Spiva Center for the Arts Joplin MO Logo


Spiva Center for the Arts Joplin MO

“Growing up impoverished in Northern Mexico, I had to create my own toys and items of amusement. This was the beginning of my creative bent.”
-Jessie Montes

Jessie M. Montes was one of twenty-five children, and was the sole survivor of five sets of twins. The self-taught artist, who lived in Canon City, Colorado until his death in 2013, was a native of Mexico, and had been a naturalized citizen since 1972. He worked at a variety of jobs, including custodian at Dodge City High School, until his retirement in 1996 due to emphysema.

In 1990, to free his mind from worry about two of his children being involved in the Gulf War, he began making frames for photographs out of corrugated paperboard, commonly called cardboard. Then he began to fill in the frames with landscapes, designs and portraits. Three dimensional sculptures came soon thereafter and his artistic career was launched.

Using corrugated boxes as his material, as well as some corrugated bulletin board paper, he cut quarter inch strips on a right angle, at 45 degrees or parallel to the corrugations. This gave him three interesting textures with which to work as he created each piece of art. The strips were then glued edgewise onto the surface of the base, also made of cardboard, to form the various pieces of art. A protective coating was placed over the work when it is finished.

Jessie’s three dimensional pieces are made totally of cardboard, but sometimes have the appearance of wood. They vary from small plaques of unusual designs to free-standing pieces of various dimensions up to six feet tall. Many pieces feature buildings with doors or windows in the surface. With the background painted, these appear to be lit from within, adding to the mystique of the art.

New York gallery owner, Phyllis Kind, says: “I would suggest that Montes has invented his own vocabulary of visual form—his concerns are purely technical and he tells us much about them; but much more importantly, and this is the mystery of creative genius, the most compelling, single aspect of his brilliant and unmistakable work is its significant inventiveness, wholly his own. His work varies from portraiture to landscapes to designs; it sometimes includes architecture and always functions as excellent abstraction. In other words, Jessie Montes’ art is totally consistent and has incredible range. This is my definition of what great art is!”

Jessie Montes: Out of the Box is sponsored by, with additional support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

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