Malaquias Montoya was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and raised in the San Joaquin Valley of California. He was brought up in a family of seven children by parents who could not read or write either Spanish or English. The three oldest children never went beyond a seventh grade education, as the entire family had to work as farm laborers for their survival. His father and mother were divorced when he was ten, and his mother continued to work in the fields to support the four children still remaining at home so they could pursue their education. Montoya graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1969.
Since then, he has lectured and taught at numerous colleges and universities in the San Francisco Bay Area including Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley. He was a Professor at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, CA for twelve years; for five of those years he was Chair of the Ethnic Studies Department as well. During this period he also served as Director of the Taller de Artes Graficas, in East Oakland, where he produced various prints and conducted many community art workshops. Since 1989 Montoya has held a professorship at the University of California, Davis, teaching both in the department of Art and the department of Chicana/o Studies. In 2000, he spent a semester as Visiting Professor in the Art Department at the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana, and he currently holds the title of Visiting Fellow in the Institute for Latino Studies at Notre Dame.
Montoya's classes at Davis include silkscreening, poster making, and mural painting, with a focus on Chicano culture and history. His own works include acrylic paintings, murals, washes, and drawings, but he is primarily known for his silkscreen prints, which have been exhibited internationally as well as nationally. He is credited by historians as one of the founders of the social serigraphy movement in the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-1960's. Montoya's unique visual expression is an art of protest, depicting the resistance and strength of humanity in the face of injustice and the necessity to unite behind that struggle.
It is important to note that my other "voice" is the poster/mural. I am much more articulate and able to express myself more eloquently through this medium. It is with this voice that I attempt to communicate, reach out and touch others, especially to that silent and often ignored populace of Chicano, Mexican and Central American working class, along with other disenfranchised people of the world. This form allows me to awaken consciousness, to reveal reality and to actively work to transform it. What better function for art at this time? A voice for the voiceless.
My personal views on art and society were formed by my being born into that silent and voiceless humanity. Realizing later that it was not by choice that we remained mute but by a conscious effort on the part of those in power, I realized that my art could only be that of protest - a protest against what I felt to be a death sentence.
As a Chicano artist I feel a responsibility that all my art should be a reflection of my political beliefs - an art of protest. The struggle of all people cannot be merely intellectually accepted. It must become part of our very being as artists otherwise we cannot give expression to it in our work. I am in agreement with Pedro Rodrigues, former Director of the Guadalupe Cultural Art Center, San Antonio, Texas, when he said, "Fundamentally, artistic expression, or culture in general, reaches its highest level of creation when it reflects the most serious issues of a community, when it succeeds in expressing the deepest sentiments of a people and when it returns to the people their ideas and feelings translated in a clearer and creative way."
Through our images we are the creators of culture and it is our responsibility that our images are of our times - and that they be depicted honestly and promote an attitude towards existing reality; a confrontational attitude, one of change rather than adaptability - images of our time and for our contemporaries. We must not fall into the age-old cliche that the artist is always ahead of his/her time. No, it is most urgent that we be on time.