Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States, Oxford University Press,
Delilah Montoya (b. 1955 Fort Worth, Texas)
c Holly Barnet-Sanchez, Associate Professor, Latin American and Chicano/a, Latino/a Art History, Department of Art and Art History, University of New Mexico
Born in Texas and raised in the Midwest, artist Delilah Montoya’s longtime place of residence is New Mexico, the ancestral home of her mother’s family. Her work is grounded in the mestizo/a experience of the Southwest and borderlands, bringing together a multiplicity of syncretic forms and practices from those of Aztec Mexico and Spain, to cross-bordered vernacular traditions, all of which are inflected by contemporary Native American and Anglo American customs and values. Her artistic home is the cacophony of the contemporary Chicano/a –Mexicano/a – Hispano/a experience in New Mexico.
As a photographic printmaker, who has experimented with most print processes from the collotype to digital imaging and video production, Montoya consistently pushes the boundaries of what is technically possible and conceptually challenging. Her work explores the unusual relationships that result from negotiating different ways of viewing, conceptualizing, representing, and consuming the worlds found in the Southwest from her own perspective as a feminist Chicana artist from a matriarchal family. It is about syncretism, ancient and ongoing mestizaje. She purposefully positions her work as an alternative to the mainstream, as a catalyst for issues of cultural identity.
Montoya’s many projects investigate cultural phenomena, always addressing and often confronting viewers’ assumptions. “Saints and Sinners” (1990), a photo-installation, explores the conjunction of history, culture, and spirituality in the Hermandad or Penitente Brotherhood of New Mexico, to which her maternal grandfather belonged. “Corazon Sagrado/Sacred Heart” (1994) a series of twenty-five collotypes, was a collaborative project with members of the Chicano/Hispano community in Albuquerque, including young spray can artists, that interpreted the historical, cultural, religious, and political significance of the Sacred Heart as a still-potent multi-valent icon. In 1992, she brought ancient indigenous migration stories together with the history of nuclear research in New Mexico in the “Codex Delilah, Six Deer a Journey from Mechica to Chicana.” “Shooting the Tourist” (1995), is a humorous and ironic critique of tourism and the “Old West” that returns the “documentary gaze” with a photo-mural and seven different fan-fold post card sets.
Two recent projects explore the cultural currency of two powerful female icons: the Virgin of Guadalupe and DoĖa Sebastiana, angel of death, and exemplify the originality of Montoya’s craft and vision. The Guadalupe tattooed on the back of a handcuffed pinto (inmate) is the centerpiece of a 15.5 foot photomural “La Guadalupana.” Montoya intended to return an image of colonialism’s dark side to Europe where this work of art was first exhibited in 1998. The video and digital imagery of “DoĖa Sebastiana”, (2001) presents us with an unusually glamorous and seductive calavera angel of death who is hesitant to heed God’s call to service, thus exploring the vanities of death and the ambivalence and fear surrounding her.
Montoya has exhibited nationally and internationally since the mid-1980s. Working her way through school as a medical photographer, she received her MFA in 1994 from the University of New Mexico and has taught at several colleges and universities. As an educator, her prime goal is to create an environment that fosters self-invention, a project that echoes her own efforts as a Chicana artist.
The Chicano Codices: Encountering Art of the Americas, San Francisco: The Mexican Museum, 1992.
González, Jennifer A., “Negotiated Frontiers,” in From the West: Chicano Narrative Photography, San Francisco: The Mexican Museum, 1995, 17-22.
Montoya, Delilah, “On Photographic Digital Imaging,” Aztlan, A Journal of Chicano Studies, Vol. 27, No.1. Spring 2002, 181-188.
Montoya, Delilah, Portfolio Web Site: www.uh.edu/~dmontoy2
Noriega, Chon, “Many Wests,” in From the West: Chicano Narrative Photography, San Francisco: The Mexican Museum, 1995, 9-15.