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Check out Elisa Ortega Montilla’s Artwork

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elisa Ortega Montilla.

Elisa, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
My story is related to becoming an artist in my thirties while living abroad in the USA (I´m from Spain). Art was part of my life since my teenage years and it actually saved me from academic disaster in high school, but when it was time to decide what to study in college and who I wanted to be in life, my commitment to fight for social justice and equality called me to become a social worker. During a decade, I worked with very diverse communities in different places; recovering drug addicts in Madrid; the gypsy community in the south of Spain, where I’m from; victims of domestic violence in Guatemala; and homeless LGBT youth in Los Angeles, among other groups. After some ten years, I decided to take a step back and not only use art as a tool to engage with those communities I worked with but to enter a new realm of personal possibilities and find my voice as an artist. In 2019, I graduated with an MFA in visual art from UC Santa Barbara and now I’m the 2019-2020 Artist in Residence there and have been showing my work in multiple spaces around California and Spain. It has been an incredible journey and change for me and I feel lucky about what this new path and community has to offer me.

We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
My practice uses installations, wood, and fabric abstract sculptures that address themes of memory, transformation, adaptation, and identity through materials that have been discarded, deconstructed, and reconstructed. Growing up in the 1980s in Spain, ten years after my country transitioned from dictatorship to democracy, has marked the way I relate to materials in my art practice. I grew up hearing stories from my grandmother about the Spanish Civil War while she mended hand-me-downs for me from my cousins. What was a result of economic austerity from the Franco years later became an ethical choice for me in my life and my studio.

Through my work, I explore three fundamental parts of who I am: my experience of being a woman and my feminist values; my feelings of acculturation from living in the US while maintaining my Spanish identity; and my opposition to consumerism and commitment to environmental sustainability. My abstract forms mix the found and the made, the new and the old; tradition and experimentation, the mass-produced and the handmade; my Spanish values and my American experience, the present and the past.

Artists face many challenges, but what do you feel is the most pressing among them?
I think that diversity in the art world is still a problem that needs a stronger response. Things are changing slowly and new voices are starting to take up more space, but sadly most artists with gallery representation and who are making the most money from their work are still heteronormative white men. Women and minorities voices are still underrepresented and undervalued.

The other issue I think that artists are facing in big cities is the cost of living and finding balance between having a stable income and having studio time. Most of us can not get by with what we make with our art but we still have to pay bills, rent, health insurance…

Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
Until November 16th, 2019, you can see three of my pieces (two installations and a sculpture) at the Sur: Biennial show Material Matters at the Torrance Art Museum. From mid-March to mid-May 2020, I’ll be a part of a show curated by Cintia Segovia at Citrus College. And if anyone is in Spain in March 2020, my first solo, The Untold History, which has been touring since 2017, will be closing in the town of Sestao, in the Basque Country. Otherwise, people can visit my website to see images of my work or learn about forthcoming shows, they can follow me on Instagram, and share my work with other people who might enjoy it. People can also connect me to other artists, curators, collectors, or gallerists who might be interested in my work or collaborations.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Elena Zhukova, Tony Mastres & Elisa Ortega

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