We had the good fortune of connecting with Lola Montejo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lola, how do you think about risk?
I was born in England but shortly after my parents returned to their home in Madrid where I spent much of my childhood. My father was a singer and our home was a regular gathering place for musicians and artists whose conversations sparked an appreciation of art in me from a young age. Eventually my parents decided to move to the US. They saw an opportunity in Florida to make some investments and retire early. Unfortunately, those investments were bad and my parents lost everything. They had to decide to either go back to Spain and tell everyone how they failed or start all over again. My father could not find a job, so he went to an employment agency but all they had for him was a job at a catering company. He went to work for the caterer and quickly picked up skills in the kitchen. There my father found an unexpected passion for cooking that helped him begin his new calling as a chef. I learned a great deal about perseverance and taking risks from my parents. The memory of my father making a big career change later in his life reassured me when I decided to pursue a career in art. I spent a total of 9 years in college. I studied Painting and Art History for my undergrad and then I went to graduate school twice, once for Art Education and then I completed a terminal degree in Studio Arts. I am proud of all the years I have spent learning my field, but it did not come easy for me as a non-traditional student, raising a family, working full time, and not to mention English is my second language. The hard work learning in college prepared me for the hard work it takes to be an artist. As an artist I work a lot, long days, sometimes multiple jobs, and often 7 days a week. I do not have time for much else, the work consumes me. I could have chosen an easier career but am happy with my choice. My art is what I have to do, it is what I am.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My art explores the language of abstraction through painting, drawing, and collage. My style can be referred to as gestural painting. When I think about gesture I think of emotion. The word gesture in Spanish is “gesto” meaning to move or be moved. My paintings are full of movement both literal and suggestive. Improvised marks turn into pictorial conflicts and resolutions that directs me to explore the limits of their meaning. Evaluating, selecting, and editing is the core of creating a language. Like a writer, I can change and reformulate the rules of the game at any time. I play with interactions of color and movement, allowing the paint to be both controlled and expressionistic. The paint is the subject that illustrate the material and translates the activity. The process of painting functions as a transmitter of information, rather than an object. The compositions reveal a history of effort, elimination, and creation. The practice is a field of action and research; a dialect that embodies an intuitive path while making aesthetic choices through deliberate moves. In this sense, my art is just as representational as they are abstract, reflecting my inner world and the world around me. Abstraction today reflects the times we live in. Chaos and order are concepts necessary for understanding the world today. When I consider the world, it is changing at an unbelievable speed and in ways that are unseen. The concept of how the world is trying to deal with all the adaptation and transformation happening now sems better suited for me to respond to abstractly. I make abstract work because I am interested how it can function in a state which beauty and conflict can simultaneously exist. My perspective is a bit different than other artists. Both the cultures of the United States and Spain are a part of the influences that make up me and my art. I was very young when I lived in Spain, but I remember that time well. My grandmother Lola, who I am named after, lived in the art district in Madrid near the Prado museum. She took me to the museum a couple of times and from there on I started taking trips to the Museum on my own. I would sit and visit the artwork and I had an interest in trying to figure out how they were created and what the artists was saying. Studying art has been a lifelong passion. The two things that have completely engulfed my adult life are my artwork and my family. Being a mother and an artist are both time consuming tasks but ones that I am happy and willing to put the work into. I have a hard time pinpointing a single accomplishment because I am most proud of the people I have positively influenced. I have taught hundreds of students and as I mentioned before, I never forget a face. Seeing them succeed and continue to have a passion for learning drives me to keep working with people. I am a proud teacher, a proud mother, and a proud artist. Dedication, persistence, and authenticity are words I use when describing my work habits and what I attribute to any of my success as an artist. I had a professor in undergrad tell me that, “you do not know much about painting until you have completed over 100 paintings”. I could not agree with him more. It takes time to develop your artistic senses. A lot of time, failure, and experimentation is what I have learned the most from in my studio practice. I find success when a painting is just about to fail and then I can discover something. For myself it is a practice that takes place after certain amount of trials, and those trials create the presence of the painting. In a way the construction of the painting has to pass through an inner conflict that can only be embraced on the canvas, and by embracing that conflict it creates the existence of the painting. The most beautiful meanings of life are sometimes best understood by struggles. For me, success in life is simply trying to do and live from what one loves. Every future moment is uncertain in art and in life.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I always encourage people to go see art, in museums, galleries, public places or any way you can go out and see some art. I know people are more concerned now about going out and social distancing but Museums and art galleries are usually spaces that are more open and you do not have to stand close or talk to anyone. Art shows are great escapes for people right now. You mind can travel away and let your imagination take you somewhere else. If I were to take a friend out to show them a good time seeing art I would take them for a walk to Denver’s Golden Triangle Art District. I would start with William Havu Art Gallery in Denver. The space is AIA award winning, post-modern building. I show my art there along with other regionally, nationally and internationally recognized artists. The gallery has 4o plus years putting on spectacular art shows. Then I would take a walk down the street to Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art. The Kirkland Museum displays decorative art beginning c.1870 with fine art by Colorado/regional artists and Vance Kirkland, who the museum is named after and includes 550 paintings and about 600 drawings and prints are held in his estate collection and housed Kirkland’s historic art studio. The building was Designed by architect Jim Olson and is a new modernist style building is covered in baguette-shaped terracotta yellow tiles line the façade walls and glimmer in the sun. From there we would walk to Leven’s. Which they refer to themselves as one part Jewish Deli, one part Mediterranean restaurant. I would order the egg salad sandwich and a glass of their homemade ginger ail which I think is the best in town. If we wanted to make it a full day I would also go drive us down to the Arvada Center. The Arvada Center has 10,000 square feet of exhibition space focused on representing artists from Colorado and the western region – all free and open to the public. Plus they have a fantastic outdoor sculpture field that features large-scale pieces from significant Colorado artists.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I could not do what I do, that is choice the life of an artist, without the help of my family. I am very grateful of all of their support and would like to give credit to them for all their encouragement and sacrifice that they made for me to pursue my dream. I would also like to recognize my late father Jose Montejo, as an ever inspiration to never give up.
All images are taken by Lola Montejo.