It's taken more than a decade for performance artist Linda Mary Montano to come to terms with her father's death in the way that she knows best – by making art of it. She describes her newest creation, titled "Dad Art: An Interactionarama," as a communal grieving. The free event is being presented by the RPI arts department at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at the Chapel and Cultural Center in Troy.
"It's not performance art," says Montano. "It's medicine – performance as medicine, a chance for everyone to speak about the unspeakable, which is death."

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Montano, 77, is known for blurring the boundaries between life and art, also for diving deep into each project. In 1985, she launched "Seven Years of Living Art" in which each year was demarcated by a different color. Her clothes were that color and her living space was painted that color. The choice of hues flowed out of the seven chakras, the energetic centers of the body in Hindu teachings. After the seven years ended, she renewed the practice with "Another Seven Years of Living Art."
Chakras are just one of her many spiritual obsessions. Raised a Catholic in Saugerties, she spent two years as a novice with the Maryknoll Sisters. Later she lived in a Zen monastery.
While her visions are often expansive and personal, Montano has been productive and earned recognition in conventional art forms. She's published nine books and created a large body of videos, many of which are available on her YouTube channel. Whatever the genre, feminism has been a reoccurring theme.
For years Montano operated out of a studio/home in Kingston where she was a close friend and compatriot of composer Pauline Oliveros, the late RPI professor whose own studio and home, the Deep Listening Space, was in Kingston. Next week's performance is dedicated to Oliveros.
Montano is living once again in the Saugerties house that she was raised in. It's a multi-purpose space as indicated by the plaque by the front door, which reads the Art/Life Institute and Transfiguration Hospital. Montano has also returned to Catholicism and attends services at the parish she was raised in, St. Mary of the Snow. Long known professionally as Linda Montano, she now goes by her full given name, Linda Mary Montano, as an outward acknowledgement of her Catholic devotion.
"If I had stayed a Catholic, I don't think I would have learned as much as I did by living in an ashram and studying with Zen teachers," says Montano. "But I was imprinted as a Catholic and going back has reunited me with Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, and Hildegard of Bingen. Those are friends of mine."
The upcoming "Interactionarama" draws on Montano's lifetime of spiritual studies and will be conducted in the participatory spontaneous spirit of a '60s "happening." A team of 11 collaborators will occupy stations in the space with audience members invited to move about and interact with them. A secretary is available to write down your letter to death. A water healer can cleanse you. An angel will bestow blessings. Others will be there simply to listen. Participatory singing is also part of the ritual experience.
Onto a large backdrop will be projected a video of Montano's face during stages of caring for her father after he had a debilitating stroke and she was his full-time caregiver for three years. The two-hour collage was edited from three years of footage by Tobe Carey.
"It's a video to perform to," explains Montano. "Nobody could look at it or stand it. It would be too painful, too triggering. It's something to look away from."

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If you go
"Dad Art: An Interactionarama"
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5
Where: Chapel and Cultural Center, 2125 Burdett Ave., Troy
Admission: Free
"Interactionarama" will not be completely unstructured or entirely grim. The flow of time will be regularly punctuated by Montano singing a series of seven standards such as "My Funny Valentine" or "The Man I Love." The songs are homages to her father who was a bandleader, and to her mom, a singer.
"It's going to be soupy, soupy, soupy," says Montano. "But it's a complete meal with an appetizer and a main course. I just did it in Chicago and hope it again evolves into loveliness."
Montano views her years of caring for her father, before and after the stroke, as an "art-life collaboration." Since his passing and her re-embrace of Catholicism, she's found collaboration to come easier and no longer considers herself a soloist.
"What's different is now other people join me, and so it's upped the ante," she explains. "More people means more vibrational frequencies and more consciousness or kundalini or whatever you want to call it. In performance we all get high together. It's a cheap drug and I know how to give it."
One might even describe that communal experience of performance as being a sacrament, something central to the Catholic faith.
"I remember from early on, age 7 or 8, I wanted what the patriarchy had, what the priests had," says Montano. "And I finally got it. My performances are the altar and I am the priest."
Joseph Dalton is a freelance writer based in Troy.