what do you think that term means?
Linda: There are programs on some of the 400,000 TV programs I watch a week that are about interventions for drugs, alcohol, etc. I think intervention is about: speaking the difficult. Artists really hang out in the difficult, are obliged to communicate the difficult.
Annie: How do you feel like feminism and religion have interacted with your work?
Linda: Feminism is a word that I really don’t apply to myself and I feel really quite inept in this journey I’m on with this Catholic position. Sometimes its working and I’m pretty happy with it and other times not. For example, I go to the jail on Sundays and do a Catholic service there. There is one guard, a man, who likes telling anti-Catholic jokes. There are two other women there and they just listen to the jokes and laugh. They’re more mature than I am. Last time he said he had a new joke. I said, ‘Is it a Catholic joke? Because if it is, I’m leaving.’ And I left. I don’t like the way I did it. I’m proud that I left, but I wish I had done it with more creativity, with humor. With ART! Creativity is the ticket. How to get out of situations or into situations that are more nourishing because I ended up winning in my own eyes, and I don’t want to do that any more. Loving is winning because when l look at a friend on her deathbed…who cares who’s winning. Who cares? There’s just one less person at MY funeral when I’m so intent on winning!
Annie: In terms of your art life practice what are you current commitments/projects now? Didn’t you take a vow to not write for a year?
Linda: The writing commitment is up 2012. It was for seven years. I was going to wear orange forever, and that is getting really mushy. I have a lot of orange clothes but I slip in browns and purples and reds. But as I said before, I’m more focused on compiling, completing, concluding the past, and bringing it into some sort of crescendo/conclusion. That was why I took this no-writing vow. I wanted to cure myself of greedily creating as if I were an art addict and not a lover of truth. Artaholics are not necessary.
Beth: Could you talk about the current group that Annie and I are participating in with you? There are about ten other artists using your Seven Years of Life as Art and seven-chakra structure. Are you glad you made the call for people to join you in using your structure? Is this maybe a strategy for a longer project? What’s it like collaborating with people? What is your response to having this project?
Linda: As far as 21 Years of Living Art is concerned, every 7 years, artists “do their 7 year thing” under the auspices of this school that I founded because I truly love endurance and I wanted to share my love with others. One day I see my thinking about what people are doing in this school as ecumenical-offerings which are not quite Roman Catholic but certainly are spiritual (not religious), and then the next day I want to hide and feel as if I am uncomfortably pushing my boundaries of Catholic belief. Yes, that says it, my boundaries of belief. So right now the school is a wonderful mix of geniuses who are forcing me into deciding whether I’m going to be a fundamentalist finger wagging Catholic church woman via SNL, or if I am there to encourage creativity.
Beth: Here’s a question from our editor, Roxi Hamilton, “How do you feel that ritual and longevity, like 7-year performance cycles, intervene in and shape our conceptions of how art affects life?”
Linda: I want her to answer that one!
Beth: Here’s another one from Roxi., “ How do you regard your extension of ancestry, and that’s borrowing appropriating and extending your 7-year chakra paradigm and whether the 7-year performances should be repeatedly reconceptualized by other artists?”
Linda: I think it’s in the culture anyway. I think that performance art has a way of infecting culture, and then reappearing. It’s already happening, and it’s happened. A lot of it is because the computer has squashed and trumped time, and is preparing us for robotization and intellectual piracy. These attempts of these interventionist artists to speak to, and hold on to time is really an Armageddon-like attempt to point towards a loss via the machine. Endurance is a response to the information age. Endurance is availability. Endurance is staying the course. Endurance gives us a taste of solidity that is being lost to floating avatarily in SECOND LIFE.
