I am interested in how place and environment influence us. Geographic regions and architecture inform my research for performances and I draw on the international and local languages of the visual culture where I live and work. Boundary-crossing and humor are additional pretexts for enriched social interaction within my work. I am committed to themes of accessibility and treat my performances as conceptual public art that functions within and beyond the designated gallery walls, including the online digital environment.
My Vimeo video series The Lonely Painter straddles the art world and popular digital culture in videos that function as “self-healing” meditations and simultaneous homages to Bob Ross. In these, I paint invented imagery while maintaining an improvisational dialogue with a presumed viewer. Drawing inspiration from Hennessy Youngman who taught postmodern art theory through a hiphop lens in hilarious viral videos called Art Thoughtz, I sought a rejoinder to his approach to online art pedagogy. The Lonely Painter waxes expansive on artistic subjects such as how to sell art and how the concept is more important than the actual painting. In this work, I straddle the line between the traditional studio and post-studio realm of digital space. I employ humor to engage the viewer in a dialogue surrounding the art market in late capitalist culture. My work reflects aspects of futility and optimism in equal parts.
My run for Mayor of Santa Barbara was a form of public performance that explored the boundaries between art and life in a post-Trump age in which anyone can become the star of his or her own reality TV show. The sense of political instability and a lack of essential self also underpins my recent performance projects. In an age of online pornography, extreme fetish sites, and the rise of amateur content in the form of YouTube performances, tutorials and more, anyone can insert him or herself into digital space. In response, I create and insert myself into a website advertising Real Lonely Dolls. Here, I perform between the analogue and digital realm, attempting to grapple with my own isolation and depreciating value as a human female body in a rapidly accelerating world of artificially intelligent erotic robot dolls. Within this techno-utopian context, I explore my own creative potential to identify, commodify and advertise aspects of myself in a self-deprecatingly humorous way that questions who or what is desirable and worthy of love.
My work explores text and its inherent and acquired meanings and aesthetics. As we communicate in a screen-based world, I am interested in the changing qualities, effects, and responsibilities of not only language but visual text. I am interested in the emotional, political, and expressive impacts of text in different forms: text as image, redaction, letter anatomy and design, and hand-written text as gesture. I want to honor the beauty, pace, and emotional nature of handwriting, epistolary communication, and journal-writing–in short, the non-digital, vulnerable, sometimes illegible word.
I mine newspapers, magazines, letters, documents, and my old journals, as well as tweets, protest signage, and outdated idioms. I take language from pop culture that often requires a second reading–most recently Clueless, The Breakfast Club, and other teen romantic comedies that not only gave us infinitely quotable quips in the pre-internet age but defined a generation’s understanding of itself. I use the structure and visual language of journals, with culturally codified text, to reveal parts of my interior self while attempting to comment on what I see as a crisis of communication.
I am inspired by the mark-making, color, and both subtle and overt political and feminist messaging in the work of Helen Frankenthaler, Sister Corita Kent, Barbara Kruger, and Margaret Kilgallen. Their modes and messages are urgent and relevant and I feel compelled to somehow build on their potent visual systems that combine emotional resonance, vulnerability, and cultural commentary.
As a prerequisite to the transference of energy there must be an exchange and transformation. This universal exchange is what we as a species manipulate in an effort to distance ourselves from the governance of our evolutionary history. As a result of this displacement the division between technological fact and fiction is often blurred and/or removed. From the burning of coal to the consumption of livestock, our culture exists to design and accommodate mortality and growth. To free ourselves from the shackles of Natural Selection we labor to transform energy into fuel in defiance of our past and future. In this desire to supplant Darwinian law, we employ a cultural narrative that is steeped in mythology as a way to fantastically deny the impact of our species on the world at large. It is the duty of art itself to engage with this self-deceptive hubris. Through these photographic images I examine and deconstruct the unknown knowns of this historic and collective dialogue in an attempt to further my understandings about cultural constructs that often symbolize conflict within Political Ecology. Is it possible for humanity to attain an advanced technological future that operates harmoniously alongside the needs of our eco-system? Ultimately, I seek to visually explore this thought while engaging viewers with questions concerning their own personal behavior with regards to consumerism, nature, and use of energy.
Elisa Ortega Montilla
I make my art to express three fundamental parts of my self: my experience of being a woman, my identify and background as a Spaniard, and my commitment to environmental sustainability. My aim is to explore themes of transformation and identity through materials that have been discarded, deconstructed, and reconstructed. Through my process I give materials that once were strictly functional a non-functional purpose. Reclaimed objects and fabrics stop being useful and transform into something else.
My recent work employs humor, text, naiveté, and urgency to craft sly political messages through the interconnected threads of tapestry. I’m drawn to what is congested, brash and juvenile, but also controlled by an existing framework. I’m interested in using weaving to make sense of the chaos of the present day, often through the lens of digital culture. In many ways my work follows tradition. For centuries, tapestry has been used across cultures as a medium to archive history through woven symbols and as a political tool for women to express dissent. As a skilled weaver I value the technical aspects of this discipline and submit myself to the grid-based structure of the loom, but break down— and on occasion play with it’s preconceived assumptions of utility or the decorative. At the same time I’m interested in subverting tradition, whether it’s by simply dismantling the rectangle, or through the contemporary imagery and language that I depict within the weave. I see the process of weaving as a tool for political and material disruption. Whether I’m being overt in my political message or radical through materiality, I embrace the power of textiles to communicate. In the end, what materializes is a series of layered visual systems—organized yet unruly, witty and absurd.
I pursue execution with Michelangelo as my model, pursue the immortal youthful spirit of Vincent Bell, pursue the historical accuracy of Bill Reid, pursue the bravery of George Flett, pursue the manhood of Cliff SiJohn, pursue the longevity of my grandfather, and pursue the compassion of my mother.
My art foundation is built on iron clad discipline and daily I pile effort upon effort knowing my commitment is rooted in honesty. This honesty gives birth to the artistic momentum of a tsunami wave and the artistic faith of a monk which are continuously adapting to my process of progress. This process of progress is in accord with the Almighty Heavenly Father and I give all the credit to him. My art will stimulate thought, motivate action, continue to blossom in harmony within an infinite field of unfolding possibility, and continue to be a bright light shining into this dream of a world. This is my guarantee to you.
Echo Theohar is an artist and community technologist who researches the ways in which visualized data, graphics processing, and programming shape social, cultural, economic, and political discourse. Her affiliated gigs include voidLab, Isolor, and the Feminist Pornographic Collective Consciousness project.
My works are visual narratives of my life. Like a storyteller, my images reveal moments of loss, redemption, and humor resulting in a variety of self-portraits using photography, collage and performance.
The process of creating allows me to convey my emotional state through visual images. Each project is therapeutic and asks for compassion, empathy and understanding from viewers.