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Friday, August 31, 2012


LETTERS TO MY GLANDS: FROM LIFESPRING CLASS, LINDA MARY MONTANO 2012 ************************************************************************************* DEAR OVARIES:





















 LINDA **********************************************************************************************





 1. Where are you from and what is your connection with that place?

LMM: I am from a small upstate NY village. It was like a green tunnel as I grew, filled with no exit signs. Because I could walk to m grandmother's home everyday and watch her make "outsider art", I was lucky that the village afforded this luxury of movement and ability to sleigh ride down the road, ride a horse in the filed and skate on the pond they made every winter. And NOBODY EVER SAID BE CAREFULL, BECAUSE LIFE IS DANGEROUS! So I grew in this atmosphere of permission which I cherish and continue to practice. Is there any other region which calls to you strongly? I visited New Mexico when I lived with Pauline Oliceros and we went to the American Indian rituals with Diane and Jerry Rothenberg on the reservations. So New Mexico calls as well as India, the land of spiritual permission par excellance. I like places where I dont have to comb my hair or worry about it!

 2.What have you been reading and/or who have you read the most of and/or who do you need to read more of?\

LMM:I read alot of memoir. In fact I read someplace, "I didnt read a book and knew only one person, I read books and knew thousands." Reading is food to me and now I watch you tubes and make believe they are books. I can attend lectures by lamas and rimpoches and mystics and see biographies of saints from the comfort of my living room.

3. What did you do and/or how did you feel during the month of July 1984?

LMM: I had just been "untied" from the rope event with Tehching Hsieh and I felt a plethora of things: exhaltation at having survived the rope, sadness at leaving the side of this great man, but then I was in anguish because my mother developed cancer that year and I rushed home July 4th night (after being freed from the rope) and went to my mother's bedside. Now at 70 years old, I get a chance to FEEL all of this. Then it was happening and now this section of my life is for reviewing and assimilating and digesting.

 4. How does one benefit from the concept of sin?

LMM: This must be introduced but only with LOVE AS THE TWIN. Children must not be finger wagged at. They must not be shamed or pulled into hell with the teachings on sin and culpability and consequences. Sin must be introduced hand in hand with compassion so the kid doesnt end up a serial killer or neurotic or psychotic or victimized cripple or psychopath! In the past sin was used as a club and not introduced as a DO UNTO OTHERS possibility with the caveat that we all faqll off the wagon. Falling off when I was a young person meant hell and buring forever and so the fear factor sets in when that is the position and what follows is physical illness, psychological shadowing and life changing crippling! I melt when I see parents introduce "right and wrong" in a rational, culturally specific and kind way to a child! How should one define their morality? The brain cements in a pattern of action from early teachings. What was moral then, in childhood, is often our moral now! To alter the original poisonous pedagogy(Alice Miller), we have to breathe, meditate, study, (books!!!) and do tons of therapy.

 5. How have you seen art heal in your experience?

LMM:  Art has been my drug of choice forever. I watched my mother and grandmother use art therapeutically my whole life. They DID SOMETHING, brought life to matter and as a result, made beauty from the detrius of their lives. I copied that model of transformation and sang my grief when Mitchell died, danced my joy on TV with my dog, Chicken, when I was first married, I got hypnotized to sing and dream while sleeping on a gallery floor, I offered ART/LIFE COUNSELING on a one-t-one basis because I needed to talk with people and didnt know how to do that as life....the list goes on. See www.lindamontano.com

6. Is darkness as important as the light?

LMM: So very much. One of my most favorite videos is called STARVED SURVIVORS. It is free on you tube, because after OWS, I decided to OCCUPY MY ART and make it all free. STARVED SURVIVORS is about traveling to hell and back, from dark to light. Unless we suck up the mud and mire and feel the dark, the light will remain just a flicker.

7. In the past, when you would work with the tarot, what did it mean to you?

LMM: There is a very close relationship between POWER OVER and genuine CAREGIVING that I always have to balance. It takes right intention to use inherently miraculous gifts that we have without becoming the arrogant and lording over know it all that is so easy to do/become. I used tarot as a tool of talking to peole.(I feel I grew up as a selective mute, in silence, and didnt have talking skills. In fact, see my video, LEARNING TO TALK on you tube; I sat in font of a video camera in 1976-79 and talked to it as 7 different people. I call the experience CREATIVE SCHIZOPHRENIA.) So people would come to the window at the NEW MUSEUM and I would do a whole number...tarot, palm, intuitive readings etc. It was great but when I re-entered Catholicism, I burned those tools!!!!! And now I offer ART/LIFE COUNSELING......I am basically bossy and I get to re-order that and give advice as art. When I become MOTHER TERESA, I just bless people, and do less counseling. A step up for sure. And it has filtered over to my life because I am not poking my ego and my opinions into daily encounters as much, and just hanging back and blessing bith myself and the person i'm with. Safer!

8. In your letter to the Pope you mentioned you had a “heart full of contradictions and paradox” and that the title of “Catholic Performance Artist” was a contestable oxymoron. Could you elaborate on this?

LMM : I was a wild and free performanceaholic! Did what , where, how ,why,when,and how much I wanted without reserve. When I was gigging, I wnet from place to place, did my thing or things then left next day. No muss no fuss. Then I got a tenure tract job and had people/students for awhile in my life.... They were doing such intense work that i felt I had to be more accountable to them, more careful with them and with their minds and bodies! Also I was in academia and that is about connecting and thinking out loud and transparency and creating an academic"family." These were all social and professional skills I knew nothing about. So, I started going to the Catholic church on campus which was more with it than the one i grew up in so I thought ,"This isnt so bad!" And then I saw a Catholic counselor and started dealing wiht some of my Catholic stuff and my mind stuff in a atherapeutic way and not just an "art way" as I had before. The keystone was returning home to upstate and then taking care of my dad in the same house, taking him to the same church BUT seeing the beauty of the sacrtamental and MYSTICAL LIFE OF CATHOLICISM, through new eyse, the eyes of the Eastern teachings I had practiced which were about compassion and wisdom, not rules, sin, shame, guilt and damnation!!!!!! But I must admit that putting Catholicism, perofrmance art and my need for creative autonmy in the same blender, mixing them up and pouring them out has been extremely challenging but I LOVE CHALLENGE and will endure!

