Ian and I met in the ninth grade and have been friends ever since. Ian also designed the Little Bite Gallery logo. It’s my pleasure to introduce all of you to the spectacular Ian Montgomery.
Ian, thank you for sitting down to reflect and share with me!
What does art mean to you?
You’ve opened my eyes more than anyone to how art is so much more expansive than paintings hanging in a gallery, art can be anything from cooking someone a meal to thoughtfully arranging a space.
So with that … art is Cosman planting trees without permission around the industrial parks of Bayview. art is all the beautiful letters I’ve received from you over the past decade. art is Lachlan browning the butter for his chocolate chip cookies. art is Skye creating humor and levity in the face of hardship. art is Charlie staying up all night creating his voting guide for the SF elections. art is Ryan driving an hour to the sea just to photograph a sunset snowstorm. art is my grandfather transcribing the same poems over and over again. art is watching friends buck out of norm and create lives of their own invention.
At the heart of it all, art is giving a gift. art is a brave gesture, usually a quietly brave one. art is work.
What does time feel like to you? Is it something linear? Something more spacious and abstract?
Time is a tough but helpful taskmaster. To me time feels linear. I’m very western in that every day I write out goals, keep lists, and move through them. It’s effective but it’s also quite hypnotizing and I worry about the spontaneity I may be missing.
Going to the ocean is my relief from this linear time tunnel, it's a powerful ritual that cracks my world into something more expansive and playful.
What patterns or habits, with no moral assignment, do you see from your life mirrored in your work?
Patterns and habits... I really only feel at ease when I’m working towards big dreams. People meet me and they think I’m a mellow Californian, and in some ways that’s true, but underneath that side is someone who’s pretty uptight and disciplined, and that discipline makes it way into my work. The oil paintings I do of the sea are a kind of intense haha, hundreds of hours of thin layers of oil paint, and I only really finish one or two pieces per year. And if I’m not doing the oils I’m usually painting big wall murals. There's something so satisfying and punk about doing slow patient work like that in this age of instant gratification.
How do you hope to reach others with/through your work, or is that not a concern?
Each piece is different and each situation is different. I usually create from the place of “This needs to exist” rather than thinking too much about reaching others. But the most satisfying pieces are absolutely the ones that connect with people.
A crazy thing happened during one of the first murals I ever painted. I was probably 20 years old, and my friend Chuck, a veteran of the Bush/Cheney war, asked me to paint a landscape of his hometown in Jamaica in his room. I painted all night while Chuck snored away across the room. The mural is pretty painful to look back on now haha, but at the time I believed in it. Chuck woke up, looked over the piece, and tears flooded his eyes. He opened up about how tough it was to come back to a normal existence after serving in Afghanistan, and how this mural was beautiful glimpse of hope for him to wake up to every morning. He gave me a giant bear hug and thanked me for bringing his vision to life. I was totally floored.
I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since. That feeling of connection and honesty. Whether you’re making work about hidden beauty, societal critiques, some totally mysterious abstraction, whatever it is, at the kernel of good work is that deep honesty. If a piece comes from an honest line of inquiry, then it has the magic to cross into another person’s being and facilitate the catharsis of true connection. I have to remind myself of that in New York where a lot of the art is hyper-intellectual. Really it’s all about honesty.
Describe a beautiful interaction you had with someone recently.
Oh man can that one above with Chuck count?
Describe your ideal day, even if it involves elements that haven’t manifested yet.
If you had asked me that 10 years ago I would have had an answer scheduled out haha. A sunrise surf, a day of making, cooking, reading, a Sharon Jones concert at night, some faux fur and vintage cars thrown in there.
Now I’ve softened a little and I live most days according to a system a three overlapping circles, green, orange, and purple. The secondary colors. The green is health, moving around, eating right, meditating. The orange is free creation, making work outside of a contact setting. And purple is about community, making time for friends and family. If a day let’s me touch on all three circles then that’s pretty ideal.
What’s your wish for whoever is reading this?
I came to art late in life compared to some, 19 or 20 years old. It was terrifying to be a beginner and to start letting people in to this private nascent world. I kept an old tumblr blog and every day I’d post watercolors or poems or drawings, and you had your hand made card business on tumblr too, and I think you and Will Walden were like my only followers. I’d post work that was super new and scary to share, and each time I’d get a nice little note or comment from you it was the this super meaningful push to keep making and keep exploring. Honestly it was the best energy I could have been around at the vulnerable stage, and I’m forever grateful to you, as I very easily could have chickened out and not pursued this creative impulse.
So I was really excited to hear you were starting a gallery, because you have this incredible encouraging effect on people, and I can’t wait to see how that energy manifests in Little Bite.
So my wish… my wish is for everyone who reads this and comes into contact with Little Bite to be touched by your presence in the way that I was... For that natural encouraging energy of yours to ripple out to as many people as possible... For everyone who experiences one of your happenings to turn fresh eyes to art in a more accessible and sincere way... and for people to see the opportunities for artfulness in their daily lives.
He has worked in-house for Chubbies and Areaware, and has been commissioned to paint murals around the San Francisco Bay Area.
After graduating from Stanford with an environmental science degree, Ian switched gears from research to design. Buckminster Fuller said, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something you must build a new model that makes the old model obsolete." Ian picked up what Bucky was putting down, and choose design as his tool to build with.
Down the line Ian plans to open his own studio focused on sustainable packaging design.
For freelance inquiries: helloianmonty (at) gmail (dot) com