Today’s Feature, May 1-2, 2007: Claudia DeMonte

January 18, 2008 at 6:12 pm (Today's Feature)

The Claudia DeMonte has more than 60 one-person shows and 300 group exhibitions nationally and internationally, including exhibitions at the Corcoran Museum, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Mississippi Museum, Tucson Museum, Flint Institute of Art, Museum of the Southwest, just to name a few. Her work is in numerous museum permanent collections, including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Stamford Museum, Boca Raton Museum, and in major corporate collections such as those of Hyatt Regency Hotels, Exxon, Citibank and Siemens. Her public commissions have come from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Brooklyn Library System, Queens Supreme Court, Prudential Life Insurance, the State of New Mexico, and New York City School Construction Authority. DeMonte became a worldwide figure in women’s art promoting, “Women of the World: A Global Collection of Art” a traveling exhibition, with accompanying books, which includes works of women from 177 countries dealing with the images of women. As well her project, “Real Beauty”, has once again put DeMonte at the forefront of women’s art. When asked about her passion or art, she’ll tell you, “…it became part of me, like breathing or eating.” DeMonte is determined to make an art a “global village” and right now, it seems she is pretty close to accomplishing that goal. Read her XXQs, to hear her story…

XXQs: Claudia DeMonte

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get involved in art?

Claudia DeMonte (CD): Growing up in New York City, I was always taken to museums as a child and loved it. I use to help with holiday decorations in elementary and high school, but it was really in college, when I wanted to change from History to Art History Major and found out that you had to take a Studio course to do that, that I really started to be an artist.

PEV: Was there a certain moment when you decided that art was going to be a career?

CD: I think I found myself as an artist in college, I loved it and it became part of me, just like breathing and eating.

PEV: After 60 one-person shows and 300 group exhibitions nationally and internationally, describe the feeling of seeing your work in a gallery for the first time.

CD: I think I was proud, nervous and excited…There were MANY first times, Graduation exhibits in College, MFA show in Grad school, local gallery, first museum (that seemed to be a BIG moment for me)…the Corcoran in 76!

PEV: Explain your creation process. Do you sketch things our first? Go right to the canvas?

CD: I make mostly sculptures. I never plan. I buy materials and start to use them…letting them lead me to the finished product.

PEV: You have traveled and showed all over the world; which city has the best environment for artists?

CD: EVERYWHERE is the best environment for making art. It comes from within, so you make the place work.

PEV: Having pieces in paint and sculpture; what is your preferred medium to work with? Why?

CD: I prefer sculpture; I vary my media according to series I’m working on. Each media must FIT that idea…from pulp paper, to bronze… always changing according to the subject, timing, needs of what I am trying to say.

PEV: Tell us about “Women of the World: A Global Collection of Art”.

CD: In Women of the World, the visionary and the everyday come together to render a global image of the female, circa 2000. Traditional art in ancient media gleefully joins with multimedia constructions that sing of glow. Individually superb, these works of art make an aggregate statement about the continuity of women’s accomplishment. Women of the World is an affirmation of the survival of the will of commonality that subsumes difference, of courage under fire, and of grace in adversity. It is a powerful and moving expression of self from people whose voices have rarely been heard. Each artist in the exhibition donated their work to be auctioned off at the end of the exhibition tour to raise money to help other women. However, in order to keep the exhibit as a whole, Richard Colton, a New Orleans businessman and art collector, made a donation in the name of all the women artists in the exhibition to the New York Women’s Foundation. He plans to donate the collection to the International Museum of Women, which will permanently house the exhibition.

PEV: How important is it for young girls to see a successful female artist like yourself, displaying work on such a large stage?

CD: I personally think we are all influenced by everyone…so I HOPE it helps young women to have an artist role model but honestly I think it helps society to have role models of all genders/races. My major teachers in H.S., college and grad school were all great women! ALL an inspiration… I hope in all my years (33) of teaching I have touched a few students as they have touched me.

