Sing Dynasty

Linda Montano brings her unique brand of performance to SITE

Considered a central figure in contemporary performance art, Linda Mary Montano has been at the forefront of avant-garde performance—from exhibiting live chickens to living an exclusively monochromatic life for seven years in "Seven Years of Living Art," and the self-explanatory "Three Day Blindfold"—for the last 40 years.

"I've been there, done that," Montano tells SFR.

This Friday, Montano partakes in a triad of exhibitions at SITE Santa Fe, including State of Mind: New California Art circa 1970 in which her work is featured, and a solo show titled Always Creative that concentrates on the breadth of the former nun's work.

"Her work, basically, is the idea of art/life," SITE assistant curator Janet Dees explains. "The premise is to investigate the relationship between art and life, and blur the lines between them." 

Notable is how the artist will present her work to Santa Fe's culturati: with a site-specific "endurance performance" that features the artist center stage on a hydraulic scissor lift, belting Linda Ronstadt and Raka Mukherjee songs.   

The attraction to Ronstadt, Montano explains, developed when she first moved to California and was exposed to her music. A fascination quickly developed.

"I made believe I was her, and that became one of the components of this—what I call 'creative schizophrenia'—where I become many different people," she says. "One of the people that I become is a kind of cloned Linda Ronstadt country/western singer." 

Montano's love affair with music has been a lifelong one. Her father, a first-generation Italian immigrant, did "everything in order to put food on the table" of their New York home. Including starting a band.

"I have this real connection to this image of my parents—my Dad in a tux and my Mom in these '30s and '40s nightgownish-looking frocks that her mother handmade for her," Montano reminisces. "Music was a big influence. Mother played piano and we sang. Music was a real healing phenomenon in the family."

About the only time her singing became a negative issue was during a short-lived stint as a nun. "They came up to me and said: 'Sister Rose, this is not a nightclub, so when you're singing the Divine Office, please keep your voice down,'" she says with a laugh.

Dubbed Singing My Heart Out, the spectacle will see Montano ascending to seven levels within SITE's structure, one per hour—a continuation of one of the ever-present themes in her latest work: the seven chakras, as well as an ode to her strict Roman Catholic upbringing.

"Sin and crucifixion were my food," Montano says of her upbringing. "The seven hours is also a reference to this kind of penitential, Catholic paradigm," she muses.

Audience participation is not only allowed, it's encouraged, so start rehearsing that riveting performance of "Blue Bayou" you've been meaning to share with the world.

If you'd rather save your pipes for a springtime debut, a special follow-up performance titled
Singing My Heart In is scheduled for the show's closing on Friday, May 17.

"One of the only times my heart is happy is when I'm singing, and so I try to incorporate as much singing as possible in my performances," Montano says.

Linda Montano: Singing My Heart Out
Noon-7 pm, Friday, Feb. 22. $10
SITE Santa Fe
1606 Paseo de Peralta, 989-1199

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