We had the good fortune of connecting with Elisa Ortega Montilla and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elisa, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I pursued a creative career after having been a passionate social worker for over ten years. I got burned out by a failing system that doesn´t provide solutions but only Band-Aids to systematic problems, so I decided to relocate my energy toward art, which is something I’d always pursued in my (limited) free time. I graduated from an MFA at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2019 and since then I´ve been creating in my studio, teaching, and showing regularly. Art provides me with a new tool to express myself and a new way to engage with the world I live in and the people around me.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
With my art practice I address and am inspired by a wide range of concerns and themes. As an American and Spanish citizen, I love exploring the differences and similarities between Spanish and American cultures; ideas of mass production and consumerism, materiality and environmental sustainability through the materials that I choose, and concepts and feelings related to memory, transformation, identity, and most recently sexuality and objectification—all these themes linked by a feminist undercurrent.
My work takes form as installations, abstract sculptures, engineered objects, and collaborations with other artists who express themselves through other mediums, such as choreographers, technology and media artists, and dancers. My most recent body of work I titled Objectifying. It explores and complicates the human body through ambiguous forms carved in reclaimed wood and combined with second-hand undergarments and steel. As an intimate collection of crafted objects, my sculptures examine the fine line between sexuality and sexualization, and eroticism and objectification, dismantling our subconscious imaginary with an abstract vocabulary that subverts traditional ideas about sex. I try to suggest a more fluid definition of gender that pushes up against more sexualized expectations, with an erotically charged yet fiercely feminist viewpoint. I question heteronormative notions of “sexiness” as it relates to the female body.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There are so many special places in LA where I would take a friend. I personally love the East Side and all the things you can do there, from going for a long walk around the Franklin Hills, to a picnic in Echo Park, to a hike in Griffith Park, or a sunset at Barnsdall Park. If it’s a hot day Santa Monica beach and a bike ride on the boardwalk towards Venice is a never disappointing plan.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
In my personal and artistic life I find community and camaraderie very important. It provides you with a sense of belonging and unconditional support. I’m lucky to have wonderful artists and non-artist friends who have become sources of encouragement, aesthetic and theoretical discussions, and emotional and logistical support. My love Aaron Shulman, and friends like Madeleine Ignon, Rose Bricetti, Maddy McQuillan and Serene Blumenthal are the most important ones among others. I´ve had some wonderful mentor figures that I will always be grateful for as well.
Tony Mastres (photo credits)