We had the good fortune of connecting with Nina Montejano and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nina, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
It’s no question that there is a lot of negativity surrounding the idea of pursuing a career in art. Before I even decided to study visual arts in college, I was told countless times that earning a degree as an art major would be easy, but useless. I was still interested in studying art in college, but these comments, which felt like they were coming from everyone, made me question whether or not I was making a smart decision for my future. I was two years into college when one of my art professors finally convinced me that I was on the right path. I earned my degree in 2019 and I can assure you that it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t useless. I see why people would warn against becoming an artist—there is no direct career path, rejection is constant, inspiration is hard to find, and it takes a lot of self-motivation to push through it all. While it’s important to listen to the advice of others, it is equally important to make decisions that are best for you. I’m determined to continue working as an artist. I love sharing my work with the world and I have the patience and persistence to continue.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I use several methods of art making to create pieces that investigate my various interests. I am most comfortable working with graphite on paper, but also occasionally experiment with oil paint, soft pastels, ink, and photography. I have an interest in the way that people search for meaning within their everyday lives; consequently, in my work, I depict subjects that carry multiple implications and messages. I have my own personal connections with each subject that I choose; however, I understand that these subjects may lead to different interpretations for those who view my work. I hope that the images I create, which are derived from the everyday, but non-narrative and ambiguous, allow for wide association and challenge my viewers’ perception of the work and reception of meaning. My current work includes drawings of windows, hand gestures, and still-life compositions that I have found at work or in my studio. This work is personally meditative in its repetition of ordinary subjects and material handling; more importantly, however, it raises questions of meaning rather than giving a direct answer. One of my recent accomplishments was being awarded the Naval Training Center Emerging Artist Residency in summer of 2019. With this honor, I received my own studio space in Liberty Station in Point Loma to create and exhibit my artwork. In my studio, I have been able to share my artwork with a new audience, develop my work, and further establish myself as an emerging artist in San Diego. Early on in my time at the studio, I began to experience the challenges of balancing my job and my art practice, creating new work without the mentorship and advice of my professors, and finding connections between my old and new work. I still consider myself an emerging artist and I am still in the midst of searching for solutions to these challenges. However, since every artist works differently, the only way for an artist to figure out how to work through these challenges is for them to experience them for themselves. So far, I have learned that I need to research to find inspiration, sketch and write to work out my thoughts, and spend time working through my ideas on one subject before moving on to the next. As I have said, a career as an artist has no direct path. I’m not sure what will come next for me, but I know that my experience will continue to drive and influence my work—it has already started to.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Wherever I am, I always seek out art, so a visit with me in San Diego would probably include the best art that the city has to offer. The San Diego Museum of Art is an obvious first stop because it has such an amazing collection. It’s also in a historic location in the heart of Balboa Park, surrounded by beautiful architecture and gardens. Another art collection that I always love visiting is the Stuart Collection at UC San Diego. This is a collection of public art scattered across the UC San Diego campus, including works by Bruce Nauman, John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, and more. My favorite piece in this collection has to be Fallen Star by Do Ho Suh.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have so many people in my life that deserve recognition for helping me get to where I am today. First, I would like to give a shoutout to my mom and dad, who have always been and will always be my biggest supporters. I would also like to give a shoutout to my visual arts professors at the University of San Diego: Farrah Karapetian, Matt Rich, John Halaka, Bill Kelly, and Allison Wiese. Farrah taught me how to speak and write about my work. Matt taught me the importance of process and that there should be intention behind every aspect of an art piece. John taught me that research and careful reflection before, during, and after creating a new series gives life and meaning to artwork. Bill taught me how to experiment with my work. Allison taught me how to seek out art opportunities and to have the courage to apply for everything.