A big name in art returns to a little town to make a permanent statement in the new Bedford Building. On Feb. 9, the lockers in a hallway on the first floor were covered in plastic as Monty Montgomery, who graduated from Longwood University in 1998, prepared his workspace for the next week and a half.
“Mr. Randall Edmonson, who was my painting instructor here, contacted me and said that he had spoken with Dr. McWee, and they wanted to bring a mural project to Bedford,” Montgomery explained. “So they got in touch with me about it, and that worked out great because I was already on the east coast doing some commissions.”
In the 16 years since his graduation, Montgomery has worked on many projects in various locations, such as Boston and Los Angeles, and now resides in San Diego where he works with fellow artist Jason Feather on a collaboration called Kreashun to create live murals and interior and exterior installations.
“We are usually doing walls with Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas or big things in San Francisco where you go in and you have three days. So we are usually working at such a fast pace, being watched by hundreds of thousands of people each day,” Montgomery said. “But with this, I’ve scheduled the time to really sit back and be with this piece of work. I’m spending a week and a half on this, so just interacting with everyone is great and I’m even letting some people pick random colors for some places on the wall. I’ve really been able to take my time, so I hope the students can enjoy it. I wanted to create something everyone can feel in different ways, and I’m really pleased with everyone I’ve come in contact with.”
The opportunity to paint the mural inside Bedford brought Montgomery back to Longwood’s campus for the first time in 10 years. The school had since erected new buildings and undergone many renovations including
the Bedford addition which was opened in 2011 and fully completed by the fall semester of 2012.
“This building [Bedford] is just amazing now. It’s almost brand new and my mural is permanent, so it’s just super special. I started my career here, so it’s amazing to be working right here, especially at night when it all lights up, and I just stare out that window. So many memories come back, and I feel like I was just here. Time flies, as they say, but it’s just neat to think of how everything started. It’s full circle in a beautiful way. I feel so at home here, and this was my beginning. It’s where I started taking things seriously and realizing what I wanted to do with art, and how I wanted to do it and started trying to chart my course.”
Montgomery had originally planned to complete the mural installation on Feb. 16, but inclement weather caused the school to close for two days.
This may have caused slight delays, but Montgomery said that he was able to work on the mural through the cancellations. This ultimately led to his decision to stay for a few more days in order to attend the art department’s faculty exhibition on Friday, Feb. 21.
“A lot of my past instructors are in that show, and it was actually Mr. Edmonson who gave me my first painting class here,” he said. “I had Mr. Christopher Register and Mr. Springer for illustration too. I talked to Mr. Edmonson, and we worked it out so that I am able to stay a little longer because I got everything taken care of in San Diego.”
With this extra time, Montgomery said that he is making the whole mural more complicated. He said, “Longwood is my alma mater, and I’m really honored and so thankful to be here. I just wanted to give it some extra love and so now it’s going to be done by Friday.”
When Montgomery was planning out the wall’s design, he first had to check out the wall and sketch his possible ideas. Even though Farmville is a small town, he chose a cityscape design with many bright colors behind the purple buildings and art lockers. The lockers were actually one of the first parts of the wall that he had to consider when sketching out designs.
“I felt like they looked like electric boxes in the city, so I wanted to utilize them in the design that way. I really wanted a city vibe. I grew up in Louisa, which is like a two stoplight town and I loved it, but I always knew as a kid I wanted to experience the city later in my life,” Montgomery explained.
He contined, “I’ve lived in Boston, spent time in Brooklyn, and now I’ve been in San Diego for six years. When I go to a city, I can find such great energy for my work. So I wanted to express that but also for the students. Not to sound cheesy about it, but this is a small town, and I was a small town kid who came here and made it. This represents a ‘Go get it,’ outlook. You can stay small town for the rest of your life, but if you want something, go for it. I wanted to get to the city, I wanted to explode and experience it all.”
A wall filled with students’ work shares the hall with Montgomery’s mural. He believes that this ties in well with his concept because he wants to positively affect, as well as involve, as many people as possible through his latest work.
He explained how he let his environment and the people he’s met guide his progress over the past week. “The fractal color design is something I’ve never done in my life, and I really wanted to because I just love how color relationships make you feel. I didn’t really know what colors were going to go where until I really stood back and said, ‘That is going to be granny apple green’ or ‘That’s going to be poison yellow,’ and all of these different colors that I’ve wanted to use to make the audience react in a weird way. It’s been kind of fun making myself react, trying to make others react. So it’s really been changing the color to how I feel when I’m ready to do that section. No color up here was planned at all other than how I knew the buildings were going to be purple to represent a funky city. If you get up close, you can see the brush strokes on the windows, and everything else is super smooth. Instead of measuring out the windows and making them perfect, like how everything else is, I really wanted to make them original and kid- like and bring a little fun to the city.”
Montgomery has spent almost all of his time here at Longwood in that hallway working on his mural, but he has not been alone. Curious students and faculty members regularly stop by to ask questions, admire the progress, take pictures or just talk. According to Montgomery, the interactions have been a huge part of his most recent experience on Longwood’s campus.
“I haven’t really taken any breaks on my own. When I get a break it’s for photographs, interviews and really talking to students, which has been a really big part of this. That’s why I’m here. I’m honored and thankful to be here. Like I told my instructors and Dr. McWee, I want to be speaking to the classes, and students have been coming by to sit and talk to me and ask questions. That’s what I want to give back because this is so important to me.”
The mural installation will be completed by Friday, Feb. 21. The artist’s statement and more information is already available in Bedford.