Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A conversation with Linda Montano

The plan was simple:  to  feature of our 2011 Art in Odd Places key note speaker, Linda Montano. I have heard of her, but wasn’t really familiar with her work. Our team wants to make this extra special, so I spent a lot of time thinking how to approach the feature. Typically, I send my interviewees a set of general questions that paints a good picture of who they are as artists.  Since I, Cesar,  handle the social media element of Art in Odd Places, I started brainstorming ideas incorporating technology: a skype interview, a podcast, responses via youtube etc.  Anything that will allow me to put her in a good light.

So I began my research about Linda:  I learned that  for 7 years,  she wore monochromatic outfits. Her website says “living art”. Linda Montano dedicated her life to art (or should I say "her art to life"?). To her, there no such thing as a "fine line"  between art and life. Life and art are two infused elements, with both influencing one  other.  As I read and read about her philosophy on living the life of simplicity, it occurred to me that my “social media plans” of interviewing might be doomed to failure. The ideas that I came up with does not seem to paint a good picture of our such a great artist. 

Linda Montano , photo credit

Then it hit me: why not follow Linda’s lead and keep everything simple?  Forget the mp3 files, the webcams and other auditing programs. Looking back, just thinking about how to approach the blog entry gave me a little headache. Finally, I decided  that I am going back to basics: I will simply talk to her. You get to know people not by sending emails or wait for their video responses. Ok granted she lives far away, I might need to use a little piece of technology: a phone

So I picked up the phone and came clean. I told Linda the interview is more of a conversation, rather than an interview. There were a few questions to get us started, then the rest was  free flowing.  She agreed with the plan, but  then asked me to do something that caught me off guard: To close my eyes.  Close my what?  Mind you, I was in the middle of 82nd  Street and 2nd Avenue when Linda requested for my eyes to be closed. I was a little apprehensive on doing so, not sure if the closed eye phone conversation would be a good look in the upper east side ; I did it anyway. 

Once we got started, I felt a certain sense of ease. There was something about her and my eyes closed that got me feeling relaxed. Focusing my efforts on just hearing her responses made the conversation such a treat.  It was as if I was talking to somebody whom I have known forever. We began the conversation with her transition of using "art" as a way of life.  She talked about how her grandmother and religion played a huge role on making her who she is. She let me know about her first art work around the age of 14 and 15, which was a drawing . How her tactile nature led to sculpting and then  to an MFA. We even got personal:  how she was not much of a talker growing up, how  art became her “therapy” in going through life.  The responses were very honest and so unforced, that even I became more at ease.

The conversation went on, then it turned again to to something unexpected: She asked me a question.  A question? I am so used to be the giving all the question. It feels a little weird divulging personal information to somebody whom I barely know. But I did it anyway since I said it was a conversation.  She asked me to tell her a happy story, to which I obliged.  She then inquired about my parents and how I ended up in New York.

The two of us had great banter. It was a simple conversation. In some way, I felt I now understand how art could become a form of therapy and, if I may argue, a way of life. We spoke for 30 minutes, but it felt like we were talking for hours. There was just a steady flow of words and degree of comfort we share.  And I was clamoring for more.

And I realized where the power of Linda lies: the ability to touch people’s lives through her work.  Her passion for what she does radiates , leaving everyone captivated by her mystery. After knowing her, you just stop asking life's big questions and  simply enjoy the present moment. "Everyday is a gift" she said.  We worry too  much about things and sometimes we need a break. Linda embodies this reminder to take the time and truly look within ourselves. We hung up the phone and  

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to Linda Montano. Those who will be attending her keynote address during the festival opening are in for a treat. Art in Odd Places is truly fortunate to have her  this year.  We hope to see everyone on October 1st at Parson's School of Design.

Thank you Linda and I look forward meeting you in person


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