Maria studies and marks shared human experiences. She believes that by taking a collective abstract experience and making that tangible and concrete, we are able to find our commonalities and communicate through art. Maria reifies concepts using found objects. She takes the intangible and makes it concrete, often by telling a story of a common human experience. Most materials used in her art have been reclaimed and repurposed. By repurposing objects, she breathes new life, grants dignity, and assigns added value to them. Good stewardship of the planet and being green in art are important values to her. Those whose lives were touched by the Bastrop Complex Fires of 2011 share a trove of charred experience. She lost not only her home and material possessions in that fire, but also memories of family, personal relationships and a security felt only by the “homed.” It was as a result of this crucible that Maria turned to found object art. She told her story using the precious remains. If objects that were burnt and neoyed could be repurposed in creative ways to make them beautiful or thought-provoking, she reasoned, then just about anything could be fodder for art. She derives her influences from Picasso’s eclectic attitude toward style and Louise Nevelson’s conceptual sculptures using found objects. Maria was born in Brownsville, TX and has lived in San Antonio, Austin, Lincoln, NE, Sioux City, Iowa, and Cupertino, CA. She currently resides just outside of Austin in Bastrop. She came to art later in life after a full career in educational administration. Now she is a full-time artist. When she is not in her studio, she is in the gym exercising, walking or hiking and reading historical fiction novels. She's been an award-winning participant in Bastrop's First Friday and has shown at Art on the Green, The Art Connections, at the Bastrop Art Gallery, and in various other venues. In July, 2013, she had a solo art exhibit at La Pena in Austin entitled, "From Bastrop to Phoenix". She had a three month show at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center in Austin in 2015. In November, 2014 and 2015, she participated in Big Medium’s East Austin Studio Tour at Canopy. Currently, she works in her studio in Bastrop and shows her work at the Bastrop Fine Arts Gallery, in her studio at Canopy in Austin and in Art on 12 in Wimberley.
How it all Started Those whose lives were touched by the Bastrop Complex Fires of 2011 share a trove of charred experience. The cinders left behind among the flame-seared rocks of the Lost Pines included not only homesteads and material possessions, but also memories of family, personal relationships and secure, private spaces. They, too, wafted into the mist and haze of memory as did the beams and timbers of their homes. The pieces of broken crockery and remnants of singed photographs trigger remembrance and nostalgia of home and hearth now gone. Yet, as archaeologists do, Maria Montoya-Hohenstein has plucked broken glass, fractured ceramic, and rusted metal out of the ashes and soot and rearranged them to create an art form dubbed Arteology that involves taking three-dimensional found objects and placing them in a two-dimensional setting to form a mental tapestry whose fragments transport the viewer to life as it might have been before the inferno. Whimsical? Perhaps. But she believes that Art is the expression of creative skill and imagination and what that process produces. Using that definition, just about everything is art and everyone is an artist. The art elites try to narrow Art's definition by restricting medium. To some, what they will see are broken, burnt and rusted found objects supported by masonry grout. But it serves to remember that medium does not create the art. The artist does. That obsession – to breathe new life, grant dignity, and assign added value to found objects once lost but now found – is what propels Maria Montoya-Hohenstein to dig through the rubble in search of material remains and seemingly pedestrian artifacts. Creative association and arrangement round out the effort. That basic necessity – the preservation of memory – spurred her to sift through the charred remnants of her family's home which she lost in the Bastrop Complex Fires. All materials used, including frames, have been reclaimed, reused, and up-cycled. She's been an award-winning participant in Bastrop's First Friday and has shown at Art on the Green, The Arts Connection, and at the Bastrop Art Gallery. In July, 2013, she had a solo art exhibit at La Pena, in Austin entitled, "From Bastrop to Phoenix". She works in her studio in Bastrop and shows her work in her studio at Canopy in Austin, at the Bastrop Fine Arts Guild, and in Art on 12 in Wimberley. Maria resides in Bastrop and has lived in Brownsville, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Sioux City IA, and Cupertino CA.
When people see glass and other refuse littering the side of a highway, they
When Maria Montoya-Hohenstein surveys the same scene, she sees these items
become utilitarian – even decorative – objets d’art transformed by the hands
and mind of an artist to become statements in defense of the Earth, the
environment and an act of defiance against consumer culture.
Upcycled art is the production of works that not only recycle what someone may
judge as refuse, but also infuses an artist’s creativity to transform objects
without any apparent worth into pieces that not only serve other
purposes than for which they were intended, but also are transformed and have
added economic and aesthetic value as a result of the process.
This in itself is not new. The Native Americans would use the carcasses of
porcupines for their quills and hair to create beautiful earrings, breastplates
and bustles that transformed a dead animal into beautiful (and now extremely
valuable) works of art. Feathers, hair, and even the bones of animals took on
new life and spirit with the Natives’ vision and touch.
Prisoners, too, craft discarded string, cloth, and strands of plastic into
religiousxfa and cultural icons that – to them – gain value because they allow
them to sell and barter for the things they need inside.
Each of us will produce about 127, 604 pounds of garbage in our lifetime. In
these times when our culture is growing eco-friendly and we’re all encouraged
to repurpose, reuse, and – now – upcycle, art has become the handmaiden of
Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into
new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value. It is worth more in its new form.
"Upcycling is designed to work in opposition to consumer culture,
encouraging people to think of new and innovative ways to use things, instead
of simply buying new consumer goods,” says Hohenstein. “It also benefits the
environment, by promoting reuse over discarding whenever possible."
Upcycling, as you can see, also applies to the way we are reconceptualizing our
view of Art and Nature and our niche in the ecosystem.