Monty Hall: Creative Spirit
What first inspired you to get into art?
MH: I’ve always just been into drawing and creating ever since I was little. From scribbling on paper to going outside and sculpting the mud. I’ve always had the urge, but my aunt was also into art and helped influence me. At the time I thought she was an adult, but she was only 16 when I was like 5. My great-aunt also paints so that was another big inspiration.
Were you close with your family growing up and did that help you with your own artistic identity?
MH: Yeah we were pretty close. It was a full house with eight of us living together, including my grandma, mom, aunt, uncle, and three sisters, so I didn't have much of a choice. I guess it did help mold my artistic identity because they tried to push for me. That inspired me and reinforced that art was something I could actually pursue as a career. Though as I’ve grown up, I’ve become less dependent on my family and my ideas have changed from what I was taught. My thoughts on art and creative processes have definitely morphed due to my growth.
So what were your school teachings like and when did that change to become more independent for you?
MH: I’ve always been personally academically driven and I love science and english along with the arts. It was nice because my school never defunded our art programs so at school I was getting both of those things, regular academic stuff as well as art.
Did what you were learning about in your academic classes and then want to independently put that into your work?
MH: I took Enrichment, an advanced class, and that class was a good mix of art and academics. It was actually taught by my art teacher. We would read a book and then illustrate it, like we read an Egyptian-themed book and then made a hieroglyphic slab. But other than that there was never really a mix. I would just draw random stuff from my imagination. Or it was based off of characters I was reading in books, fanfiction types of things. Now that I’m older, I'm really starting to mix in what I’m learning, especially at Pratt. We have a good opportunity to learn about social justice issues and I’ve been incorporating that in my work.
Yeah especially now that type of art is so important and needed. I think it has a way of swaying people, having a protest in a visual medium that can get passed around is vital. Do you want to continue incorporating social justice themes in your art or is that specific to what is going on now?
MH: I definitely want to continue it and this was a good place to start, like with the whole Black Lives Matter movement going on right now. Recently I’ve started incorporating my sexuality into art so I could use that idea to create political pieces, like something about the Trump administration wanting to limit trans rights. My goal is to take the more personal side of what I’ve been doing and mix it with the political stuff.
How does your sexuality come into play?
MH: I never knew a lot about historical artists and their sexuality but through art history classes and personal research I’ve been exposed to new types of art and how the male figure is drawn. In some cases it is actually in a homosexual light, but has been played as just for artistic purposes. I usually do a lot of figural work so I’ve been integrating that into those works. Putting a slightly erotic twist on it and almost just exploring my own sexuality through art.
Like Donatello's David Statue?
MH: Yeah that’s an example of expressing his homosexuality and his desires. A lot of artists historically would take biblical and mythological stories and use that as a cover for homosexual tendencies because it was academically acceptable.
The way that art history is taught definitely needs to change in order to cover queer representation and all sides of the artists.
MH: Oh for sure. I did this paper where we could explore any topic we wanted and I chose something similar. I found so much information that I had never even been taught in class. There are so many ways other than this universally-accepted white Euro-centric straight able bodied lens through which to look at art.
Do you have any particular queer artists that you like now?
MH: I’ve definitely been looking more into David Hockney who is a more contemporary painter. Historical-artist wise, I’ve been looking into Thomas Eakin. I had seen a few of his paintings but never knew much about him or his work. After researching for this paper I looked at his paintings a lot closer and discovered so much to love.
What kind of mediums do you like to work with when drawing?
MH: I personally like to work with ink and pens or charcoal because I’m stronger with black and white art. But I have been pushing myself with my handling of color and have been using a lot more chalk pastel, oil pastels, and colored pencils.
Do you have a size preference?
MH: I usually just work in my sketchbook, around 11” x 14” or 9” x 12”. Even 5”x6”.
Do you want to go bigger or do you like the current size?
MH: I like the smaller size. I like doing a lot of detail in my art so it’s easier the smaller I work. Though I did just do a 6’ drawing as a challenge to myself and it turned out really well.
Did you feel yourself handling the material differently due to the scale?
MH: I definitely handled it a little differently because having such a big piece of paper it’s hard to do the detail work without having it take an awfully long time. Not that I wanted to just get it done but I did want to push myself. I wanted to get a little more loose and going bigger allowed me to do that.
Do you have any other self imposed projects?
MH: I’m doing a zoom portrait project right now and it’s going nicely. Once I get my stuff back from Pratt I want to paint more and build my skills up because I don’t paint that often.
Would you paint in black and white or color?
MH: Probably color just so I can keep pushing myself in that area.
So switching over to music now, when did you first get into it?
MH: That started when I was young too, not playing it but more of my love for music. My family is musically inclined so it came naturally. My great-uncle and grand-dad were in a country band together and they would just go and play at different bars. My cousin was in that band for a little before starting his own. Around the house there was always music playing and as I grew I wanted to know how to play what I was hearing. So my step-grandpa got me my first guitar and my sister taught me my first four chords. After that I learned to play from the internet or by ear.
What kind of music do you listen to?
MH: I like to listen to lo-fi rock and shoegaze stuff, but I also love all different types. I’ll listen to anything from rap to a little bit of country. I also really like folk. Throughout high school, that’s what I mainly listened to. I especially loved songs with banjos. Probably because that’s what my great-grandad played. It’s also like a mix between the rock and country that I listened to growing up.