9. Do you think periods of explosive and disciplined creativity are often followed by astounding displays of annihilation?

LMM: Balance, rest, breathing and letting the elements heal are a daily must.

10. Can you tell me about Dr Mishra and your experiences together?

LMM: I met him formally in SF when he came to the Integral Yoga Institute one night, sat infront of 3 asana students and played a guitar by just strumming it, no notes, fro a long, long long long time. I went into a definite trance and heard: He is your teacher. Hindus,people from INdia have a spiritual skill, unmatched in the west. This is their gold, this is their technology, this is their beauty and they have gods and ogdesses of love, of ecstasy, of pleasure , of power and of tolerance. The people refelct this permission for an earth-heaven ecstasy that they are always emitting and teaching. Dr Mishra was a genius of science/medicine/meditation and psychology. A magnet of love and compassion and humor, he became my guide to my soul and my heart and opened them . He always encouraged my Catholicism and gave me Jesus phots, talked about my being in the convent and indicated that I would "return" to the religion of my youth/roots. He was a MD and knew the body and a mystic and knew the soul. Atrue scolar of sanskrit and sutras and everything theologically hindu, he was a genius and father to all. He saved my spiritual life and gave me the gift of meditative ecstasy. I am his student for sure.

 11. Has a work of art ever made you cry? If so, what?

LMM:  Anger Management with Adam Sandler and Jack (forgot last name.....

 12. Can you tell me about someone you have lost?

LMM: Mrs Mehta, an Ayruvedic physican was my adopted mother and soul-mate friend for 19 years. I mentored life and compassion with her/following her around rooms, standing one inch ffrom her at all times/ironing her saris/willing to apprentice by being there in her life. What she gave back was waves of compassion and love. She could have been one of those GURUS and MA but she chose to give her shaktipat to her family and friends. A few minutes after her creamation, I saw a car go up in flames, 40 feet in the air, as we were driving out of the cemetary and away from the crematorium. She guide me still in the guise of BLESSED MOTHER MARY.

13. Do you spend much time considering notions of a first cause? Is the Universe indifferent?


 14. Where do you like to go when you come to NYC?

LMM: I go to churches and do 3 HOUR PRAYER PERFORMANCES. I advertise these on the Franklin Furnace list and others join me.

15. When you were a child, did you view the world in a fantastical way that has faded as you've gotten older?

LMM: Did and it is still here.

16. What is a good exercise for someone who wishes to calm down?

LMM: The LION from yoga.

17. What can you see from where you are sitting right now?

LMM: One of my favorite second homes, the library wall.



  Commonly, in dream dictionaries, the chicken is said to represent fertility (the whole "chicken and egg" argument notwithstanding).

 In Chinese dream interpretation, the chicken is symbolic of pride: he is the first creature to greet the sun, the first to announce his presence to the world (which, in light of the age-old argument, may be the East's solution to the question: the chicken announced itself, and then bothered to procreate).

However, they also have a secondary symbolism.

 Chickens are agents of enlightenments in their adulation of dawn.

Throughout mythology and folklore, it is always the chicken who represents the break of day; they are the auditory signal that wakes the sleepers.



I wanted to begin by asking you about Marcia Tucker (founder and chief curator of the New Museum of Contemporary Art from 1977 to 1999) because she was such an important figure. It’s interesting that the head of a Museum would commit to a project that is seven years long. That is an extraordinary opportunity to offer. It’s an even more extraordinary to do that seven year work but you had a collaborator and supporter—so I wondered if you could talk a little bit about your memory of Marcia.
First, I would like to say that I am honored to be chosen by you, Susan and Chrysanne, and I am really honored to be included in MOMMY, your project honoring women artists. I feel raised to a dignity and respect that is somewhat difficult for women because of the myth of the suffering artist who is not supposed to be visible, who is not supposed to practice, know about or deal with spiritual issues, who is not supposed to have or know about how to make money from their work. A triple-decker! Marcia Tucker was a maverick prophetess of the arts, completely nonsentimentally visioned, brave, no nonsense, totally fearless and forthright. She took me on and adopted me and let me play in her house (Museum) for 7 years in a very respectful way and a very visioned way in that she gave me a space. We matched conceptually, she and I collaborated and that’s the best way to say it. Each of the seven years I was “installed” in the New Museum, I wore one color and Marcia had the room I was in painted according to my schedule! I sat there once a month for seven years and met people and practiced Art/Life Counseling with them. Moira Roth had written a statement about the performance and Marcia made sure that it was re-printed in the color I wore, matching my room so the manuscripts were colored red, orange, blue, green, purple, white…. When I completed the 7 years of the performance I did another window piece, after she died, in the front window—so I moved from the back window to front window. As women artists, we have had to train ourselves to be seen because we are socialized to hide ourselves. But I think it is very important to raise ourselves—it’s like a balancing act, because we don’t want what happens when we are raised inauthentically or in the wrong way or egotistically and yet we want recognition. It’s necessary in order to balance the scale. And Marcia was a scale balancer. A really tough, sweet, scale balancer.

Had you known Marica for a long time before that project began?
I don’t remember when I met her first but I think I went to her with the project. Probably Martha Wilson introduced us, because she does that for everybody. Martha and Marcia have a similar charisma.

