By Jerry Slayton
This month, Art Spark Texas would like to recognize artist Montrel Beverly as our Artist of the Month. Montrel is a young sculptor working out of Sage Studios, a local Austin art studio and gallery for Artists with Disabilities. His work is delicate and technical and incredibly approachable with its references to pop culture. This past week, Montrel and I sat down to talk about his artistic beginnings, creative inspiration, and to geek out on making things.
From an early age Montrel has been building sculpture from common household objects such as paper towels and straws. “If it was available to me, I would use it,” he said. He began constructing figures and things he saw on television around age eight. He recalled, “I remember once when I was 10, we got pizza and after we were done, I asked my mom if I could have the box. I made cardboard shoes out of the pizza box that night, but they were pretty uncomfortable to walk in.” We laughed about that one.
From straws and paper towels Montrel eventually transitioned to the medium he is known for today, the pipe cleaner. As an art material pipe cleaners are often dismissed as solely craft, but they seem to provide Montrel with an immediacy that is important to his process – a material that he can quickly manipulate and begin solving the puzzle of his sculpture with. “When you bend it, it stays. I like that. I can put things in different poses and change things, it allows me to work quick.” Montrel’s process thrives on this immediacy to build and create the objects he sees and experiences in daily life. The pipe cleaners allow for easy entry into the world of 3D space, and with a simple bend or pinch he can get an idea off the ground and running.
As mentioned before, Montrel’s inspiration comes from a combination of art and life experience. Sometimes ideas come through large events, such as travel, but also, they come from the everyday. “I get ideas from whatever I happen to be watching or even the food I’m eating.” One major influence over the years has been Japanese Anime, One Piece being his favorite series. Montrel shares, “I like the stories of anime, but I really like the world building. Anime creates its own world, and I like that about it.” Similar to anime, Montrel is a world builder. With every new creation he is steadily expanding his world, and giving the viewer a new way to sees things. Common objects such automobiles, french fries, and corn dog stands become transformed through Montrel’s process and structural problem solving.
Montrel talks about sculpture in terms of building. He thinks about how things are technically built. He wants accuracy in his sculptures. “I try to be dead set on the accuracy of the object, and I like to challenge myself to build new things” he says. “But if there is something out of place then I will leave it.”
Recently, Montrel has begun a new series of small figure sculptures. These figures blend a Guatemalan art object, the Worry Doll, with pop culture references. According to legend, Guatemalan children tell their worries to the Worry Dolls, placing them under their pillow when they go to bed at night. Montrel’s worry dolls are also created to take worries away but with a pop twist. They look like familiar cartoon and anime characters. Mickey, Goofy, Donald Duck, The Power Puff Girls, even Huey, Dewey, and Louie have been transformed into pipe cleaner worry dolls. “I am making very well-known characters into worry dolls.” He goes on, “I’m making the dolls in a type of bed so they can recharge. When a person gets a worry, they can put it into the doll and then let the doll recharge in the bed for reuse.” The super powers of the Worry Dolls feel like anime. They are tiny but mighty, a nice addition to Montrel’s world and their meticulous construction adds to that power.
Up next for Montrel is trip to the Outsider Art Fair in New York. Established in 1993, the Outsider Art Fair is the premier fair dedicated to Self-Taught Art, Art Brut and Outsider Art and takes place annually in New York. Good luck Montrel, we wish you well.
For more info on Montrel and his work visit: https://www.sagestudioatx.com/artists