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An artist's journey

November 21, 2022

Growing up, Alan Montgomery thought he might be a naturalist, a zoologist, or maybe even a marine biologist, but by high school realized his future was in art.

“I have a strong interest in nature, but also in drawing because I knew that was a part of the documentation,” he said.

He attended college at Minnesota State University Mankato, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts and later a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

In the fall of 2000, Montgomery joined the Dakota State University faculty. Since then, he’s continued teaching and sharing his art with the world.  

He’s been featured in a variety of exhibitions around the globe, including in the Netherlands, London, Italy, Soho in New York City, South Dakota, and recently in the country of Georgia.

His work was featured in Collect Art’s digital magazine special edition with the theme Sea in Me, which called for sea or ocean thematic content.

Montgomery’s art is influenced by nature, the poetry of Seamus Heaney, climate change, beekeeping, and cycling.

“A large part of it has always been nature, looking at the landscape,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in the creatures that inhabit the land.”   

In recent years, he’s been making circles that function as containers and have a lot going on inside them, working with different layers.

Montgomery was an artist in residence at Lucid Art in California in 2019, which led to a breakthrough in his work. The books he had been exposed to and the artists who had lived at the property in California had worked with the idea of circles and lines connecting them.

“All my life, I’ve had this idea of the world we live in and then all the stuff that goes into it,” he said.

Those ideas inspired him to start working with smaller, circular pieces, which he finds more intimate than larger works.

“I just have this stream-of-consciousness thing,” he said. “And it looks to be working because people seem to be responding to them pretty well.”

He calls these works bog paintings, inspired by reading Seamus Heaney’s poems about the Irish peat bogs where history is buried, and it surfaces now and again, and people find things.

“There’s this whole world underground that we don’t see, but we know it’s there, and I find it fascinating.”

While Montgomery enjoys sharing his art, he finds working with students truly rewarding. “What I’ve been doing lately is stressing the idea of progress,” he said.

He has students create a progress portfolio, showcase their work, and create a narrative in PowerPoint about each piece.

“I wanted to give them something they can reference to see they’ve advanced,” he said.

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