December 25, 2013 · Print This Article
Linda Mary Montano, reproduced with permission, lindamontano.com
Since the mid-1960’s Linda Mary Montano has been steadily eroding the boundary between art and life through her pioneering work in performance, video and sculpture. From dealing with personal trauma, performing multiple identities, durational projects, feminist issues, and coming to grips with spiritual life, Montano’s influential work often involves aspects of ritual, humor, and healing properties. In 2013, Montano had a concentrated survey at SITE Santa Fe, Linda Mary Montano: Always Creative, in which she exhibited over forty years of work, including: Mitchell’s Death (1977), Fourteen Years of Living Art (1984-98), and a new, two-part performance, Singing My Heart Out…Singing My Heart In for which she sang seven straight hours at both the opening and closing of the exhibition.
For your Christmas-day reading pleasure, Montano graciously lays out her thoughts on the holiday season, anxieties about aging, and bringing her work in video to an end.
Can you start us with a Christmas blessing?
We are bliss eternally. If we feel it, we experience joy; if we experience joy we experience ecstasy; if we experience ecstasy the next step is union. May we all be happy in the way we need and be kind to ourselves also.
Were you good this year?
I was able to travel into the dark this year and that’s a good thing. I made three tapes that plunged into the depths. My infancy: Mom Art (on my fear of learning too much about my childhood), Nurse!, Nurse!, (on my fear of “catching” dementia) and My Pope Dream: (on my need to reform the Catholic Church).
Art is so kind. She lets us be afraid aesthetically!
All videos will be on YouTube in January 2014.
It was so good to look at the dark but scary to see myself being so transgressive. I shocked myself this year. The little girl is now in cahoots with an older Linda.
My next-to-almost-last video will be Death in the Art/Life of Linda Mary Montano, 2014.
It is from a text I wrote for a slide lecture in 1996 and opens all of the death doors which then was radical thing to do. Now that the elephant of death is in the room, it’s no big deal.
You have been living by the Art=Life philosophy for decades. You’ve also gone back to the Catholic faith after having not practiced it for many years. So, when the holidays roll around, do you have a particular way of performing/living the season?
I play the typical neurotic yes/no games many others play. Gift? Who to? What? The shoulda, coulda woulda games. I also think I should watch A Christmas Carol every year, and I’m glad when I do.
This year I am practicing being an infant as a secret performance and this is helping me get into the atmosphere of no-mind, baby-mind, innocence.
Hotly debated topic: multi-color lights or white lights?
Inner lights. Let me share my Poland poem with you, so you know why. I was just there in November 2013 and “became light.”
Linda Mary Montano 2013 Dedicated to my mother, Mildred Montano
Mom: “Linda, turn some lights off. This room is lit up like a Polish church!”
Bulleted buildings: CHECK
Booted marching: CHECK
Anne Frank attics: CHECK
Death provoking winters: CHECK
Five keyed entrances: CHECK
Historical litanies: CHECK
Embodies memories: CHECK
Hourly cappuccinos: CHECK
Gilded angels: CHECK
Whispered nightmares: CHECK
High pitched smiles: CHECK
Bundled grief: CHECK
Now my room-heart is lit up like a Polish church.
Recently you produced one of your last videos, Nurse! Nurse!, an incredibly moving work about aging, acceptance, caring and gratitude. Is this close to your personal situation?
At almost 72, the curtain between the world of being here and not being here gets thinner. While I’m still out of adult Depends, I decided to look at my worst aging fears, as art, and I found it so refreshing to practice faux madness in this film. The prerogative of the artist, the vocation of the artist is to go into the underworld and come back or not! I don’t want to be upset in case I have to be sent to the nursing home-penitentary of dementia or Alzheimer’s. I’m practicing now to taste losing my mind via dementia. It is homeopathy. Cure like with like? Maybe. But the bottom line for me has always been, Repress not. And if things go in the direction of radical madness, at least I am familiar with how loss of this present ego-dance looks/feels/smells!
Meditation is another method designed to help lose the mind but videotaping meditation is not as much fun as videotaping myself resisting being diapered in a nursing home!!!!!!
You’re in a period of phasing out your video work. Why this deliberate move away from the medium?
I listen to my voices and I heard, “Linda, you are becoming a greedaholic, thinking “Ohhhhhhhhhhh I have to make a video about _________ and one about————and another about___________.” The voices said, “Wow it will be so wonderful to make 82388449 more videos.”
That scared me because this is not how I want to think. It’s the wall street of art mentality. More, bigger, better, another, higher, grander, winner, originator, first, brighter…the shopping list of consuming inspiration is endless.
So my inner, better voice-guide said: “Stop!!! You must stop producing until your attitude changes.”
It might never change and maybe I am to just beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee now, and not do.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
The song I am hearing right now as I email this to you, Juliana. It is called, Sadhana and a woman from India is singing. Sorry, I meant chanting.
This is the best gift I have ever received because I can’t remember the past or the future.
But I’m sure that in a few minutes, something else or someone else will be the best gift I ever received or gave.
Thank you for asking me to share, like and comment with you.