Beth: One more question from Roxi. “Your personal spiritual, and artistic vocabulary seems to be composed of a hybrid of mostly Catholic but also Indian influences, the guru, the chakras, etc. Can you comment on the significance of combining your own childhood religion with the language and practice of other cultures?”
Linda: It can only be a richer meal.
Beth: Anything else you would like to say?
Linda: Buy my archive so I can simplify. lindamontano@hotmail.com See it on You Tube. Its called “Archive for Sale.” I’m giving a finder’s fee for the best price.
Annie: Who would the ideal buyer be?
Linda: The Getty, NYU, Bard, An International Institute? See Part 4 of the video and find a place. Fast. Anywhere that the Archive can be used for research would be good. I’m really putting effort into putting my papers, books, videos and objects in order. I’m becoming an archivist. Does that mean I’m now a librarian? Not another persona, please! The best scenario is if somebody bought the Kingston “Art/Life Institute” and kept the archive there and used it as a study center, a performance center. That would be perfect!
Annie: I’d give anything to see that happen.
Beth: That’s really exciting.
Linda: ART LIVES!!!!!!!!!!
We highly encourage you to contact Linda Mary Montano for Art/Life/Laughter Counseling. Or gather her unique wisdom from her three books: Art In Everyday Life, Performance Artists Speaking In the 80’s, Letters from Linda M. Montano. Invite her to do lectures, workshops, and performances in your city. Visit her web site at lindmontano.com. If you are interested in acquiring her amazing archive, contact her at lindamontano@hotmail.com. Buy it and donate it to NYU or find a rich uncle who needs a tax write off and let him buy it, then donate it to NYU. Your finder’s fee is a day tied to Linda with love.    
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1. CHAKRA 1: MULADHARA. GLAND 1: OVARIES/TESTES. INTIMACY. ANNIE & BETH: Gratitude to you both! There are now 455,072,324 young, old, straight, bi, transgender and celibate folks who comfortably and  ecstatically celebrate their sensuality because of you and in doing so they generate more love for this hungry/hurting planet.
2. CHAKRA 2: SVADHISTHANA. GLAND 2: PANCREAS. MONEY. BETH & ANNIE: Gratitude to you both! As penultimate earth stewards you both fearlessly generate props, costumes, magical objects and millions of glittery accoutrements which transform environments and with gusto and without shyness, you seek funding to finance these spectacles that ritually/positively change group consciousness.
3. CHAKRA 3: MANIPURA. GLAND 3: ADRENALS. COURAGE. ANNIE & BETH: Gratitude to you both! Prophets have no limits and your aesthetic message that everyone and everything has a soul has allowed you to fearlessly, courageously and radically do everything possible to protect all souls.
4. CHAKRA 4: ANAHATA. GLAND 4: THYMUS. LOVE. BETH & ANNIE: Gratitude to you both! You have performed enough autobiographical work so that you both feel healed enough to become  BIGGER than your individual selves and now you can focus on the earth as a living, organic being in need of attention, transformation and performative respect.
5. CHAKRA 5: VISHUDDHA. GLAND 5: THYROID. COMMUNICATION. ANNIE & BETH: Gratitude to you both! You walk your talk in simple inclusivity. It is obvious that both of you are secret, private, hidden intellectuals who easily speak the language of the academy, but you both insist on connecting/speaking with and not AT all so that the message and people benefit. What a wonderful strategy for ACTIVISTIS of LOVE who side-step away from power and fame so that the earth/others can shine.
6. CHAKRA 6: AJNA. GLAND 6: PINEAL: INTUITION. BETH & ANNIE: Gratitude to you both!  You see what needs to be done and seed your vision to pioneer a path that will positively change the ENTIRE universe.
7. CHAKRA 7: SAHASRARA. GLAND 7: PITUITARY. JOY. ANNIE & BETH. Gratitude to you both! Keep leading us into the waters so we splash around again like we did before. Keep leading us to non-judgmental collaborations. Keep leading us to the information that opens our minds to the real truth. Keep leading us to healthy ways to convert pain/evil/distress into fabulous flowers of beauty and light. Keep leading us back to the GARDEN.
Linda Mary Montano, Saugerties  2015.



