Paloma Montoya

Paloma Montoya: Artist + 2020 Not Real Art Grant Recipient

“That moment when I’m creating…it’s the time I feel the most free.”

Not Real Art grant winter, Paloma Montoya, knew she was an artist at a very young age and recalls using whatever she could as her canvass, drawing on her grandmother’s walls, the mail, etc. Montoya grew up in the South Bay and says that initially, she didn’t have a lot of encouragement to become an artist.

Don’t miss Paloma telling her story on our podcast

“When you grow up in a Latino household, especially when you have immigrant parents, I think the expectation is to become something like a doctor or an engineer or something like that. My family didn’t really take the art thing seriously. But I was fortunate to have teachers that took it seriously.”

Look At Me by Paloma Montoya
Look At Me by Paloma Montoya

When asked what the defining moment was in her pursuit of the artist’s life, Montoya recalls a time when she’d stopped drawing and painting and began working at an elementary school. “I was just feeling down and I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do. So I started working at elementary school and I went to school to major in child development. I took an art class in 2015 and I hadn’t taken art classes for a long time. Then when I took this design course, I said to myself, ‘I want to get back into art. This is what feels right.’ That was the moment for me.”

Now, Montoya’s biggest cheerleaders are her family. “Now, my mom has more of an understanding. She sees all of the things that I’m accomplishing with my work and how seriously I take it and she’s really proud of me. And my sister is my number one fan.”

Paloma says about the impact of the pandemic, “None of us are safe from this.”

I’ve Lost My Head Before 1 by Paloma Montoya
I’ve Lost My Head Before 1 by Paloma Montoya

“I think there’s both positives and negatives to this. In the beginning, I was really worried and stressed out, but what eased my worry, was seeing all my artist friends in the same position. Sometimes I’m on Instagram, browsing through other artists’ profiles or portfolios and I have a tendency to compare myself and say, ‘Oh, well, this person is getting way more opportunities than I am,’ like I’m falling behind or I’m not doing enough. But when I saw that we were all in the same boat, it helped me evaluate and analyze the fact that none of us are safe from this.”

Paloma Montoya: The biggest challenge for artists today

I feel like there’s been a change in the art community for the better. More people are looking at giving visual artists more opportunities. So I think that that’s a positive. But I feel like the challenge lies within the different communities of artists. From my experience, I’ve noticed that there are more opportunities for non-POC (non-persons of color) artists. Rather than more opportunities for POC (People/persons of color) artists or LGBTQ artists. There’s a lot of opportunities for male artists, especially, and not a lot for female artists. Usually, when I’ve been in curated art shows and galleries, they are female artists curating an all-female show. I’ve been in art shows or art events where they don’t include my name in flyers or promotional flyers. I’m the only female and I would have to call or email and say, ‘You left out my name. I’m one of the featured artists.’ It definitely makes you feel weird, you know, like not really seen.”

I’ve Lost My Head Before 2
I’ve Lost My Head Before 2

Montoya’s Not Real Art grant application articulates the challenge further by saying, “What I hope to achieve as an artist is to bring a different style of art within my community as a woman of color since I personally feel that woman of color in the arts have less representation than male artists of color or white men and woman. Other goals I have as an artist is to beautify my community of Los Angeles that are deprived of art in the South, East and South East area of Los Angeles through mural works. I would also love to attempt this in other countries as well beginning with Colombia, the country [where] my mother was born. My art pieces at times can be shocking in the sense that society has created certain expectations for not only women of color, but people of color in general. My work attempts to break those norms set for working class people of color. I hope to put a more positive light on predominantly brown and black communities by sharing the culture that is experienced in those communities through my paintings and illustrations.”

Seeing Red by Paloma Montoya
Seeing Red by Paloma Montoya

Paloma Montoya: On process

Montoya describes her process as a transcendent experience, where she is suspended outside of her emotions, safe from anxiety, impervious to emotional states of being.

“When I think of a piece to do, it develops for a period of months, or even years, and then I kind of edit it in my mind. I’m not a sketcher. But when it feels right to put whatever I have in my mind down on paper, I just go for it. And that moment is for me. It’s the only time when I have no anxiety. I have no worries. I don’t feel sadness. I don’t even feel happiness. It’s like I kind of transcend. I become what I’m doing. It’s just my hand doing the work. I’m not thinking about anything. I’m not worrying about anything. That moment, when I’m creating, it’s the time I feel the most free.”

No Love by Paloma Montoya
No Love by Paloma Montoya

“I would like the world to know that love still exists.”

“I say that because I think this generation functions differently when it comes to that. People don’t really have that much respect for each other. I don’t see a lot of romance. There’s a lot of what we call ‘ghosting.’ People don’t communicate their feelings and they just kind of disappear…There’s a lot of that kind of interaction, but I still believe there’s that kind of love that’s respectful. I guess most of my romantic relationships have been negative. So I still kind of hold on to that.”

“The story I’m telling is about myself.”

Montoya describes the story of her work as a summation of her experiences in relationships, romantic relationships, and friendships. “There’s some satire in there. There’s some humor in there. Kind of like those first moments of ‘Oh, this actually happened?’ You have to experience it, but this is a way for me to laugh at it.”

Be sure to follow Paloma on Instagram at: _paloma.negra

Katie Love

Katie Love's name matches her distinct style – she writes, performs, and creates from the heart. Katie is a Los Angeles-based writer-comedian, producer, and writing coach. She is the creator and host of “The Katie Love Show,” a live comedy talk show, and a producer on the new unscripted series, “Laugh Gallery,” for Not Real Art/Crewest Studios. She has written for the Los Angeles Times, Yahoo News, and is the author of the novel, “Cubicide,” and the memoir, “Two Tickets to Paradise, from Cult to Comedy.”