In reading through your website, the project with Tehching Hsieh appears to be the beginning of your work doing long endurance pieces. Had you known him before the project began? Did you feel confident from the beginning that you could do this? (This question refers to Tehching Hsieh and Linda Montano’s performance titled ART/LIFE: ONE YEAR PERFORMANCE from July 4, 1983 to July 4, 1984 in which she and Tehching Hsieh were tied together by an 8 foot rope.) I know that when I set out to walk for 22 days in Germany and the Czech Republic, halfway through I sat down on a bridge and thought; “Why am I making myself do this? I don’t think I can do this.”
Before I met him, I was living in a Zen monastery in Mt. Tremper, New York and it was difficult to come out of hiding, out of the monastery, to adopt art again and say my practice is not just meditation, it’s not just the monastery. But the allure to work with him was strong. Martha Wilson introduced us and he was looking for someone to work with, to be tied with. The backstory is that the intensity of being with him, of being conscripted—I’m thinking military—because it was such a disciplined and militaristic piece—the intensity of being tied 24/7— in the bathroom at the same time, in the same room at the same time and yet the beauty of working with such a master—I really consider him a master, was worth the drama and interior struggle. And it helped me to think about time in a different way because I had done the handcuffed piece and blindfolded pieces but they were different time frames. When I left him I came back upstate still very attached to the form, to the discipline, to the message and the job. I wanted more, so I gave myself another seven years of endurance calling it 7 Years of Living Art and the piece eventually evolved and became 14 Years of Living Art, 1984-1998.

Did you end up with a relationship with Tehching Hsieh? Was it a friendship that lasted over the years or was the relationship contained within that project?
For some time after, it went through permutations of accountability and visibility. The kinds of things that happen in sibling rivalry. We had become brother and sister. And now it’s just totally peaceful and quiet and he does his world and I do mine.

Would you say that a love developed in the course of that year?

Was it difficult to never touch each other, because even siblings or friends will touch each other and hug each other or lean on each other? It’s a long period of time without the human touch. LINDA:
My touch sensibility changed as a result of it so that when my friends were near, I was sensorially thinking—I can’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t. Can I with you or not? I found it to be a real exercise as it did create a tension and gave birth to present centeredness. It was a breathing exercise I guess you could say, via the hands, the body. I liked it. I really liked it. I like challenge and I like difficulty and I like creating parameters within the artwork and within the art world and it fit quite well. We accidentally each touched 100 times and kept records of that and records of our talking so that there were many audiotapes that are sealed. He has all this documentation now.

Would you describe conversations between the two of you as intimate?
No. We went into Zen mode. In the beginning we talked and then we became animals and pulled, come over here, grunted—we became Siamese twins and by the end it was all smell. Not really, but I am using the word as a metaphor. We smelled each other is how I remember it, and there was a lot of moaning and groaning and pulling and tugging and gesticulating.

So you didn’t require speech anymore?
We evolved out of speech. I use my work to go deep or to go to places where I can’t go because of my upbringing or my psychology and that piece so catapulted me to working outside of art in order to deal with life issues that I began serious therapy after that one year performance. And then the deal breaker the heart breaker, the heart opener was taking care of my dad. Of course I think that there is more to do, no more closets to unlock, no more art to make that will reveal inner secrets but these performances are all steps on the Great Wall of China, so to speak. And there is always something hidden, waiting to be revealed. My work has always dislodged my stuff.

How long did you take care of your dad?
The beginning of that story is that I was teaching at UT Austin, in the art department—performance art and history of performance and I was coming up for tenure and didn’t get tenure but kept hearing; “Linda, go be with your father” and I said; “I want tenure, I want tenure.” I loved being Miss Show Off and Miss Academia and Miss Money Maker and Miss Insurance and Miss Driving Home from Texas Each Summer and Miss Important and it was very intense teaching performance art in Texas the way I was teaching because I was a gigger, I gigged—that’s how I made my living and I was not a stayer. Giggers come in, do a gig, show off and leave. Stayers stay and are accountable. I was not a family/academia person and I was not an academic and I was not a schmoozer/caregiver in that sense of what you have to do in order to create family/job/responsible tenured professor. I was not a community builder or community maker or family creator. So because of all that, I really needed not to be there, but I had addicted myself to wanting to be there and thought I deserved to be there. The students and I had great times. That part was great, it was just the accoutrements around it…plus we were treading on subject matter that was often explosive. So, I didn’t get the second try at tenure but I did get sent home and got to spent seven years with my father, which was another seven year performance, so to speak. Seven years teaching then seven years with dad…. Everything I had ever done as an artist was preparing me for my time with my father, who became very sick. “You think you had it hard—try this.” And I didn’t record my time with him in order to make art. It’s just that I had a camera when I was feeding him, walking with him and with the caregivers, taking him out of his wheelchair, and I used the camera because I couldn’t look with my eyes. The power of his illness was too blinding and painful and I needed a shield. My dad and I had started collaborating on a video right after I came home from UT, while he was still very alert and well and willing to get to know me as a friend and not just a relative, and then he had a stroke and I continued video taping but I wasn’t saying; “Let’s make a video about dad.” It was just peripheral and the thinking was—I have to get behind something because I can’t look at what is happening. And the camera was there. And then after he died I needed to say goodbye as art so I eventually saw that I had footage and took it all to my collaborator/video-artist/editor/generous magician, Tobe Carey, and it all came together as a two hour video performance. I’ve only shown it a couple of times. It is mourning art. So what I was learning from my work after 1998 was that I had put all of my eggs in the art basket and the art basket was filling up and saying; “I can’t really handle all of this, Linda. You gotta do some life. You’ve got to do some therapy.” And the spiritual basket was always part of it but I wasn’t doing it in a way that there was a balance with the three of them altogether, working as a mix—the art, the life and the spirituality.

