In terms of my
artistic philosophy, it is important to note that my other voice
is the poster/mural. I am much more articulate and able to express myself
more eloquently through this medium. It is with this voice that I attempt
to communicate, reach out and touch others, especially to that silent and
often ignored populace of Chicano, Mexican and Central American working class
(along with other disenfranchised) people of the world. This form allows me
to awaken consciousness, to reveal reality, and to actively work to transform
it. What better function for at this time? A voice for the voiceless.
My personal views on art and society were formed by my being born into that
silent and voiceless humanity. Realizing later that it was not by choice that
we remained mute but by a conscious effort on the part of those in power,
I realized that my art could only be that of protest -- a protest against
what I felt to be a death sentence.
As a Chicano artist I feel a responsibility that all my art should be a reflection
of my political beliefs -- an art of protest. The struggle of all people cannot
be merely intellectually accepted. It must become part of our very being as
artists, otherwise we cannot give expression to it in our work. I am in agreement
with Pedro Rodrigues when he said, Fundamentally, artistic expression,
or culture in general, reaches its highest level of creation when it reflects
the most serious issues of a community, when it succeeds in expressing the
deepest sentiments of a people and when it returns to the people their ideas
and feelings translated in a clearer and creative way.
Through our images we are the creators of culture and it is our responsibility
that our images are of our times -- and that they be depicted honestly and
promote an attitude towards existing reality; a confrontational attitude,
one of change rather than adaptability -- images of our time and for our contemporaries.
We must not fall into the age-old cliché that the artist is always
ahead of his/her time. No, it is most urgent that we be on time.
THEMATIC FOCUS AND OBJECTIVES
It is these tenets that guide my work and of course my life. My inspirations
come from that struggling collective. My work is a collaborative one. Although
I address many issues, there are three prominent themes that run through my
work. They are injustice, empowerment and international struggle. In my images
of struggle for justice I try to illuminate with clarity the defects of social
and political existence. The art historian, Dr. Ramon Favela has said of my
work, With strident forms of great simplicity and power the message
conveyed by Montoyas posters are exceedingly clear
his images are
of a dispossessed humanity restrained and shackled by an incomprehensible
and nefarious political condition.
My images of empowerment are intended to confront the multitude of images
of disempowerment given to us by our daily media. Images that disguise reality,
manipulate consciousness, and lull the creative imagination to sleep. In my
images I pay tribute to those who struggle on a daily basis. I pay homage
to the workers and I aggrandize their efforts. I celebrate small and large
victories of the human spirit. I depict people in control of their lives working
together to change and transform their reality. As Bertold Brecht said, Art
should not be a mirror of reality but a hammer with which to shape a new reality.
Images of international struggle are important to our community. They bring
solidarity and, for this reason, my work is replete with international themes.
My work attempts to serve as a bridge between our struggle and those of other
countries. This helps to give us a better understanding of the world we live
in and show us that we are not an isolated culture that failed but that we
have a common antagonist that makes it necessary for us to unite. From Angola
to Central America, from Palestine to the barrio, I have created images that
speak to the disenfranchised. In this sense my work bears the imprint of contemporary
Chicano Art which reaches beyond the confines of the barrio. However,
it does so in a more dramatic sense, traveling through continents as well.
I must say my work is often referred to as propaganda art. I dont mind
being labeled as such since I feel all work is propagandist in nature, it
just depends who you want to propagandize for. From cave painting to the present,
art has always spoken on someones behalf.
Being a child in a farmworking family and having spent my childhood working
in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley, California, I often witnessed in
horror, panic-stricken men being pursued by immigration officers. They were
chased through fields and alleyways of the migrant towns making a sport of
this event. The image of the undocumented suspended on a barbed wire fence
derives from these early experiences.
This image was done for the NACS conference in 1993, entitled Defining
Chicana and Chicano Studies. The image questions the role of the university
and its relationship to the community and examines gender roles and that relationship
to Chicana/o Studies.
y Asi, Transformo el Mundo
Coming from a farmworking background, my images of workers have always been
of men and women, laboring in fields and back breaking jobs -- canneries,
packinghouses, industry. In 1992, the Tomas Rivera Center in Claremont, California
commissioned me, to develop a series of the role of the intellectual worker.
Needless to say, I was confronted with something totally new to me. How to
make an intellectual powerful, like images that I was used to producing of
workers. I chose to represent positions that effect peoples lives --
the teacher, the musician, the computer technologist, and the lawyer represented
here. I depicted him with banners of struggle along with law books as he defends
the rights of other workers.
This painting was inspired by the life of Dr. Gary Kellers father, Jack
Keller, a compassionate man who never ceased learning, giving, and teaching.
In this painting I depict a person standing with a book in one hand and blueprints
rolled underneath an arm, surrounded by men listening to him. The book symbolizes
the teacher and the blueprints represent the architect constructing a better
Presente! was inspired by the struggling women of the Zapatista revolt taking
place in Chiapas, Mexico.