THE STORY OF "ARE YOU WELL?" Linda Mary Montano, Saugerties NY, 2015

I preach art is life and life is art and a few years ago I actually practiced it. Here is how my attempt to eliminate the boundaries between the two imploded on me, exposing and exploring my theory . Notice how I didn't really pass the art/life test of seamless, pleasant, transparent union of the two. Here is the story: One afternoon I was standing on the front of the line at the Port of Authority, NYC, waiting to board the NY to Kingston Adirondack Trailways bus. Usually people are still in city mode and keep to themselves unless they have to go to the bathroom and then they might break silence and ask the person in front or back of them to watch their stuff. So when I heard a voice from way in back  call out in a friendly and cute way, "Hello Linda, are you well?" I bolted, blanched, bleated and barfed a spontaneous spoken word intervention and answer from deep in my bowels and in not so good  performance artist in action fashion, literally sounded, shouted and not so happily addressed the question with the following rude answer to the said female actress I hardly knew. It went like this: "Am I well? Am I well. What do you mean am I well.  I have alzheimers (a fear); dementia (a fear); leaky gut (a fear); urinary incontinence (a fear)."  And maybe I said more. I don't remember. And then I said,  "Shelly, are you well?" I  am forgetting what happened next because it was all so traumatic, the appearance of my performance artist persona off the stage, that is. And what is notable is that it was dementia-like of me to respond that way which totally complicates the entire scenario. Fabulous art/not so fabulous life.

Stuffing the event deep into my unanalyzed and therapeutically untreated back brain, it recently got triggered again. You see,  Shelly was a few years ahead of herself using the are you well greeting because NOW, everybody is saying it or emailing their endings, "Be well. Or, hope you are well." I'm obviously not over the big, pulsing need to correct them when they say the "well" stuff but  the worst part is that the performance artist is over it, but Linda the non performance artist is addressing the situation in a way that is completely embarrassing and out of order. The wreckage is  much more personally damaging than my Port of authority slippage because NOW, I'm  correcting friends, acquaintances and non-friends when the words are heard in my presence or written in emails. And it is not pretty. I don't know Linda the corrector as well as I do, Linda the performer and as an uncertified stop-wellness officer, I am becoming scary to myself and a persona non grata to those who might want to say Hi to me but are afraid that I might bark a correction.
And by the way Shelly, if I ever see you again, I will say, " Remember that day at the Port of Authority? I'm SO sorry. I was wrong, wrong, wrong!"
  This is not good and it is taking me soon, I promise, to a therapist who I hope will help me trace the trigger to the source. Ooopps, trigger is a bad word too!! But meanwhile, (notice the word mean), I went to my Facebook community and email community and  posed the question.

I am collecting 1-2 sentence responses that you FB me to my question, "Why r people saying "ARE U WELL when they greet each other?" And why do they end emails, "Be well. Hope you are well!!" Will include  your responses in an essay. Thanks, Linda
Here are their answers:

SUZANNE HELLMUTH: Well,well,well I had to find the entomology. The word comes from Latin vele to wish, & earlier proto-Indo-European that evolved to Germanic, old English, Welsh having double meanings of good/fair/kind/health & related meanings to that group AND drawing/springing forth as water from a spring... tears from the eyes.
    Would a spring or well of water be good as in a fulfillment of wish --thus a water source or a well --& that water-wish word came to also mean for good/fair/kind/healthy...?  Or, having water...is well, is source of well-being-- ?  Etc. 
English have towns with Wells in their name for example, Turndote Wells, where there are natural springs. Wellington, etc.
   But, really, what is wellness now? 
Margarat Nee I blame Garrison Keillor for "be well" because he closes his poetry segments on the radio with it. I've never been greeted with "are you well" but it seems like a very clunky substitute for the usual "how's it goin" "how ya doin'" etc.

(My complaint is that people shouldn't open with that unless they really want to know, otherwise dopes like me forget sometimes and answer the question)

Mary Disney good ? I wonder if people are trying to shorten their correspondence and at the same time heighten their meaning with the CAPS. I think people are saying in the emails when they sign off is that they hope their friend is doing all they can to be well. I often end my emails with "Bee well" because I am a beekeeper.

Abina Manning When I moved to the U.S. and people would ask me "Are you well?" I would answer them. Until I saw their eyes glaze over. smile emoticon.

