Los Angeles County’s transit system has been decked out since 1989 with posters, installations, sculptures, murals, photos and poetry by local artists, all commissioned through the Metro Art program. Growing up in L.A., Star Montana (BFA 2013 Photography) was enthralled by the moveable feast of public art in trains, buses and stations. Today, her own photos are part of the Metro Art project, captivating commuters in L.A.’s Universal City subway station.
The installation features seven large transparencies in illuminated lightboxes arranged sequentially in the station corridor. The images come from Montana’s poignant series “Saint Louis is Our Salvation,” an intimate autobiographical look at her family after the death of her mother. Someone (she has no idea who) nominated her to submit a proposal
to Metro Art last September. She was stunned to learn that her application made it past the selection panel’s rigorous review process.
“I think I cried for a good 10 minutes when I read the line, ‘Your work has been selected,’” Montana told SVA Close Up. “I just couldn’t even believe, it still doesn’t feel real. I grew up on the Metro buses and trains in Los Angeles and always have been an admirer of their public art commissions. So this commission means so much more to me, beyond any words.”
As befits an artist with an audience of commuters, Montana is going places. She’s a two-time winner of American Photographer’s Latin Fotografia competition and has twice earned honorable mentions in the International Photo Awards competition. An image from “Saint Louis is Our Salvation”—the series now on view in the L.A. subway station—won a coveted spot in Latin Fotografia’s catalog and traveling exhibition.
While at SVA, the Undergraduate Photography Award recipient was tapped to participate in the College’s prestigious “Mentors” program. Her collaboration with photographer Miriam Romais, a staunch proponent of diversity in photography, led Montana to draw inspiration from her own Mexican-American identity. She was featured in SVA’s first Latin artist show, “Por Los Ojos De Mi Gente,” and mounted a solo show, “I Am a Construct of Mexican-Americanism.” This exploration of what she calls “hybrid identity” would set off the creative trajectory that has informed her work ever since.
Now a Brooklyn resident, Star’s post-SVA work includes assisting in Sardi Klein’s studio and working as a gallery assistant at MoMA PS1. Meanwhile, she continues to channel her vision of class, social environment and identity through her camera’s lens.
Images: Top two photos by Alan Nakagawa; bottom photo by Sabino Soto.