It seems as if spirituality was present in your life very early because you were raised as a Catholic and you spent time as a novice.
Yes, my early work was religiously themed. And then I got uppity and believed that “real” artists can’t make things that belong in church. I basically saw myself as a “liturical” artist, I guess you could say, because I was making crucifixes for my M.A. in Italy in sculpture—(I consider all of my work sculpture no matter what, my performances are sculptures. I am a sculpture.) Later on, when I went to graduate school I thought; “I can’t do crucifixes anymore, I am an artist. And serious artists don’t do spiritual, religious work and I want to be accepted so I’d better stop this crucifix stuff.” I bought the whole elitist, irony, snob artist package and I did what the crowd did and thought the way the crowd thought and I thought the way I thought artists were supposed to think and I’m kind of ashamed of that. You know, I’m really ashamed of not thinking for myself, for not continuing my original vocation. I’m abashed how easily I am diverted by the crowd. I allowed myself to be diverted from a sacred and wonderful invitation into the mysterium, into the mystery, into the unseen, into the ecstatic, into the suggestion that there is a really incredibly spiritual place to travel. I was a traveler to these wonderful places as a child, as a Catholic child. Now I’ve returned to these roots conceptually but hey! Isn’t that the avant-garde now, Catholic art? Tsk, tsk, Linda. I was also unteachable and I was also uncritiqueable. I’ve always been very intuitively driven and incapable of listening to any feedback or critique and I would say; “I don’t know what’s happened or what I did but just don’t say anything about it.” I was just unable to do it any other way. I didn’t have language, I didn’t have that kind of ability to work theoretically, to work communicatively and verbally and so I just continued like a banshee, doing my wild thing.

You mentioned that you had a guru. Who was he and how did you meet him? Was he able to teach or liberate you?
I was teaching at a Catholic women’s college in Rochester where I met my husband to be, Mitchell Payne, and low and behold this Catholic college brought in a yoga teacher, who was my teacher’s student, a woman in her eighties. This was the beginning of my thinking with yoga as an influence—applying yoga to art. And my work started incorporating meditative-looking sittings and meditational yogic looking phenomena wrapped in the mantle of Catholic imagery and white angel chickens. Then I finally met Dr. Mishra one night at the IYI (Integral Yoga Institute) on Delores Street in San Francisco. He came into the room and sat down and tranced me by strumming a guitar, one note, for a long time. I couldn’t move and my eyes couldn’t close. Trance. After that I went every day to his Ashram in San Francisco. And it was a complete spiritual/art/life adoption. When he started teaching the Chakras, it was again an entrancement. He had the gift of inviting each person in his life into their particular vocational mystery and their particular interest; knowing how to trailblaze for them their path. And mine was through color and sound and music and structure. I am totally in love with numbers and structures and foundational thinking because of my attachment to sculpture and matter, I suppose. And the chakras suggested a 7-tiered ladder, and like the 3 aspects of the Trinity, I was immersed in stability, the Hindu way this time. Numbers keep me on the earth and he, Guruji, knew that otherwise I would be flying off with the chickens with no real discipline to stay focused or present or happy. SUSAN: Do you call this structure or ritual? LINDA: Good question. That’s a Joseph Campbell question/answer! No, we have to think of a woman who knows the answer. Why do I always think first of what man might know the answer? Not good. Let’s see, who would the woman be? Who is the one who did the movies? Maya Deren. Yes, that’s right. That’s a Maya Deren question/answer. Not sure. SUSAN: I was going to ask a related question, which is, whether there is some particular thing that you think distinguishes the contemplative life as it was introduced to you by Catholicism as opposed to by Buddhism? LINDA: I am extremely interested in this question that you are asking. Catholics fled to the East /Eastern teachings in droves because we forgot or were not taught our mystical tradition that offers techniques for tasting the divine. That is, I just read something by a professor and theologian from Union Theological Seminary who talks about “double belonging” and what happens is that if you are not in a spiritually contemplatively nourishing scene then it’s easy to get caught in the dos, don’ts, rights, wrongs and legalism of Catholicism, and not have the tools to travel internally, and ecstatically and mystically— you have to get nourished internally. So it is tempting to belong to both traditions to balance the scales and get fed properly. I did sort of know before I left Catholicism that there were people—saints who could show me the way, because I did study them, for example: Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Julian of Norwoch, Hildegarde De Bingem and others, but I wasn’t in the convent long enough to understand ecstasy and to understand dissolving and to understand union or to understand betrothal and merging and forgetting the self. These are the treasures and incredibly rich invitations/gifts that the East offers us. And so, I am so grateful that I’ve had a chance to be in the company of those Eastern teachers who opened those doors for me so that I could return “home” to my Catholic self, armed with contemplation. My teacher, Dr. Ramamurti Mishra, was an endocrinologist, a multi-faceted medical doctor who left the science of medicine for yoga. He would say; “you and I have to go back to the religion of our youth,” that is, he was very Hindu and I think he saw me as very Catholic … and he was always handing me Jesus information/images. He said, “I got you out of the convent,” and I truly believe that he brought me to the East so that I could go back to the West. What a teacher is that! What I need to say now has nothing to do with contemplation but it is an important link to my current spiritual practice because the work with my father and also teaching for seven years in a university in a situation where I had “children” or kids or students or responsibilities, helped me think about accountability and responsibility and getting to a deeper balance and so I went to my original training in Catholicism (to the 10 Commandments perchance?), and have been re-seeing this religion ever since with new eyes and ears. My question now is, what kind of Catholic are you going to be now? What kind of artist are you going to be? What memory are you going to carry? What gifts that you’ve learned can you transpose and use? Or are you going to be a sniveling little scared-y-cat Catholic girl like you were? Are you going to stand up? Are you going to be counted? Are you going to be strong? Can you be a performance art Catholic? Are you brave enough? Are you running scared of the original patriarchal lording-overness of your original Catholic training? I have no idea why I feel called to this position of Catholic-Girl-Artist. I’m just hanging on for the ride and the message.