Margarat Nee When I was in Ireland it took me awhile to understand that when when folks behind a shop/cafe counter asked "are you ok?" they meant did I want to buy/order something from them.
CAROL SACHAL  I learned a long time ago, 50 years or more, NEVER to ask my Ukrainian Grandmother, Nanny, "How are you?" when I went to visit her each week, 3 times a week as required in my family.  The reason:  she would tell me:  "This hoits, that hoits, oh my, the pain!"  (hoits=hurts)   If I didn't ask her, she wouldn't tell me and it was a much more uplifting visit, so I learned to not ask that question.


Linda Mary Montano im learning alot keep them coming.

Eileen Kane Here in Tucson, where lots of my neighbors are elderly, we don't ever ask that question!

Victoria Singh In New Zealand people tend to say "howzit goin?" no equivalent to "be well" springs to mind


Mary Puddycat Collins My friends and I started closing our letters with the Latin "Vale" - be well - that we learned in high school.

 Tobe Carey  Well...or when I ask my "older" friend how he is, he always answers, "Rotting away, thanks."
Paul W McMahon Humans need water to survive, even more than food but not air. so if you are well, you are also well and water of life flow thru you. if you are not a well you may be getting swampy so dig deeper in order to be well again! it's meta 4 4 minstrel psychical. i never met a 4 i didn't like.
Gene Loeb (Shinananda)  I think when they ask " Are you well, " they are asking u to say to yourself, "Why, do I look like shit?"
Lizbeth Rymland   ( I cant find her response but I remember she said something like, forget it when it happens or maybe she was saying , it isn't worth the energy, getting upset about someone saying, "ARE YOU WELL?"

RICH BRANDES: Research reveals that travelers in Merry Olde England visiting pubs and taverns in unfamiliar villages might ask an establishment if they served a favorite dish known as Beef Wellington.  The question “Are you serving any Beef Wellington?” was shortened to “Are You Beef Wellington?” and later to simply “Are You Well ington?” 
As meat eating has become less popular the phrase “Are you well” has fallen out of favor.
CONCLUSION: Thanks to all of the participants, I'm cooled down. I promise I will never correct WELL again when it is said or written because I have found the source of my trigger in Eileen Kane's response:  "Here in Tucson, where lots of my neighbors are elderly, we don't ever ask that question!"
And by the way Shelly, if I ever see you again, I will say, " Remember that day at the Port of Authority? I'm SO sorry. I was wrong, wrong, wrong!"


                                                                DAD ART  PERFORMANCE
                                                 A  THREE HOUR COLLAGUED/INTERACTIVE 
                                                    MEDITATION ON LIFE AND DEATH
                                                             LINDA  MARY MONTANO
STATEMENT: In 1998, I began a video collaboration with my father, Henry Montano. After his stroke, I continued documenting us.
This collagued and  interactive experience, DAD ART, is an opportunity for those present to bring creative attention via video/performance/dialogue to the Great Matter, Death.
1.  A full screen video projection of DAD ART, DVD. Length, two hours.
2. Montano, singing a song from the 40's, every 20 minutes.
3.  A Master of Ceremonies who invites audience members' participation and articulates shamanically , the feeling of the performance.
4. Three interactive actions, collaged into the performance and happening simultaneously:
      A. An artist/lifeist, sitting at a table, onstage,  handing out glasses of water to audience members who come onstage to receive water.
      B. An artist/lifeist, sitting at a table, onstage, writing the spoken words of audience members who dictate a letter to death.
      C. One or two artists/lifeists, sitting on a chair onstage,  talking with an audience member about death.
 5.  At the end  of the performance,  artists/lifeists from the community will process into the performance space , with sounds, flags, ceremony and will gather the letters to death. They will then lead the audience to an appropriate space outside or inside where the letters will be burned.
6. Questions and answers.
1. Video-Sound projector for DVD.
2. Mixer, speakers, playback, wireless microphone for  Master of Ceremonies, wireless microphone for Montano. And all other sound equipment as needed. Microphone for musician when present.
3. Cd player with auto pause.
4. Lights and colored gels for the 3 interactive action sites, Light for the  Master of Ceremonies and light for Montano. 
 And other lighting as needed.
1. Transportation for Montano. Per diem. Lodging. Honorarium. Same for Musician when present.
2. Video rental.
3. Honorarium for performers.
845-399 -2502,  9-5PM