" I was an exceptionally timid child, afraid of the dark, afraid of mice, afraid of practically everything. Painfully, step by step, I learned to stare down each of my fears....and only then was I free." Eleanor Roosevelt, YOU LEARN BY LIVING, 1960
Dear ARTFORUM Readers,
Artwriter Himali Singh Soin of New Delhi, India, presented me with a Haiku-like challenge that exactly fits my proclivity for limitations/ structure. "Write 500 words about your show at SITE, Santa Fe, Feb-May 2013, and focus on intention, process, metaphor and meaning." ( 1 ) I will do my best and I'm happy because now I don't have to remember and unravel my past traumas:near death from anorexia, current PTSD, Mitchell's murder, the Catholic Church's failings ...because it would take pages for me to explain how my art cured and continues to heal these aspects of my life! Back to my letter.
A show of this scope and size , at a major museum, is not without invitation and I thank Irene Hofmann, SITE’s Director and Janet Dees, Assistant Curator for inviting me to their home of art for three months. Like any visit, this one included mega planning, gestating, shipping, installing and it took over a year and a half for Janet and I to bring it to birth. What I found to be most interesting was to see my work curated through Janet's eyes, vision, ideas and brilliance as she chose work from the four quadrants of my practice, " interviews, character based performances, endurance and durational performance, and Art/Life Counseling."( 2 )
To do this she perused my personal archive in Kingston and Saugerties NY,and sat for hours at the Video Data Bank, Chicago, viewing their archive of my videos and chose: LEARNING TO TALK; HANDCUFF TO TOM MARIONI; MITCHELL'S DEATH; THE 7 SPIRITUAL LIVES OF LINDA MONTANO; ANOREXIA NERVOSA; ALWAYS CREATIVE:INTERVIEWS WITH HUDSON VALLEY ELDERS; Maida Barbour's: 7 YEARS OF LINDA MONTANO'S LIVING ART; MARTHA WILSON AS BARBARA BUSH & LINDA MONTANO AS HILARY CLINTON TALKING. I created a new video for the Art/Life Counseling Room titled HI! SO HAPPY TO SEE YOU IN SANTA FE.
Somehow Janet wove all of these videos into the space without “Tower of Babeling” them and there was enough breathing room for the documents from performances and live interactions:
· the 7 Chakra colored jumpsuits and 7 "piles" of clothes that I wore during 14 YEARS OF LIVING ART, 1984-1998
· the 14 drawings that I made for those years with the right hand (year 1-7) and the same image re-drawn with my left hand (year 8-14)
· Minnette Lehmann's photo of my ONE WEEK BLINDFOLD performance
· a list of all of the participants in my ART/LIFE INSTITUTE SCHOOL: ANOTHER 21 YEARS OF LIVING ART, 1998-2019
· Michael Titus Parkes' photo-shopped view of my face as bi-sexual
· an interactive chalkboard painted Art/Life Counseling Room where viewers drew their dreams using colored chalk and I faux-greeted them via video but also really "appeared" for 4 hours via Skype in March and April, offering interactive Art/Life Counseling.
Back to Himali's question: what about the message? Simply put, I'm in my 70's. I've been there done that, garnered years and years of good attention from viewers who have given me energy, breathed life back into me, woken me up, and this show at SITE was a chance for me to encourage, teach, inspire and give back. Janet Dees explains it this way: "At the heart of her practice is the belief that the strategies employed in the creation of and engagement with art, such as focused attention, openness and awareness can enhance the quality of one's life when turned toward everyday activities." ( 3 ) . So what I have done is make sure that accompanying each work in the show, on every single label (signage), is a recipe so that the viewer can look at the art, read the label and feel empowered to interact later on, do it their way, know they have already done what I have done or re-create my experience without feeling that too often bug-a-boo— viewers’ envy! In fact, for anyone who wants to continue viewing my work, SITE published an augmented, updated version of my 1980 book: ART IN EVERYDAY LIFE as an interactive workbook entitled YOU TOO ARE A PERFORMANCE ARTIST. It chronicles 45 performances and offers suggestions for the reader to re-invent my journey to fit their needs. This is my message: creation is our human right and we all are exactly that, creators!!!!!!!
Bookending the opening and closing of the show were two seven hour durations: SINGING MY HEART OUT WITH LINDA RONSTADT (4 ), (February ) and SINGING MY HEART IN WITH RAKA MUKHERJEE, (May). Both took place on a 14 foot scissors lift. In both endurances I sang for 7 hours along with the CD's of the artists and these two performative ascensions / descensions referenced :
· Santa Fe's mysteriously and beautifully built (by St Joseph perchance or an angel) Loretto Staircase
· the 100 FLYING CHICKEN PAINTINGS in the Art/Life Counseling Room.
· the 14 exacting and ascending feet and leg drawings(LEARNING TO FLY(1971)) that grace an entire museum wall .
My wish is that this show offers a gasp of flight for just a moment or as Janet Dees says: "Montano has changed life challenges such as anxiety, illness and grief into moving art, has used art as a way to inject humor, calm and awareness into life and has sought to help facilitate the development of such skills in others." ( 5 )
Gratitude to all of my inspirational and encouraging teachers and may our life always be art.
Linda Mary Montano
1. Email from Himali Soin Singh
2. The Primary Document is the Change, Janet Dees, p.118. YOU TOO ARE A PERFORMANCE ARTIST, Linda Mary Montano, Published by SITE Santa Fe 2013
2. Same as above p.119
3. Same as above p.120
4. David Merrill collaborated with me on the scissors life where he performed knitting for 7 hours.
5. The Primary Document is the Change, Janet Dees, p.119. YOU TOO ARE A PERFORMANCE ARTIST. Linda Mary Montano, Published by SITE 2013