Had you let go of some of the ways you had been thinking in the past?
I had let go some of the things that I had done as “artist.” And that’s interesting. And it corresponds with aging. There is a letting go anyway. There’s a letting go of the body, letting go of the legs, there’s a letting go of the underarm skin, there’s a letting go of the face. It’s just this process of diminution and diminishment and aging and wrinkling and prioritizing what’s really important. So, I don’t show off some of the skills I have but it’s ok. I am calling it Aikdo-Art-Catholic-Performance Art Girl. In Aikido, you step aside and win. I find this attitude happening automatically and my former fists of fight are being bandaged and un-tightened. A new sweetness is happening inside. Is this art or contemplation? I’m not sure which, maybe both. No, maybe it is aging? To put it simply, I no longer prod or make fun of or push the envelope of my Catholic roots the way I used to. Plus it is a dangerous thing to do. People are volatile these days! SUSAN: You said that on the heels of talking about coming back to Catholicism. Is that something that coming back to Catholicism would demand of you? LINDA: There are levels. You can shop around and find a Jesuit-Catholicism or a Franciscan-Catholicism or a Dominican-Catholicism or a Maryknoll Sisters-Catholicism which is very fine or you can find a fundamentalist finger-wagging and punitive Catholicism, or you can find hell and brimstone Catholicism, and you can find sin and damnation-Catholicism. So I am really discovering and inviting my friends to help me because I’m a beginner. I’m a newbie. I am shopping for the right way, the right path, the right attitude, the right balance, the correct way to do this dance again. And I receive all the help I can get this time. CHRYSANNE: The idea of the divine feminine or Madonna—has that influenced your artistic practice or your Catholic practice? LINDA: I had to find the divine feminine inculcated and embodied in a person and that woman was from India. Her name is Dr. Aruna Mehta. After we first saw each other we became sisters, mothers, daughters, friends and soul connectors. She had all of the qualities of the feminine and of the divine and had hidden herself from taking on the accoutrements of fame that she could have cultivated in order to become a world famous guru. Instead, she just exhibited and shone light and maternal love on everyone, nothing to study, just to receive! Luckily I was one of the thousands she adopted and taught how to receive love. So I had a male teacher and a female teacher, both from India…. And she was a perfect example of the unseen feminine and of the ego-free feminine. The reason I know she was my link to the divine feminine is because when I was in Medjegorge and feeling quite sad because Mrs. Mehta was sick, I sat in front of the statue of Mother Mary in the church there and said, “Mary, I need a message from you. I’ve come here from America, paid my air fare. What do you want to say to me?” I occasionally hear good messages and Mary really said/locuted to me; “I will be your mother when Mrs. Mehta dies.” How lucky to find a friend who can be love, teach love, show love and get our brains and hearts ready to practice love! Mrs. Mehta modeled Mother Mary and the Divine for me. And when she died, I found that I do have a new mother, I have a new model, I have a new way of relating, I have these new skills to use that are denominationally Catholic although Mrs. Mehta embodied the Kali/Durgha/Sita Hindu versions of how to relate to the world. She had all kinds of qualities that she was able to demonstrate and to perform for me so that I could learn how to be a functioning woman. I will never forget one day when I was obsessing over a house owner problem, over and over, she looked at me and said; “Listen Linda, be a man.”

We have talked about letting go of the ego and about interior space. Do you feel interior space as gendered or is it gender neutral? In other words, if one is a woman, does that letting go, that erasure of ego let go to the point where gender disappears?

Oh yes, absolutely. It’s a sensation. I don’t think ecstasy has gender. And compassion is genderless. And when you feel it and even now the three of us are feeling it and we’re together vibrating, we’re totally right-brained and playing together. It’s genderless. And it’s exciting and that’s why we do our spiritual work because that’s where union and ecstasy and no competition really does happen. It’s when we come down from the mountain that we have to insist, as you are doing with this project, to honor the women and remember these feisty people like Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keefe and Louise Bourgeois—these really fresh mouthed women. They’re kind of like Texas Rangers. They had to be tough. Talking/acting pioneers of justice and truth. In the valley we are male and female.

Do you perceive a new backlash against women making it necessary to get tough again? LINDA:
There is so much myth that we have to let go of as women, there are so many limiting beliefs, there are so many back stories that we are told as women artists, and it is sort of double trouble, it’s a double burden, the suffering myth, the money myth, and the keep quiet myth, the victim myth and yes, we always have to have the tough mind going, the clear mind, the right intention mind, the I can do it and deserve to be creative and public and/or private mind. We must take back our power and not be ashamed of doing that.

One of the discussions Susan and I have had—looking back at our individual practices—is about seminal work; a work that was pivotal to our development and where we are now. Is there a piece of yours that you consider seminal, that influenced other artists, or acted as a crystal ball, embodying a work that would happen in the future?
I love everything I do! (Laughter.) As you were talking, I was thinking, oh this one, no this one, nooo this one… Yeah, that is exciting because the word resurrection is coming up a lot, but it brought back memories, but the first thing I thought about was Chicken, the chicken work I did when I was in graduate school. It was minimal art time, and the heavy duty male sculptors were making pieces bigger than this house, out of heavy duty materials and plastics and steel and iron. My sculpture professors were these three incredible smelly, swarthy, musky, 60-80 year old cowboy types in boots of course, who came to my studio smoking cigars and said; “What are you going to do for your MFA show?”And I said; “Chickens.” The word just popped out of my mouth, probably because the University of Wisconsin at Madison had an AG Department, and I often made visits to the chickens and found them more interesting than classes. So that was great, so beautiful to have that word, chickens as art, pop out like that!

