Dad and Mom: Art Giving Life

Social Practice

A joint exhibition presented by legendary feminist performance artist Linda Mary Montano and global public artist Ed Woodham at Heftler Visiting Artist Gallery at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts. Dad and Mom: Art Giving Life presented works created by the artists’ parents, Henry Montano and Carrol Woodham, during their struggle with terminal illness.

A first generation Italian American, Henry Montano founded the Montano’s Shoe Store in Saugerties, New York, but was more healer than salesman. According to his daughter Linda, “people would come from far distances to be fitted and have their foot problems corrected and my dad would do this in a very caring and compassionate way. Living with dad was like living with a mystical Zen Master.” After a tragic medical accident and hemorrhagic stroke, Henry Montano started painting therapeutically under the mentorship of his daughter, a practice he continued for three years until his death. As a result, he produced a colorful body of work that conveys his creativity, search for peace, and reconnection with loved ones.

Born in Kokomo, Indiana, Carrol Woodham was a factory worker and homemaker who survived personal tragedy and straitened circumstances and moved to Atlanta, Georgia in the late 1950’s. Later in life Carol suffered from Multiple System Atrophy, a rare and debilitating degenerative neurological disorder, and in 2008 a stroke pushed her into full-blown dementia. Under the guidance of her son Ed, assisted by her caregivers, she began to draw while bedridden to calm her fears and focus her attention. Though she had never before shown any interest or aptitude for art, over the next four years her drawings went from rudimentary scribbles to large, complex, and fully resolved compositions. Sometimes working for months on a single drawing, Carrol expressed the difficult end of her life through hundreds of drawings until the disease finally overtook her motor functions.

Beyond a moving immersion in expressive arts therapy and a medium of loving communication between parent and child, the works on display functioned aesthetically to convey themes of struggle, loneliness, mortality, as well as a joyous and magical reconnection with life itself. A gallery booklet accompanied the exhibition as well as a short film with interviews from Linda Mary Montano and Ed Woodham. This exhibition was funded in part by the van Otterloo Family Foundation.