Q+Art: Dan Monteavaro Conjures Magic and Mythology with Wildly Imaginative Paintings
Though he deftly jumps between public murals and traditional painting, artist Dan Monteavaro, aka Moncho 1929, is increasingly known for his wildly imaginative works. The artist’s ongoing series Chimera focuses on his fascination with clashing narratives and imagery that both repels and invites.
In Greek mythology, the Chimera was a fire-breathing female monster who terrorized the city of Lycia with her fearsome collection of animal body parts. In a second definition, the word also refers to an illusion, fabrication, or impossible wish. Monteavaro builds on both definitions by painting hybrid creatures that manifest, implausibly, before our eyes. Like a desert mirage, the Chimera works fill us first with hope and awe before suggesting the thrill might be one of our own making.
Presenting familiar images in unfamiliar ways, Monteavaro mines mass media for his enigmatic creations. His paintings boast a sense of visual magic, one that relies on vivid color, layered mark-making, and a tangle of incongruous human and animal limbs. Horse parts frequently appear, recalling the bawdy lawlessness of another mythological hybrid creature, the centaur. Guns and other Wild West imagery give the Chimera series an unbridled, chaotic feel, one that echoes the anything-goes aesthetic of it’s star monsters.
Ultimately, Monteavaro sees the works in Chimera as a means to create new dialog from disparate threads of cultural thought. “The combination of two opposing visual images can create a new conversation, different than what each image carries alone,” he writes in his artist statement. There is a feeling of suspended motion in these paintings, as though the monsters might spring to life the moment our backs are turned. Catching them in motion is akin to catching a mirage, but our attempts remain a testament to human ingenuity, imagination, and creativity.
In Today’s Q+Art Interview…
Dan Monteavaro discusses learning to say no, the necessity of folding your pizza slice, and the benefits of “forced studio time.”
What one book belongs on every artist’s shelf?
Dan Monteavaro: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson.
If you could have dinner with any artist, living or dead, who would it be?
DM: Bob Ross.
Do you prefer New York- or Chicago-style pizza?
DM: I'm from NYC so that's almost an offensive question. NY pizza. And you fold it when you eat it, none of that flat nibble bullshit.
Would you work for free in exchange for exposure?
DM: "Too much exposure can cause cancer also" is something I tell people who do that too much. Sometimes it's a mutual benefit between the artist and the company/person/organization/etc. But I've seen "artists" who do work for social media mentions, and they don't seem to understand that by clout-chasing, you are setting a bad precedent for how artists are valued by those organizations. That being said, I always donate to charities because that's good for the soul.
What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
DM: Cartoons and yacht rock.
What do you consider your greatest artistic achievement?
DM: Getting acquired by a public museum of art for the permanent collection is one. The second is learning to say no. Sometimes to galleries and sometimes to collectors. It's a skill that artists sometimes don't utilize. If you've decided to do art as a career, it wasn't to stay within the confines of a creative box.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
DM: That you'll never be fully satisfied with any work you create.
Is a formal arts education worth the money?
DM: Art school can help someone experience and learn more about art as a career, but I think getting lost in technical skill gets the brunt of importance and that carries on out of art school. I'm not faulting that because teaching creativity is next to impossible, but teaching skills isn't. Schools should focus on inspiring and nurturing creativity just as much as technical skill. Unfortunately, the realistic analogy is that creativity is the gas and the skill is the car. The fuel (creativity) is what carries you throughout the journey.
What is one thing you would like to change about the art world?
DM: More creative bravery and less creative laziness.
Would you rather be a historically significant or commercially successful artist?
DM: Depends on what I'm historically significant for, I guess. There are artists who are significant for being commercially successful, but not for doing work that inspires or stands up to time.
What are you listening to in the studio right now?
DM: Currently stuck somewhere between Tribe Called Quest, Run the Jewels, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, and archived Art Bell radio shows.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your practice?
DM: It's given me some good "forced studio time." I've been able to really get into exploring the Chimera series.
How do you think the coronavirus pandemic will impact the art world in the long term?
DM: Hopefully, people will use the time. We all say "I would do this if I had the time," and this can be an opportunity to explore that. Add in some introspection and deep appreciation for seeing works and having your works seen, and hopefully we can respect the gravity of what this is and what we take for granted.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. All photos published with permission of the artist.
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