The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

December 21, 2009

Lee Monts and the joy of local artists in local print

Filed under: Lake Murray Magazine,Lee Monts — cynthiaboiter @ 14:21
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I got an email from my friend, the local artist Lee Monts, this morning, telling me he had heard that the article I wrote about him for Lake Murray Magazine was out.

You have to know the back story on how I’m still waiting on some of my articles on local artists to show up in local print to realize how satisfying it is for me to actually hold the product of my local labors in my local hands.   To be honest, I haven’t really physically touched this printed article yet — the Muddy Ford mailbox and paper tube are at the end of our quarter-mile-long driveway (and I use that term loosely) and I haven’t made it down the road yet today — but I believe Lee.

Since many of you may have  either given up on The State these days and let your subscription lapse — and really, I can’t blame you — The State fired almost everyone I ever wanted to read last summer; or, like me, you’re on CBT (Christmas Break Time) and that mailbox is just a little too far down the path for venturing out to; and, since I do want everyone to know the spectacular story of artist-come-lately Lee Monts, I’m providing you with the copy to the article below — but you’ll have to find the photos for yourself.  I hear they’re pretty.

Thanks to Lee for working with me on this.  He’s a talented artist and quite a sweet boy.


Artist Come Lately – Chapin’s Lee Monts

By Cynthia Boiter

Chapin native Lee Monts is anything but your typical artist.  A clean-shaven, short-haired, bespectacled man of a certain age, Lee looks more like a librarian or a math teacher than a new-to-the-scene artist whose acrylics and assemblage works have been popping up all over town of late, especially since his successful premiere solo show at the DuPre Gallery in the Vista last summer.  If Lee looks less like an artist than one may think that may be because he has spent most of his adult life as a geologist, working as a program manager for the Department of Health and Environmental Control, only recently allowing his artist within the attention most of his patrons agree it deserves.

But Monts is not entirely new to the creative process.  As a child growing up, he recognized his own potential with the sketch pencil, but abandoned art as a hobby during his college days, focusing instead on his studies in geology.  A fascination with watercolors that began in college and lasted for years never proved fruitful for Monts, and it wasn’t until a friend gave him a set of acrylic paints as a Christmas present that he finally found the medium which seems to work best as a mechanism for his creative energy.

It was at about this same time that Monts reconnected with an old friend and educator, local artist Judy Bolton Jarrett.  “At the time I was creating wire mobiles and I mentioned that to her,” Monts recalls.  Jarrett invited Monts to offer his mobiles for sale at her gallery in downtown Chapin and, to his surprise, both the demand for his work and his friendship with Jarrett grew strong.

“While our styles are very different, she has given me a lot of great advice over the years,” he says.  “I rarely make mobiles anymore, but that early taste of validation for my creativity fueled my passion of wanting to produce art.  And so the painting began in November 2002.”

Within the next year, Monts’ work was picked up by several downtown galleries and shown as part of the Vista Lights exhibit at Cameo Gallery in 2003.

“I will never forget the excitement about approaching the gallery curator with my work prior to that show,” he remembers.  But, “once it was displayed, I quickly sold several pieces.”

Monts has gone on to show his work at Verve Fine Art and Interiors and the Idylwild Gallery, as well as being included in a number of group shows such as About Face, ArtCan, and Dining With Friends, and displaying pieces in several commercial locations, including Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Café and Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia.

Clearly, Monts’ art has an appeal that is attractive to a variety of patrons in diverse showing situations.  “People tell me that my artwork is contemporary without being overly abstract, but that it is abstract enough that it is often ambiguous,” Monts explains.

In fact, Monts’ style results from what he terms “controlled randomness,” a technique in which he prepares the canvas before painting by applying the common primer gesso, floating a smaller canvas on the surface of the working canvas, and manipulating the smaller canvas to create organic and subtle patterns that take on a life of their own.  According to Monts, the ensuing “tree-like textures” serve to both surprise and inspire him as he works with the image, “moving the creative process in a certain direction.”

Monts is also interested in exploring other creative media, including encaustic work – using melted refined beeswax, and assemblage art – bringing together a variety of usually found objects into a purposeful collective design.  “Assemblages often take time while I wait for the pieces to fall into place,” he says.  “Sometimes they are almost there but an element is missing, then often unexpectedly, the right addition comes along.”

As an artist, and an individual, Monts may be considered something of an assemblage himself, coming into the profession later in life and experimenting along the way.  “I just never envisioned myself as becoming an artist,” he admits, “especially after I received two degrees in geology.  But I have always had that innate need to create.”

He further shares that, “Becoming an artist later in life has increased the quality of my life in many ways.  I take extreme pleasure in the pure act of creating, and that was missing in my earlier years.”

His advice to others who harbor an inner yearning to realize the product of their creative impulses?

“Do it!  Start!  Don’t let the fact that you don’t have a fine art degree hold you back,” he says.  “We never truly know what the future holds,” however, having begun his work as an artist in earnest now, “I feel certain I will be creating as long as I am physically able.”

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