PEV: For your project, “Real Beauty”, you scanned the globe to find women around the world to use dolls, showing how each culture uses dolls to represent a standard of beauty reflective of the maker’s culture. What was it like to work with women all over the world on such a unique project?

CD: It’s an honor to have found and worked with artists from all over the world. You learn so much about society, opportunity, oppression and human dignity. I’m BLESSED to have been to over 90 countries and seen why art is made. I tried to incorporated this information into my university teaching, by developing a course ART MAKING IN THE GLOBAL VILLAGE

PEV: Being a professor at the university level, how does it make you feel to hear that schools (k-12) are cutting funding for art classes?

CD: It makes me SAD. Society always cuts the arts first, as if they are unimportant. When you judge a society its really one of the major things one studies, yet we would rather have sports teams than the ARTS in many places (please note, sports should be part of education too. But not at the expense of the Arts) Can you imagine a society where our creative children have no outlet, are not allowed to flourish, invent, make music, paint, dance. It saddens me, especially in a time when our country is spending so much on war.

PEV: What is your advice for kids who want to get involved in art?

CD: Follow your passion. NOTHING is as rewarding as making something you are proud of, something from within you. DOING what you LOVE is one of life’s great gifts. Realistically, supporting yourself may NOT be easy. But I’d much rather see a happy person doing something that they LOVE, than another frustrated rich lawyer or banker.

PEV: If you could sit down for dinner with one artist, alive or deceased, who would it be? Why?

CD: I think I could answer this question differently every day. Today, I’d like to have dinner with Matisse, because he chose to see the world so beautifully, peacefully…I can see myself in his “RED ROOM”.

PEV: What’s one thing people would be surprised to hear about Claudia DeMonte?

CD: Gee, I don’t know? I sold lampshades in Bloomingdales when I was in H.S.?

PEV: Living in New York City, what is your opinion on the New York art scene? And how is it different then the other major art capitals like LA, Paris, London, etc.?

CD: Since Pollock, NY has been the center of the contemporary Art World…But today there are major art centers today EVERYWHERE. Each country has an art center…each continent. But they all seem to come together in NY…There are biennials in Dakar, Johannesburg, Seoul, Singapore…we do indeed live in a “Global Art Village”

PEV: A lot of artists listen to music when they work. Do you?

CD: This is problematic in that my husband and I share our studios in NY and in CT…we do not always listen to the same music. I like a mix; Brazilian, classical, Blues, Cole Porter…always changing what seems right. OFTEN however I need silence to create and that seems more the norm for me.

PEV: If I just walked off the street and into your studio, what would I see?

CD: Supplies, flat files, stuff on the floor, finished/unfinished art, pictures of things I find interesting pinned to the wall…Messy but interesting, with some folk art here/there.

PEV: What could we find you doing when you are not working?

CD: Spending too much time on the computer…with 176 artists in Women of the World, former students, friends and multiple overlapping exhibits I have A LOT of emails daily. If not that, I love to read…

PEV: In your opinion, who is “the next big thing” in the art world?

CD: I’m not sure there can any longer be ONE next big thing…there are too many medias, too many artists…so there will always be a lot going on at once, and a few things will be BIG. But of course BIG is not necessary important. Sometimes the art world has the artists of the year, THIS WEEK.

PEV: What advice can you give to any upcoming artists?

CD: Believe in yourself and follow your dream and KNOW if you can dream it you can do it! It may not be the easiest life but it is the most rewarding.

PEV: So, what is next for Claudia DeMonte?

CD: As always many, many things. I have an exhibit up in NYC at the June Kelly Gallery, work going to the Chicago Art Fair; I have my Real Beauty Installation at U of Wisconsin and U of New England…and shows this fall too. We are going to S.E. Asia for our 30 anniversary (I’m married to the sculptor Ed McGowin), our Outsider Art Collection is going to the Ogden Museum in New Orleans in October, working on public commissions with my husband in Ft. Lauderdale and Rockville, and spending time in our homes in Miami and CT, and with my wonderful nephew Alessandro. For more information on Claudia DeMonte, check out http://www.claudiademonte.com

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