SUSAN: I really like the piece. Where did it come from?
LINDA: Where does that come from? I traced it back to my Dad, his name was Hen (Henry or Enrico in Italian). He told stories about putting chickens in his mother’s kitchen, because she wouldn’t allow him to go to the movies one Saturday. But maybe it came from the fact that I was feeling like a chicken, afraid and isolated in that big university department, having to think about sculpture minimally! After graduating from there having shown 12 (symbolic number of course) live chickens in minimal art size cages as art, I became the CHICKEN WOMAN who was a combo-platter of a bird and a Catholic angel. She endured on a chicken bed, danced in the streets of San Francisco in white make-up and white gauze re-interpreting sainthood as art. Then after the ephemera of the chicken, I became people, because the imagery of the chicken evolved into my exploration of persona. In the ’70′s, I sat in front of a video camera and came out of myself, out of Linda-as Linda with that learned ego, to become a doctor and jazz singer and nun and country western singer. I called the work creative schizophrenia. At the time I was confused, my ex-husband had been murdered, and I found a way to not be me, as art, and later practiced getting out of my skin formally when I began to seriously practice meditation. Art always led to the next thing I needed to learn. I am being real people in performance and video: Mother Theresa, Hillary Clinton, Raka Mukerjee, Paul McMahon, Bob Dylan…and I was also Jill Johnston. Currently, I am working on a nursing home self/lady. It is in preparation for the time that I will be totally in the hands of a certified nursing aide who will have to interpret my needs, change my diaper and feed me. My question is: How, as an artist, do I make this nursing aide woman or man’s job easier? How do I make it so her/his 8 hour days are not so crazy? How can I prepare myself so that I am compliant and courteous to these minimum waged Saints? So I am taking senior citizen exercise classes to get ready for the ones I might take at the nursing home. Also, I am learning how to let go of my bitterness so my aide doesn’t get showered with it. And I am making loud sounds to get out rage and am also practicing receiving care. I deliberately walk slowly, so I am not freaked out when and if I have to do all of these things in the future, while under the care of a 102 pound caregiver who has 4 kids at her own home and 44 women at the nursing home to care for. The resulting video will be a—pro/con, yes/no, do/don’t, right/wrong exploration of: How to prepare now for living my last years in a nursing home. The art-part will be an ironical, comical but pathetic look at this issue of aging and possibly future diaper changes with stool softeners. But what about life? Will it be a blessed event or a trauma? Can I make it artful? I think if I practice now, it might be fabulous both for me and my caregiver? Who knows. What is my intention and real work? Learning compassion, because as I age, I want some real kindness to be spread in me and around me and not so much projecting out, producing, penis-ing. I’m tired of hanging out solo in my left brain and want to come home to ecstasy. My art will teach me, I know.

I remember when I was a student reading Harold Bloom, I came across his analysis of the moment he identifies in literature when we start to see interiority on the page. He acknowledges Shakespeare as the first writer to do this. He talks about how in a play by Moliere, the interior voice would actually be spoken by someone prancing onto the stage to tell the audience what the character was thinking, whereas in Shakespeare you already start to get characters enunciating their own interiority. In our present, with its compressed time and speed and new technologies, do you think there may be another shift in the way we construct our experience or understanding of interiority?
My needs have changed because of facebook, because of the internet, because of Skype. This ability to connect in secret and come and go and leave and delete and choose and be so edit conscious and so not physically present is creating a need for just that—presence. I think it’s a very mystical time, because we are connected and are thinking connection and feeling connection but without the body, without the flesh. So I guess you can call that nouveau-mysticism? There are so many places and ways that we can voice ourselves and be heard that the performance of the minute to minute is available to all. Is it interiority? Is it divine presence-ing? Is it just that everyone now knows that they are a star and they know how to collect on that knowledge? I’m actually happy to be alive now because the everyday level of awareness has shifted and there are more playmates. Even if someone doesn’t declare themselves to be an artist, they have a new way of being comfortable declaring themselves to be a lifeist, another creative option that includes interiority, which is really just an awareness of impermanence. Cosmic consciousness is changing for the better.

Do you think mysticism, when you go deep, is electric?
Good question. The electromagnetic question!! Guruji used to say; “To feel is to heal.” Why don’t we just end the interview with this visualization on electricity as he would have done and as he taught us. “Feel the electromagnetic pulsation,” he would say. And a Catholic would say; “Feel the Holy Spirit,” the invisible Holy in the cells of the feet, the legs, the arms, the genitals. Forgive the genitals, forgive the pancreas, forgive the adrenals. Be grateful to the thymus, the thyroid, the pituitary, the pineal. The left brain. Electromagnetic pulsation in the left brain. Space in the right brain. The anus, the twenty eight feet from the mouth to the anus. The blood. Miles and miles of nervous system that if all laid out in line would be miles and miles. Synapsing. Billions and trillions of cells each one an intelligence. Tiny little baby noses in every pore of the body so that the stomach is breathing and the back is breathing. This tree of electricity going through the spinal column with each vertebrae stacked perfectly. Pulsating, vibrating. Beyond past, beyond present, beyond future with such ecstasy, such orgasmic, gorgeous, engulfing vibration. Begin to feel it on the face as heat and in the heart as the four rooms being cleaned for spring: front room, front door, back door of each room, letting drop out of the heart any body, any thing, any thought that needs to move and shift. The skeleton is sitting inside us. The silence of the skeleton. The silence of our death. The gratitude for our teachers, our work, our practice, our opportunities, our friends, our art and our life. Aura portrait of Linda Montano in Kingston, New York – © 2012 by Chrysanne Stathacos


* ATTENTION MEDITATION: Sit on a cushion or chair with your back straight and your hands in your lap. Then concentrate your mind on a focal point, such as your breath, an internal image, or a burning candle. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to the focus of meditation. Over time, this practice will train the mind to watch out for distractions, “let go” of them once they arise, and refocus when necessary.

* MINDFULNESS MEDITATION: The aim in this form of meditation, which has origins in Buddhism, is to monitor various experiences of your mind—thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and sensations—and simply observe them as they arise and pass rather than trying to interact with them or change them. The idea is to maintain a detached awareness, without judgment, to become more aware and in touch with your body, your life, and your surroundings.

* PASSAGE MEDITATION: Passage meditation involves reciting a short passage (prayer, mantra, or short poem) silently to yourself over and over and over again. The meaning of the words is not the most important element—most importantly, the words are a focal point for attention. “Passage meditation is great for beginners since it's hard to maintain distracting thoughts when you have a verbal anchor,” says Dr. MacLean

. * BENEVOLENT MEDITATION: Benevolent meditation generates beneficial states of mind for yourself and others. A common approach is to repeat: “May I be happy. May I be free of suffering. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.” Then repeat the same passage focusing your attention on someone you love, then on a stranger, then on an enemy, and then on all creatures. “People with chronic illnesses often experience a lot of self-loathing and self-blame,” says David Vago, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. “If you can transform those negative emotions toward yourself into compassion and love, it not only benefits you, it also benefits everyone around you.”




Cultivating Pure Presence:

American ‘living sculpture’ Linda Montano turns to the East for lessons in Performance Art One of the most intriguing aspects of Montano’s performance art is its representation of the long-standing cohesion between endurance art philosophy and Hindu and Buddhist meditative practices. Superficially, it appears as though the severity and physicality of the endurance performer identity would not lend itself to the observance of peaceful Zen practices; however, endurance art, though based in the body, necessarily involves a profound cultivation of one’s mind for an effective performance.

