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Thursday, January 10, 2013




Is it possible that because my father's name is Henry ( Hen ) and that I remember the urban non-legend that he filled his mother's kitchen with live chickens in retaliation for her not letting him go to the movies back in 1920, the reason that I became the Chicken Woman? Like father, like daughter?

Is it possible that my mother's glass chicken collection that grew expodentially since they were chatkas that she collected so influenced my psyche, that I wanted to be included in my mother's love-collection and became the Chicken Woman instead? Love me Mom!


From 1966-1969, I was an MFA candidate in sculpture at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, during the terribly strict and cold minimal art reign where there were only two other women grads catapulting off of the energy of sweaty big boys who were making highly ordered and large-scaled metal, plastic and quonset hut sized atrocities that were souless and had nothing to do with anything but stuff and ideas and galleries! It was not girl time or feminist art time or Womans Building time. It was about the boys and of course there were no female professors so I was not surprised when I was assigned four cowboy-swashbuckler professors who smelled of even sweatier sweat and cowboy boots and beer and quiet no-language which totally suited my cowgirl heart. And to fill out the cowgirl-cowboy fantasy, I was enthralled when I discovered that UMW had an agricultural component to their campus, so I was able to freely and daily find solace in my visits to animals and there I found a refuge and escape from minimalist hubris!

So one Wisconsin day the four cowboy professors/committee members came clunking into my studio and asked, "Linda what are you going to do for your MFA show?" And out of my mouth, not out of my mind came the word, "Chickens!!" I was elated and freed from metal, plastic and size! I was free to be free and follow the voice that came from not me but from someplace else that was larger than me! Then the chicken story and saga began in full force and I made a series of hand tinted photos of chickens that I might still be able to find in my archive; I made sound tapes of chickens, rented a loudspeaker for the top of my car and rode around Madison playing chicken clucks; I put a telephone answering service on my phone with a chicken message; I vacumm formed once clayed chicken theigh replicas which were 2x4 feet, and hung them on the wall near the windows facing the chickens on the roof; I made three 20 feet by 10 feet chicken cages and placed them on the roof of the new art building with 9 chickens in chance operated formations of one day 3 in cage 1 and 6 in cage 3 thereby speaking to and addressing my alliance with the minimilaist-boys and their sensibilty of "large"....but most importantly, I relieved myself of the need to ever again do art about art! I was free and freed by CHICKENS AS SCULPTURE!

What I found out was that chickens were metaphoring me! Chickens were skittish, fearfull, not touchable, strange, focused, always working the program, not social, pecking fast with beaks, and seemd to be extremely ZENISH in their attitude to life! A perfect fit for my personal style. And I loved that they were supposedly once the dinosaur minituraized and cast down in size from the giant of the jungle to the strange bird but always with the thought inside their small brains that they were once mighty! Also chickens in Hindu mythology symbolize death and dawn....The beginning and the end. That works for me.

What happened to the chickens? Three chicken stories: after the show I gave them to the art department janitor and he started a farm and before that, during my show, I didnt fight the system or my cowboy-committee so when they wanted; "THOSE CHICKENS OFF THE ROOF"' I allowed them to be moved from their cages when the UWM donors toured the new art building becaue the administration feared that the chickens might cause scandal and encourage the donors to de-fund the million dollar department, a fortune for 1969! The power of the chicken!

And in 1981 I printed my first book,ART INEVERYDAY LIFE, which included many chicken stories that "run" throughout the pages.

What happened to me? Besides learning how to be me after my MFA, I began studying meditation, met my husband to be and after showing dead chickens from a supermarket in a gallery installation in Rochester NY,1980, I got the message that it was time to STOP!

My husband and I began performing as white leghorns without beaks, with wings and instead of duplicating frantic chicken-like actions, we lay as "angels" and a few years later, I sat and danced and the whole entire San Francisco story of Chicken Woman came to LIFE. See www.lindamontano.com for more.


I have always continued to draw my totem with great joy and harbinger dawn.

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