Maceo Montoya grew up in the small town of Elmira, California. He comes from a family of artists, including his father Malaquias Montoya, a renowned artist, activist, and educator, and his late brother, Andrés Montoya, whose poetry collection “The Iceworker Sings” won the American Book Award in 2000.
Montoya graduated from Yale University in 2002 where he majored in History and Ethnicity Race & Migration. He also received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Visual Arts from Columbia University in 2006. He has completed several public art commissions, including two murals with the Eastside Arts Alliance in Oakland, where he worked as an instructor.
In addition to several solo exhibitions, Montoya’s work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, including Cara Vemos, Corazón no Sabemos at the Snite Museum of Art, and most recently Inter-viewing Paintings, a survey of contemporary Eastern and Western painters at the SOMA Museum of Art in Seoul, Korea.
He presently lives in Woodland, California where he paints and writes. His first novel is forthcoming from Bilingual Review Press at Arizona State University.
I believe in the communicative power of storytelling because of its lasting emotional potency. The characters and scenes I paint are imaginary, but they derive from articles and essays I have read, stories I have heard directly, and my own experience. My creative impulse is stirred by stories of people overcoming hardships, risking their lives to provide for their families, and staking claim to their place on this earth. My work often deals with Mexican immigrants, but my goal is not to represent an overarching experience or identity; rather, I try to give a specific human face – as simple as a meditative portrait or as elaborate as a series of intertwining compositions – to those with whom I identify and feel intimately connected. I am not an immigrant, nor am I poor, yet I am a citizen of a world dominated by poverty, hunger, toil, war, and death. I choose to tell stories both reflecting and revealing that reality, varying from the subtle to the confrontational.
Art has the singular ability to represent society’s intricacies in ways that other fields cannot. Its main concern is not the ever-changing tide of systems, policy, and socioeconomic structures, but the exploration of the human condition – an elusive and complex, yet always reliable constant. The artist’s most important function is to facilitate this search, and in the process help forge a more clearly articulated understanding of humanism. Of course, what is truly depicted in any work of art is the artist’s own grappling with a particular existence, in this case, my own relative reflections on hardship, displacement, and loss – at best a faithful translation. But it’s done with the hope that viewers of my work make a connection to that which is different, misunderstood, or altogether unseen; and ultimately, that certain truths are revealed about the moments and movements that define all of our lives.