Montano attributes her entire performance career to her study of chakras and yoga: “yoga was the beginning of acknowledging that I had feelings, I had language, I had a body. And I actually began performing once I began practicing yoga. In public dancing, in public lying in meditation. So yoga and performance were natural allies”.
The incorporation of this physical spirituality into the performer’s intellectual identity is integral to her philosophy—that in the unity of mind and body is art—and in doing so, Linda Montano, 68, redefines art as a state of mind. Linda Montano’s dedicated commitment to blurring the distinctions between art and life in her exploration of performance as both a spiritual endeavor and a healing process has made her a seminal figure in the performance art movement from the 60’s until today: “I didn't want to relegate [art] to the studio alone because I wanted it all the time. In making a vow to call my life art, I was giving myself access to aliveness, creativity and possibility at all times1.”

Montano challenges herself physically by performing in restricted environments for extended periods of time in order to remain 1 Eye Weekly, January 28, 1999. Todd, Rebecca: Appreciating the Chakras. mentally and socially alert at all times: “I would endure things by taking them into my body, listening to my body, being blindfoldedi.” By blurring the distinctions between the body and the mind, she is able to blur the distinctions between art and life, thereby merging public and private realms of existence. This amalgamation of artistic commentaries mirrors her own being: the stages of her life blend into one another to form a spiritual, aesthetic whole.

   In attempting to obliterate the distinction between art and life, Montano’s artwork is starkly autobiographical and concerned with personal and spiritual discipline. In the 60’s, Linda ‘Mary’ Montano spent two years as a Catholic novice and lived a life of ritual and service, observing many hours of silence and observation. This experience, fused with her life in India, influenced her later performances which approached art as an ascetic practice: the fulfillment of a series of vows. It was in 1970 that Montano discovered yoga, when a Hatha specialist came to teach at the Catholic college where Montano taught sculpture.

 Serendipity on her shoulders, she found a yogi named Ramamurti Mishra in India, where she continues to visit and practice Zen meditation and yoga till today. She lived in a Zen Monastery for three years and has been visiting Ananda Ashram for the past four decades. After marrying the photographer Mitchell Payne and beginning Yoga in 1970, Montano began performing as a saint with white gauze veiling her painted white face, sitting and standing as still as a church statue: she became the spectacle of an image that she had once been a spectator of - a “living sculpture”. “In its first manifestations, performance art was largely and often very specifically concerned with the operations of the bodyii (Carlson 111)”. She handcuffed herself to Tom Marioni; remained blindfolded for a week several times; taped a stethoscope to her heart to learn how to listen; and told the story of her life while walking on a treadmill. Her philosophy was beginning to take shape. She wanted to do/make art that took her beyond the limitations of her own imagination. So she stepped outside the cognitive into the meta-physical.

  When her husband Mitchell was suddenly shot, she began a phase in her art process that she calls ‘creative schizophrenia’-- a dissolving of her inner core. She explored grief and loss through persona changes that allowed her to exit her own skin. In her piece, Mitchell’s Death, she put acupuncture needles around her eyes, congruous with her belief that “without consistent emotional cleansing and maintenance we are often blind to or incapable of healthy intimacyiii”. It was his death that finally established her exploration of art as a healing modality.

 Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s her Guru, Dr. Mishra taught, mentored and directed her toward meditation. She spent long periods of time in India, learning meditation, chakra philosophies, and more so, the philosophies of yoga beyond the physical: those of concentration, of focus, of soft eyes, of breath, of absolute awareness. Linda describes yoga as having cultivated and expanded her soul, a means to move away from “object making”, using her body to become “living art”: “Because of yoga I was beginning to understand aspects of quiet, of weight, of peace, of contentment, of pure, pure presence. And of nurturing – of all the soul qualities that had aspects of beauty.” “Powerful pieces were also created in the late 1970’s by performers who placed autobiographical material in a ritualized form that suggested general or universal almost mythic concerns (Carlson 161)”. She lived in a Zen meditation community in India for two years until she met the conceptual artist Tehching Hsieh. They performed their ultimate endurance piece called “Art/Life: One Year Performance”. In this, they remained tied together by a rope from July 4, 1983 until July 3, 1984. It tested all levels of her being: physical, cognitive, spiritual and emotional.

One of her most famous works is ‘7 years of Living Art’. It was her personal interpretation of the seven yogic chakras (sacred centers) of the body. Working from root centre to the crown and back, each year was dedicated to a different chakra through her visual conception of emotion. Wearing one color per year, she meditated in a room painted that same color in The New Museum of Contemporary Art. She carried out a daily task of living with an underlying concentration on that year’s energy centre. Montano spoke in a specific accent each year, and listened to a single pitch for at least seven hours a day while meditating. The first year was red, symbolizing root energy; the second year orange for security, the third yellow for courage, the fourth green for compassion, and the fifth year was blue for throat communication, the sixth was purple for intuition and the last year white for joy. She tattooed the chakras on her back, completed one drawing and one collage each year, made one literary or philanthropic figure her guide for that year and occasionally even read palms. She repeated this cycle and called it “14 Years of Living Art”. It lasted from 1984 to 1998. This allowed the mind to defy habituation and stay conscious to purpose- “Art becomes meditation”. Beginning as a piece devoted to themes of commitment and limitation, the work became a fascinating hybrid of art and life, as Montano experiences the onset of menopause, her mother's death, her choice to enter and then leave a convent, the suffering of a stroke, and thoughts of her own death—all within the structural confines of a work of art. Looking at the progression of work in retrospect, Montano comments, “I started meditating publicly and I called that ‘art.’ I would sit for hours at a time, doing a lot of endurance pieces. They became manifestations of ways to practice my yoga as art. The undercurrent was healing. I was improvising my own healing as art.iv”

  Whilst the notion of constructing ‘art’ out of the most daily routines is creative and materially fruitful, one is inevitably led to wonder whether the project is heightening one’s life experiences or in fact destroying its sanctity by attempting to create ‘art’ (a human taxonomy) out of what may already be, in fact, art. “Of course to the average viewer, Montano’s performances may at first glance seem absurd and perhaps further contributing to the 20th century avant garde‘s removal of art. However, Montano’s faith in and commitment to the strict and stringent rules that required her undivided attention and surefire willingness to engage and endure indicate her seriousness and dedication to her art (Brandenberg 66)”.

