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Linda Mary Montano has been performing her art-life since birth. Her mother’s pregnancy never “showed” and when Linda was born her mother supposedly said, “Linda, you were a shock to everybody,” or something like that. Montano has performed and shocked herself and others for many years and continues to this day in her upstate NY: SAUGERTIES ART/LIFE INSTITUTE & TRANSFIGUARATION HOSPITAL where she is learning: HOW TO LOVE.
Linda Mary Montano is a seminal figure in contemporary feminist performance art and her work since the mid 1960s has been critical in the development of performance and video by,for,and about women. Attempting to dissolve the boundaries between art and life, Montano continues to actively explore her art/life through shared experience, role adoption, and intricate life altering ceremonies, some of which last for fourteen or more years. Her artwork is starkly autobiographical and often concerned with personal and spiritual transformation. Montano’s influence is wide ranging – she has been featured at museums including The New Museum in New York, MOCA San Francisco, SITE Santa Fe and the ICA in London.
Montano’s first major performance, Chicken Woman (1972) was based on her MFA sculpture show at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. There she exhibited nine live chickens in three 8-foot (2.4 m) by 16-foot-long (4.9 m) minimalist chicken wire cages on the roof of the art building. It was titled “The Chicken Show,” 1969.
Linda had moved to San Francisco 1970 with her husband, and it was there that she established herself with performances like “Handcuff” (1973 with Tom Marioni) where she was physically bound to Marioni, and “Three Day Blindfold” (1974), where she lived for three days blindfolded and had to find her way around via the help of others, attempting to prepare for life in the future when she might need assistance. The murder of her ex-husband led to further exploration of art as a healing modality (“Mitchells’ Death”, 1978) and she continued her art-theology dialogue by living in a Zen monastery for three years and also resided at Ananda Ashram in the 1980s where she studied with Dr. Ramamurti Mishra for over 30 years. His influence and appreciation of her vision encouraged both her art and life. Upon meeting Taiwanese performance artist Tehching Hsieh who was looking for someone to be tied to him as art, they performed a collaboration whereby the two artists were bound to each other by a length of rope 24 hours a day for a whole year (from July 4, 1983 to July 3, 1984). They never touched during this endurance and audio taped every word they said and each worked at seperate jobs while tied. During the late 1980s Montano began teaching Sacred Sex workshops with Annie Sprinkle and Barbara Carrellas and participated in MetamorphoSex, a “workshop, sacred sex ritual and theatre performance rolled into one” which was first performed in Texas in 1995.
From 1984 onwards Montano performed another ambitious project titled “Seven Years of Living Art”, 1984-1991 in which she lived in her home in Kingston wearing strictly monochromatic clothing, spent a portion of every day in a coloured room, and listened to a designated tone, all of which corresponded to the energetic qualities of a specific chakra. She changed colour every year, and after the project was finished followed it up with “Another Seven Years of Living Art”,1991-1998 in part to memorialise her mother, Mildred Montano, who died in 1988 of colon cancer. This time she focused on the 7 Chakras, as taught by her Guru Dr. Mishra, she wore the colour clothes but let go of the many other imposed penances/disciplines, allowing nature to lead her to healing instead of her forced ego. In 1998, Montano inaugurated “Another 21 Years of Living Art ” 1998-2019, a self designed “school” which inspired those attending to choose their own unique way to bring art and healing to the 7 energy centers of the body. Participants were: Betsea Caygill, Michelle Bush, Barbara Carrellas, SC Durkin, Koosil-Ja Hwang, Vernita N’Cognita, Esther K. Smith, Krista Kelly Walsh, with satellite projects by Victoria Singh & Kurtis Champion, Steven Reigns, Elizabeth Stephens, Annie Sprinkle, EK Smith and Nells Fasty.
Montano has always freelance taught performance art, and was on the tenure tract at the University of texas, Austin for 7 years. She came back to upstate NY , 1998, to care for Henry Montano, her father and also collaborated with him on video before his stroke, continuing to tape the 3 years of managing and caring for him at home until his death , 2005. Montano;s interest in self-healing via art has allowed her to share her information with others via “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. (Currently Montano still does “Art/Life/Laugher Counseling” but without the assistance of tarot, palm and psychic readings because they are forbidden by her current practice of Catholicism).
The influence of her 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. Montano also meets with others in Catholic Churches for 3 hours silent retreats, re-seeing the concept of endurance from new Catholic-eyes. Since returning to Catholicism, Montano has made numerous videos exploring the faith, including Father Lebar: Catholic Priest and Exorcist; Saint Teresa Of Avila By Linda Mary Montano, and she currently performs AS Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and endures, sometimes for 7 hours at a time suspended on a scissors lift, lipsynching as Bob Dylan and Paul McMahon, an upstate musician/songwriter. Since 1975, Montano has used video as a practice and for the last 20 years, her videos have been edited and animated by Tobe Carey of Willow Mixed Media. After Occupy Wall Street when Montano saw a sign that said, COMPASSION IS THE NEW CURRENCY, Montano has offered her videos for free viewing on You Tube, except for “Dad Art” a video-performance document of her father’s last 7 years whcih is designed to be performed with Montano and 7 collaborators.
Her work investigates the relationship between art and life through intricate, life-altering ceremonies, some of which last for seven or more years. She is interested in the way artistic ritual, often staged as individual interactions or collaborative workshops, can be used to alter and enhance a person’s life and to create the opportunity for focus on spiritual energy states, silence and the cessation of art/life boundaries.
Montano donated her archive to the Fales Library and Special Collections at NYU in 2013.
Videos produced with Tobe Carey’s editing and animation, can be seen online here, and more information is on her blog, as well as her website, here.