When did you first write your own songs?
MH: I think I was writing in high school, but I never did anything with it because I hated it all. I would write a song or two and be like, “oh this is trash” and never write again for a year. Then I would try it again and still hate it. Even up until last year at Pratt I didn’t like what I was writing. This past year I wrote this one song and that it was really good. After that it all just started pouring out.
So what do you think was different in the song that you liked versus the ones that you didn't?
MH: I do this as a visual artist too, but I was comparing myself too much to the people that I looked up to. I wanted it to sound like them and would think things like “This doesn’t sound like an Alex G song.” I had to realize that that was the point; it was a Monty Hall song. It can sound a little bit like the people I like, but it’s never gonna sound exactly like them and that’s part of why it’s good.
Seems like it was a little difficult to find the line between inspiration and imitation.
MH: Yeah exactly.
How were you able to get away from imitation and into imagination with your new EP?
MH: When I wrote the first song it was a perfect blend of being in the realm of the people I listen to and being me. Just seeing that I could actually do that successfully helped.
Is there a theme with your lyrics or is it more about what’s going on in your life?
MH: Songs on this EP mostly revolve around my love life and my sexuality. I grew up in a small Chrsitian conservative town and I was one of like three gay people. So it was a bit rough. On the songs I’m just talking about that and my experiences. The song writing process has also been very cathartic to me. I have a tendency to hold my feelings in because sometimes I find it hard to talk about it. But this way I got to kind of work through some unspoken emotions and thoughts that had been lingering. It’s actually been a little daunting thinking about releasing it because it’s so personal.
It seems like having a gay identify informs both your art and music.
MH: Yeah, definitely.
Do you seek out other things that are queer oriented or do you just find that with your music and art?
MH: I feel like I definitely seek it out because I had nothing to look up to growing up. I didn’t know much about it or experience it so reading queer books and watching queer movies allowed me to live the things I wasn’t really experiencing.
There’s more representation now which is awesome because kids will be able to read a book or see a movie and be like I’m like that person.
MH: Yeah, it’s the little things. Like now kids don’t have to switch the pronouns in their heads while listening to love songs all the time.
So when did you first come out?
MH: I came out in eighth grade to my friend who was also gay. We ended up coming out to each other almost simultaneously. Then in ninth grade I came out to my closest friends and left it that; I didn’t feel the need to have a big coming out. People would just find out through talking to me or my friends.
Does your music correlate with your art, or do you view them as separate things?
MH: I view them as the same thing. I have a creative spirit and I like to do anything creative. I can see a thread running throughout all of my outlets; whether it’s writing songs, drawing, or even gardening.
So if you are writing a song do you sometimes feel the need to illustrate it or vice versa?
MH: I’ve never done that with my own art, but I have looked at other people’s art and made a song based off of the feeling it gives me.
Have you done the reverse?
MH: Definitely. Just listening to a song will make me feel a certain way and I do a lot of figurative stuff and want to put that emotion into the figures.
So when will the EP be ready?
MH: I’m not sure because I want to handle it all myself but I don’t have any experience with mixing or that sort of stuff. It’ll take more time, but it’ll be more hands on and the perfect expression of how I want it to be. It’s also just a skill I’ve wanted to have and what better way to acquire it than through working with my own music.
Yeah being control of every little detail.
MH: I think the editing is another way of creating.
Yeah the editing itself is an artform. Do you have any goals for the EP or just want to put something out there that you’ve made?
MH: My grandma tries to steer me into starting a music career, but it’s always been more of a passion for me. This EP is just a fun art project, something to make and then send out into the world. I’d be completely fine if five of my friends listen to it and nothing happens beyond that.
So why did you choose to pursue art over music?
MH: I like making music, but like I said, it’s more of a passion. But when thinking about what I would want to do for a job, I naturally drifted towards art since it’s something that I’ve always loved and would enjoy getting paid to do.
Do you know what you want to do career wise?
MH: I’m not really sure. I’m doing illustration in school because it's a good in-between of commercial and personal art. I get to be educated in a way that either I can go ahead and make my own art and sell it or work with companies and make a more concrete career out of it.
I know you mentioned before wanting to work with Vans.
MH: That would be sick. To either freelance and do posters and stuff for them or even an in-house job would be cool.
As you are also a skateboarder, do you feel that skate culture is inclusive of art and music culture?
MH: Yeah I think skate culture is built off of art and music. They have a symbiotic relationship, they all influence each other. Most of the people I know that skateboard make art or music. Even if they don’t make it, it is a very important part of their life, the art they see and music they listen to.
When did you first get into skateboarding?
MH: Also at a very young age. My teenage uncle was really into skating. He’d go skate in old buildings with his friends, which I thought was sick. So I just got a skateboard and started to teach myself. I never really progressed further than cruising and then kind of fell off for a few years. Once I got into high school, around tenth grade, I got back into it.
Do you like the skateboard scene in New York?
MH: I haven’t experienced it as much because during my first year at Pratt I didn’t have my board with me and I didn’t actually skate unless it was with friends on their board. But now that I’m actually skating more often I definitely love it. I feel like a part of the culture which is really cool. I’ve met so many people through it and once you know one person they introduce you to so many other people. You kinda build up this little family.
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