Curated by Anastasia James
January 23 – April 14, 2019
Alice and Horace Chandler Gallery and North Gallery
Linda Mary Montano, Mitchell’s Death, 1977, 22:20 minutes, video, black and white. Video still copyright of the artist, courtesy of Video Data Bank, www.vdb.org, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Linda Mary Montano (b. 1942, Saugerties, NY) is a pioneer in contemporary performance art and her work since the mid 1960s has been critical in the development of video and performance by, for, and about women. Attempting to dissolve the boundaries between art and life, Montano’s work explores her own art/life through shared experience, role adoption, and intricate life-altering ceremonies, some of which last for many years. Staunchly insistent about the interconnectedness of her art/life, Montano’s output resists categorization on a fundamental level and her legacy has been vastly underrecognized by the establishment. Linda Montano: The Art/Life Hospital will address Montano’s interest and exploration of healing, aging, and death and will highlight rarely-screened video work, alongside new interactive commissions, and a durational performance.
Linda Mary Montano, Benares, 1998, 27:04 minutes, video, color, sound; video still copyright of the artist, courtesy of Video Data Bank, vdb.org, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Raised in a devoutly Roman Catholic household in Saugerties, NY, Montano’s fascination with ritual and desire to do humanitarian service led her to join the Maryknoll Sisters after studying art for one year at The College of New Rochelle. After two years with the order, and suffering from severe anorexia, Montano left the order to return to her former college where she received her degree in sculpture in 1965. Montano then went on to receive her MFA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1969 where her thesis exhibition, titled The Chicken Show, featured a display of nine live chickens on the roof of the art building. Montano went on to live in San Francisco for a decade where she first devoted herself exclusively to performance art and established herself as an artist known for durational work. The unexpected death of her husband in 1978, led to the creation of the work, Mitchell’s Death, a twenty-two-minute video where Montano uses performance as a means of personal transformation and catharsis.
In 1978, Montano continued her art-theology dialogue by moving into a Zen Monastery for three years and then to the Ananda Ashram in the 1980s, where she studied with Dr. Ramamurti Mishra for over thirty years. Upon meeting Taiwanese performance artist Tehching Hsieh, Montano joined him in his Art/Life One Year Performance 1983–1984 (Rope Piece) and they were bound together by a length of rope 24 hours a day for an entire year, from July 4, 1983 to July 3, 1984. From 1984 onwards, Montano performed 7 Years of Living Art, 1984–1991, in which she lived in her home in Kingston, NY wearing strictly monochromatic clothing, spent a portion of every day in a colored room, and listened to a designated tone, all of which corresponded to the energetic qualities of a specific chakra. She followed this performance with Another 7 Years of Living Art, (1991–1998).
Linda Mary Montano, I’m Dying–My Last Performance, 2015, 29 minutes, video, color, sound. Video still copyright of the artist, courtesy of Video Data Bank, www.vdb.org, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
In 1998 Montano created an online school for artists wanting to use her recipes for making art from everyday life. This ongoing performance is titled: Another 21 Years of Living Art. After 1998, Montano focused upon freelance teaching of performance art, caring for Henry Montano (her increasingly-ill father), and counseling people. She practiced “Art/Life Counseling,” a technique she used for seven years at The New Museum, where curator Marcia Tucker had built a private room and allowed Montano to counsel people once a month in the window installation which was painted the same color that Montano wore for that year. At that time (1984–1991), Montano used tarot, palm, and psychic readings as tools of discovery as well as attentive listening so that she could respond to the questions of her clients, and she intended to find the most creative way to respond to their problems and difficulties.
The experience of caring for her dying father led Montano to return to Catholicism and ultimately to church attendance, and since 2005 she has taken gathered prayer requests to more than ten Catholic pilgrimage sites throughout the world. Since returning to Catholicism, Montano has made numerous videos exploring the faith. In 2013, her archive was acquired by Fales Library and Special Collections at NYU.