- My Sculpture Then and Now: I Am Really a Living, Breathing Sculpture
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1946–1960s: My sculpture career began early. I remember sitting at the Montano family dinner table, making what I called “teensies” by rolling up torn off pieces of paper napkins into miniscule long strips and [End Page 237] then further rolling them until they were tensile strength, linear, squiggle-like “lines” that I could then place alone, together, or in a group of Stonehengeish arrangements for my own viewing pleasure. Dad would respond with: “Hands (his name for me), concentrate on eating your supper,” while I gathered my “sculptures” from their hiding places among the fork, knife, and spoon gallery of objects that were supposed to be used to eat the then-American fare of the ’40s: meatloaf, veal, Spanish rice, and Jell-O. I loved my name, Hands; I loved using my hands. I continue to use my hands; it is a name that I deserve.
1960s: My mother, a painter, and my father, a trumpet player and lover of music, encouraged me—or better yet, allowed me—to return to college after I flunked out of the Nunnery. It was there, in the academy, that I attempted to become a normal ’60s hippie, a delicate job since I was then a once-almost nun: fragile, anorexic, weighing eighty pounds and certifiably ill. In the 1960s, especially in a small upstate New York village, therapy was not an option or even existent, and a better thing happened: I met my liberator, my mentor, my art guru, a nun professor at a Catholic woman’s college named Mother Mary Jane. What a boon! She gave me permission to embrace art and to heal. Her own practice was sculpture, so of course I imitated her passion, having created many Stonehenges as a child. So for my Bachelor of Arts degree, under her tutelage, I made seven versions of the Visitation: Mary and Elizabeth embracing, both pregnant. A psychologically rich choice! And I must admit that my art bucket list includes two final sculptures: a 40-foot-tall Visitation and a Stonehenge-like group of eleven objects in a circle titled “Rosary.” Teensies, magnified!
1965: I continued wanting to make things with my hands and went to a graduate school in Florence, Italy for a year, studying with a Hungarian male sculptor, a former violinist and a student of Kodaly who, after having injured his hand and arm in the Hungarian Revolution, became a maker of objects rather than sounds from his violin. I continued sculpting “Prayer Art,” making crucifixes of wood, copper, and clay, shipping it all back to the States via the compassion of my kind parents.
1966–69: Although I was a diligent and obedient grad student, working in all of the mediums and materials of the then-conceptual art of the ‘60s in Madison, Wisconsin, I presented for my MFA show nine chickens in three [End Page 238] bigger-than-life minimalist cages, thereby satisfying the going trend of the times: bigger is better. But putting chickens in the cages saved my day because it began an art-life stance and mental frame that I have practiced through to this very second: that all is art, that I am art, and more accurately, that I am LIVING ART, A LIVING SCULPTURE.
1970s: After grad school, the floodgates of matter becoming potential for my expression and intentionality continued to open, and I worked with anything that I could see or find or touch. But once I was introduced to Yoga and Eastern Theologies, and especially to Meditation, I soon became MY OWN MATERIAL FOR ART. That is, I manipulated myself using my early childhood Catholic imagery and sat, danced, and laid on chicken-angel beds for hours at a time, giving myself permission to BE ART, TO BE LIFE, TO BE MEDITATIVE, TO BE SEEN AND HEALED BY THE VIEWER, TO BE AS SACRED AS A CATHOLIC STATUE...