M. RYAN NOBLE INTERVIEWS LINDA MARY MONTANO
(12 February, 2011)
Interviews with contemporary artists
“is art therapeutic?”
Thank you Linda, for agreeing to this interview. I am a contemporary artist and trained art therapist and often combine elements of each discipline. I have also observed overlaps in the practice of other fine artists with that of art therapists—however, there appears to be more disconnection then any alliance between the two fields.
I am interested in your perspective, commitment, and contributions as an artist. This is an introductory interview—taking only between 10-20 minutes. Your time is greatly appreciated.
personal art work
Do you find that there are therapeutic qualities of your work?
I would call it that, in retrospect. I think I could be considered to be a selective mute because as a child I didn't talk much and our family didn’t practice the art of conversation; but we did have an incredibly rich psychic communication, if I remember correctly, although I am aware that all members of a family have their own interpretations of early childhood, all of them different. So, it was a combination of not having a physical, speaking language, having a deep mind-to-mind ability, practicing an intense Catholicism with it's images, promises and rules plus the invitation to see one’s self as having the potential to be a crucified Jesus—all of this was such a challenge to my soul that I was pushed into a level of transcendent creativity that I became my own art therapist. I learned how to fix me!
I mentored with my grandmother who was an "art therapist" too, and with my mother (though, they were not professionally trained.) Throughout their lives, they consistently transformed pain into beauty. They were models of transformation, transcenders; pioneers who knew how to find a way out of suffering through art.
Is the therapeutic potential of your work a personal benefit, or a communal/public benefit?
In the beginning I was in such pain and in such a narcissistic mindset, that I had no idea there was anybody but me in the universe. At that time my work was totally self-referential. During this time, the gaze of the other gave me juice to live. Art-blood.
I never allowed any critique. I always made sure my work was shown where there was no place for feedback. I was terrified to have my work examined in this kind of environment. Even now, I don’t dialogue about my work—even with my best friends. It cuts down on professional growth but serves my emotional health. A trade-off.
But there was a switch where I thought about my viewers as co-creators and not as critics—at that point, I thought, “HA! Are they going to get something from this?” but before that, it was a total monologue. Now, I’m really conscious of “the other,” but I’m still so addicted to my own exploration of ecstasy that my audiences are very small as a result. Art allows for this kind of personal embrace. it allows for the exploration of the subconscious in public . . . but when you explore in such an esoteric way, there are usually only a few attendees . . . .
Does the therapeutic potential of your work manifest itself more through the process of art-making, or in the final product?
It’s kind of a ride: a horse, or a camel . . . maybe a train ride! But once I get on the horse, what the art does for me is it allows me to ping-pong neurologically from the right to left-brained thinking—from intuition, to bliss, from judgment, to bliss, from thinking to feeling—and once I have an idea, I’m still visualizing the outcome. I’m in that state of euphoria because I can be mentally over there, in that euphoric state of outcome without judgment. I try not to do work that pulls me out of that place and I’ll switch mediums if the medium I am working with gives me too much trouble because I don’t want to be pulled out. What I am saying here is that ART IS A BRAIN GAME!!
profession of art therapy.
In what context, if any, have you learned about the practice of art therapy?
It’s a funny story: I always was flirting with art therapy. I don’t scientifically know the practice but when I was living in San Francisco, I went to volunteer as an art therapist at a hospital psych ward: day care, hospital bed and the locked ward. Mind you I never had a class as an art therapist, I just wanted to share my gifts! Oh the 70’s!!!! They already had an art therapist so they asked, “What else can you do?” I responded, “Yoga?” and they made me a yoga therapist. But my hubris is so apparent here because I was only practicing yoga a short time, but again, thanks to the 70’s everything was freely given and known, correct?
Now, I do “Art/Life Counseling” formally, and have since 1984. From 1984-1998, I went into New York City and sat in a window, counseling visitors at the New Museum once a month for 7 years during my 14 YEARS OF LIVING ART (see WWW.LINDAMONTANO.COM). I really like seeing people one-to-one; seeing people face-to-face and I like practicing the act of giving. I love to share with people and call that art. I would give myself an “A+” for being an art therapist! Albeit a self professed one.
the art world.
You have discussed art as an inherently therapeutic practice. Can you explain the destructive potential of art?
When one is not aware of the forces and consequences that exist—with anything—there is the potential for destruction. There are consequences to every action and it’s good to always consider the consequences. Sometimes I regret knowing this because artists are supposed to be vocationally free of consequences, right? Or is that a myth? Consequential art-making is an oxymoronic situation.
Why is there a discrepancy between the art world and such fields as the creative arts therapies?
I don’t know enough about art therapy to comment on that. I know that I consider myself an art therapist when I do ART/LIFE COUNSELING with people, but I can’t answer that question. Also when I teach performance art it is an art therapeutic phenomenon! Maybe the fine art world and creative art therapies could be seen as cousins but in my world, they need to cuddle more . . . there is too much elitist hierarchy in everything and the foundation—which is the creativity of the human spirit—is avoided. It is a class system that must end. Life is short.