  Linda Montano is not the traditional 70’s performing artist who employs feminist body imagery and anti male sentiments to define her art. Instead she combines postmodern theory with pragmatic philosophy to arrive at a less sexually explicit, gender- based and more physically-challenging and psychically-engaging performance art. The California magazine Avalanche, in its opening issue in 1970 said of body works: “Variously called actions, events, performances, pieces, things, the works present physical activities, ordinary bodily functions and other usual and unusual manifestations of physicality. The artist’s body becomes both the subject and the object of the work.”v”(Carlson 112). Linda Montano’s aestheticism embraces the ultimate conceptualism; she creates an art that cannot be preserved, destroyed, bought, or sold. Instead, it acts as a vehicle to merge ordinary experiences in extraordinary circumstances. By embracing the act of setting boundaries and enforcing limitations in both her art and life and by strictly defining the parameters of her social role and representation, Montano remains mentally alert and constantly engaged in her environment, while simultaneously uplifting the aesthetic of art as experience as both a constructive and creative activity. “In Zen training they talk about “waking up” and “paying attention” and “playing with the mindvi”. Through conceptual movements and arranged actions, her performances become a scientific inquiry into the realms of physical and cognitive spaces.

 Through her postmodernist identity, Montano seeks personal, social, and aesthetic healing individually so that it can be emanated to the collective consciousness. Zen Buddhism encapsulates precisely the kind of mental isolation that Montano seeks; the process of meditation as a means of personal understanding goes hand-in-hand with the psychological regimen of the endurance artist. In fact, in both Zen and endurance art ideology, the mind is regarded as the most powerful and fundamental entity of the human condition. This ideal is manifest in the Zen scripture Faith in Mindvii. Her art is not for art‘s sake; instead it is a practical art, devised, planned, and executed exclusively for social and personal transformation. Her postmodernist aesthetics display themselves in her scientistic- disciplined, objective, and process oriented- approach to her performances. She is able to balance the freedom and restraint which she strives for in her art by through this discipline, which ultimately allows her to experience a sense of liberation. Her work contains multiple layers of social and aesthetic commentaries. She explores women’s issues, life, death, religion and art through performance.

Ultimately these social and aesthetic statements combine in her life and therefore in her art, making her ultimate statement not only about blurring art and life, but also about dissolving the demarcations between ones personal and social self and ones internal psyche with ones external persona. She uses color, video images, and her body as her instruments, is disheartened by the world, and seeks to comment on social issues. Does this make her work ‘art’? “I liked being in creativity all the time, I didn‘t like the division that “this was art” or “this wasn‘t… I think Duchamp said that breathing could be the highest art. That‘s really my goalviii.”

  Through her public performances, her own evolutionary process of learning and growing began to reveal itself as an important goal in melding life and art: “I got addicted to the performing process–that‘s where I was creative, truthful, abandoning ego. I was curing myself through exhibiting my existence publiclyix.” In melding these boundaries, she creates a stronger tie between art, a material, worldly construction by humans trying to comprehend the world around them creatively, and spirituality, a higher force. Thus, she juxtaposes the tangible with the intangible. In doing this, art becomes a higher form, and the spiritual world, more comprehensible.

  i Montano, Linda. —Interview with Andrea Juno“in Angry Women, Andrea Juno (ed.), San Francisco: Re/Search Publications, 1991, Pg. 57. ii Willoughby Sharp, “Body Works: A Pre-Critical, Non-Definitive Survey of Very Recent Works Using the Human Body or Parts Thereof,” Avalanche, 1970, vol. 1, p.17. iii Ascent magazine. iv Lunch at the Art/Life institute: A conversation with Linda Montano, 2001: Internet. v Christine Tamblyn, “Hybridized Art,” Artweek, 1990, vol.21, p27. vi Montano, Linda. —Interview with Andrea Juno“in Angry Women, Andrea Juno (ed.), San Francisco: Re/Search Publications, 1991, Pg. 53. vii Develop a mind of equanimity, And all deeds are put to rest. Anxious doubts are completely cleared. Right faith is made upright. Nothing lingers behind, Nothing can be remembered. Bright and empty, functioning naturally, The mind does not exert itself. It is not a place of thinking, Difficult for reason and emotion to fathom. In the Dharma Realm of true suchness, There is no other, no self” viii Montano, Linda. —Interview with Andrea Juno“in Angry Women, Andrea Juno (ed.), San Francisco: Re/Search Publications, 1991, Pg. 56. ix Ibid. 53. Bibliography Books: Goldberg, Roselee, Performance : live art since 1960 Brief descriptions, illustrations Carlson, Marvin, Performance: A critical Introduction. Second Edition, Routledge, NY, 1996 & 2004. Feminism and performance after the 60’s, Carr, C., On Edge: Performance at the end of the twentieth century. University College Press of New England, 1993. Her work with Hsieh. Cassandra Langer, Ellen Frueh Joanna, Feminist art criticism: an anthology. Ann Arbor, Mich. : UMI Research Press, c1988 Kaprow, Allan, Essays On The Blurring Of Art And Life. Theory Internet: http://www.bobsart.org/montano/: Important, Life and beliefs; Description of 7 years of Living art http://www.bobsart.org/montano/: Videos of art; biographical descriptions. Wikipedia: The online encyclopedia: General introductory info Periodicals: Eye Weekly http://www.ascentmagazine.com/: Article about her taking care of her father in this magazine: Dad art- Commentary on art and life. ‘Inducing knowledge by enduring experience’: Presented to the faculty of Art and Design of East Tennessee State University, by Alisa A. Brandenberg, December 2004.