By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette
Sitting down with multimedia artist Virginia L. Montgomery, Corsicana Artist and Writer Residency‘s latest visitor, there was much to discuss in the worlds of video and performance art, and even Pixar.
The weather was cold at the time of the interview, so the interview took place via Zoom meeting. Montgomery had previously shown a selection of her work at the Residency’s Jan. 19 presentation. A Texas native and lifelong artist, Montgomery was born and raised in Houston. She attended the University of Texas at Austin for her undergraduate degree, and lived in New York from 2008 to 2019. Montgomery has lived in Austin since.
The artist’s exhibits has been shown locally throughout Texas and internationally, the latter she credits to contacts made in New York.
During last month’s Residency presentation, Montgomery showcased a sample of her films. One of which was Honey Moon, a symbolic and experimental film about a small moon dribbled with viscous honey. The piece was performed, produced, and edited by the artist and shown on the video displays of Times Square in New York. She considered the experience to be a gift given the “meditative space” of the intersection.
“That project, Honey Moon, was a 2019 commission by Times Square Arts, a fantastic art organization that helps bring video artists like myself to Times Square,” Montgomery said. “I was thrilled to be able to see my works screen every night at midnight across…. I believe it was across 30 different large format digital billboards, and I was there for quite a few of the nights.”
Montgomery’s works consider the sensory-based world we live in and how we interpret it.
“It was an amazing experience,” she said. “A lot of my work explores philosophical ideas about ‘What is time,’ ‘How do we interpret different symbols,’ What does it mean when visual content is somewhat ambiguous… how do make people make sense of that.’ For me to present a video like Honey Moon, in which is very surreal in an environment like Times Square where video is already a given, big advertisements everywhere, but my work is a completely different visual language.”
“When I work with different materials, I’m always looking for a material or a symbol that has a type of rich history.”
The artist’s work “intentionally looks for positive subject matter to foreground” in practice. It’s hard not to smile celestial bodies oozing with sweet flavors or the dreamscape behaviors of Luna Moths. The experiences inspire contemplation, and in the latter subject, the artist becomes part of the subject matter, providing small, physical nudges to the moth’s macro world of bells and crafted cameras. With her own participation, Montgomery subtly explores the world as much as she invites her viewers to, inspiring imagination in the ordinary.
“I want to still use video the same way that a sculptor would sculpt a stone,” Montgomery said. “I want to be able to sculpt the video and be able to explore what is space and time and movement and attitudes.”
While computer generated works such as a Pixar use computer imagery to tell a story, Montgomery’s focuses on the real world.
“I intentionally make lens based work,” the artist said. “Meaning I use a real camera, with real lenses, and film real things.”
And yet, there is a familiarity in subject matter as Montgomery’s work adds personification to everyday objects, making the intangible elements of life discoverable and charmingly relatable.
“Pixar has a really wide portfolio of films and shorts they have done,” Montgomery said. “Initially, something I think that separated their style of storytelling from Disney is oftentimes their storytelling tends to focus on the lives of inanimate objects, and that’s something I think about when I’m working with… whether it be like an insect like a moth which is an animate object.”
“When you’re looking at it, moths don’t move around that much. They just kind of sit there, and they might as well be like an object. They’re very quiet. But still, if you’re trying to storytell with a miniature camera with a moth you have to use narrative devices like jump cuts and visual framing to learn how to create narrative tension through angling the camera to get different shots.”
Montgomery learned about Corsicana’s residency program through prior artists who have frequented the former I.O.O.F. building
“In my opinion, the Corsicana art residency is best able to promote itself through artists recommending this opportunity to other artists through word of mouth,” Montgomery said. “How I find Corsicana, I think it’s very charming. The architecture is very great.”
Montgomery appreciates the time speed and slowness she has found during her stay, and the abundance of architecture from pre-World War I buildings still standing today.
“I grew up in Houston, which is a city of four million people. I’m accustomed to a version of Texas living that is very urban and very loud and busy, so it’s been really fascinating to see a version of everyday Texas life that is in a small town that has a choreography to it.”
Montgomery will be at the residency until Feb. 25 where her works will be on display at the open studios. In the meantime, she will be creating new works, and sharing Luna Moths with Corsicana.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: All photo, video content in this article were provided courtesy the artist, Virginia L. Montgomery.
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