Lakota Artist Donald Montileaux: Exploring New Ideas

In this snippet of our talk with American Indian artist Donald Montileaux, we discuss his latest series of masks - where his inspiration came from, how he feels about exploring new ideas in his work, and some of the reasons why change is a good thing.

[Rose] It's such a privilege to have your work here, in our gallery. I find it inspirational…if I'm having a moment, I just walk around the gallery and always end up in front of your work.

Do you like this work (ledger drawings) over your three-dimensional work?

[Donald Montileaux] It's always a step. My ledgers are my bread and butter (they're the main course) and the other part's the dessert…and how long can you live on dessert? You definitely need your meat and potatoes!

My philosophy is this: Don't go too far, but still give your audience a new look at who you are.

[Rose] Lately you've been working on a line of masks for your current show at the Dahl. I know as an artist you have to evolve and start adding things, but do you like that three-dimensional quality, too?

[Donald] I think these (the ledger drawings) will always be me, these will always say "Don Montileaux"…but there are certain times when you've got to step back away from that because you need a refreshment, something that rejuvenates your work. That's what my masks do because they're not flat two-dimensional surfaces and they play their own game with me and have a whole different world (of possibilities).

The individual that gave me the story that inspired the masks is no longer with us, but it was a real blessing to have him here and hear his stories.

[Rose] You're talking about Dakota Hollow Horn Bear?

[Donald] Yes. He inspired the masks by telling me a traditional story about them. I thought a lot about this story and how I could capture the beauty of these masks…but before I had figured out how I could present them, Dakota left us and I let the masks go for a whole year…but then they kept coming back. I think it was really something he wanted to have them out there.

I was walking through a store one day and I saw a mask and got the idea. I thought about how to cut it down, refine it, melt it a little bit…I knew something would come out of it. With that I had my base and then the masks started talking and everything came together…again, I'm merely a channel.

[Rose] You're the lead for a lot of our young artists and I'm sure Dakota would be excited to know he influenced you.

[Donald] I hope so...