A 45-foot-long wall in the newly constructed Bedford Art Building at Longwood University is alive with a cityscape that emphasizes the relationships among vibrant colors and communicates the perception of artist Monty Montgomery, an alumnus of the Farmville school and native of Louisa. The recently commissioned mural combines his use of rays, geometric shapes and windowed buildings to form the abstract skyline, primarily using acrylics and latex paint on the largest solo mural of his career.
While students walked by, stopped to ask questions or simply observed the artist last month, Monty first designed the image to be placed on the interior lobby wall, and then spent almost two weeks painting and sealing the artwork. He even found time to be a guest speaker in beginning art classes.
“I titled the work ‘Eastern Rays’ because I wanted to emphasize that even if the students are from small communities, focus on your work and you can make it to a big city,” he said. “I included pieces from my own past work like the hummingbirds, the circular core, rays and stars.”
His long hours culminated in a reception, sponsored by Longwood’s administration, to “toast” Monty’s accomplishment. Although the mural is meant to inspire Longwood students, the cityscape theme also reflects on his 38 years.
The son of Dianne and Steve Montgomery of Holly Grove was raised in a creative atmosphere. Early memories center on sitting at the kitchen table crayoning while watching his mother prepare art projects for her kindergarten students. Or, as Monty grew older, being the gopher or laborer beside his father while they built everything from shelving to a log cabin. His destiny to become an artist was almost innate.
“A few years ago my mother told me that she knew I was going to do this since I was one,” he said. “My mom and dad were my beginning and a very important part of what I have become as a person and an artist.”
Monty’s youthful adventures such as playing in the woods, observing birds in flight, capturing lightning bugs and following a line of ants in his sandbox, or even being told by his father that he could not cut the grass until he could ride the mower in a straight line, have influenced the pattern and detail of his artwork.
“The responsibilities and expectations of my parents along with the caring people of a small town are so evident in my work and my lifestyle,” he said. “Even the stars in my work are inspired by my late Papa Mason [Montgomery] who taught me about constellations.”
The artist credits Carlese Jackson, his third grade teacher at Mineral Elementary School, with “starting the fire” by encouraging him to enter poster contests and share his talent in the classroom. Ginna Cullen and Becky Massie, his art teachers throughout middle and high school, exposed him to various facets of the art world.
“Mrs. Cullen once gave me a C on a project. I thought it deserved an A,” he recalled. “I was devastated, but it was my first lesson in ‘You can do better.’”
Monty reflected that he probably had not applied himself adequately, perhaps concentrating more on football, baseball, soccer or tennis, or even on his social life. Massie reflected a similar memory, “Monty was a typical teenager, interested in hanging out with friends and sports. He was also passionate about art.”
But the fact that Cullen took him aside to explain that he had the talent but needed additional dedication still means a lot today. The high school courses were also an opportunity to explore mediums and consider art as a college major and a career. Monty graduated from LCHS in 1993.
To read the entire story, see the March 13 edition of The Central Virginian.