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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA alum brings Southwest-inspired art to Spring Artisan Market

    Carlos Herrera
    Carlos Herrera / The Daily Wildcat Sandra Montgomery will be at the Spring Artisan Market at the Tucson Museum of Art. Montgomery creates her artwork by painting on old recycled windows and canvas.

    Sandra Montgomery finds inspiration for her art in the majestic desert and mountains of the Southwest. From flowers to native wildlife, her paintings encompass the life of the region. But the medium on which her art is painted is less conventional than her subjects and has a more unique past than your average roll of canvas.

    A 1940s house in the desert of Tucson might hold what she’s looking for. Or even a 1921 barn on the plains of North Dakota. A simple dilapidated shed in Mexico from the 1950s might do just as well.

    Montgomery describes her practice as caught between fine art and a craft. This is because she uses a simple beat-up sash window for her canvas, with the size, shape and wear and tear of the frames adding to the work just as much as the paintings she creates.
    The quest to find these old windows can often be a challenge.
    “Old wood sash windows are hard to find in Tucson and surrounding areas,” Montgomery said. “We have leveled most old houses to make room for new housing, or a business plaza.”

    Montgomery said she loves telling the history of a window when she sells it. People often ask her where she finds the old windows, and she said she constantly has friends and relatives on the lookout for old windows around town.

    “A friend will call and say, ‘Sandra, I saw a stack of old windows at Stone and Grant!’” she said. “I get down there to see if I can salvage anything.”

    Once she locates her windows, the work that goes into preparing them requires replacing glass, excessive caulking and tedious sanding. And that’s before the actual painting begins.
    A self-taught artist from Yuma and a graduate of the UA, Montgomery became finely in tune with the natural beauty of the landscape around her. Starting her business in 2003 by mixing her passions of painting and gardening, she began simply by painting the desert and the flowers in her garden.

    Since then, her business has expanded. Customers contact her from as far off as Chicago, placing custom orders for lakes, horses, cityscapes and more to be shipped out to them. She prides herself on not having lost a window yet through mail orders.
    After her father was awarded a homestead in Yuma in the late 1940s, Montgomery became accustomed to wide-open spaces. She came to view the window as a harbinger of light and fresh air, and in her work, viewers get the feeling they are in fact looking out into a vibrant, colorful world.

    Each picture is framed by history, gleaned through the scuffs, chips, markings and weatherworn wood of each vintage sash. A lifetime of use surrounds the carefully applied permanent acrylic paint, giving an authentic touch of life to each still life or landscape. It’s said we should not judge a book by its cover; perhaps here it’s acceptable to judge a picture by its frame.

    Montgomery said one of the best parts of her work is meeting the people she shows her work to, and she will have an opportunity to do just that this weekend at the Spring Artisan Market at the Tucson Museum of Art. Live music, food and children’s activities will add to the festive atmosphere, along with a beer and wine garden. The artists’ booths will contain a wide variety of work: glass, jewelry, paintings, clay, fabric, photos and much more.
    Montgomery pointed out that even a small window is still fairly large, so transporting them to shows is a challenge. She usually has no more than eight at a show, though she does have a portfolio book of her paintings to allow viewers a glance into her world.
    Even after over a decade of her window-painting excursions, Montgomery still remains vigilant in her artistic pursuit for the best.

    “Every artist continues to learn and change,” Montgomery said. “I stay open to other artists’ work, their style, color use, just to hone my own eye. Plus I’ll take a class now and again to experience something new.”

    Thanks to Montgomery, a barn window that braved the harsh North Dakota winters season after season can have the image of its endurance forever painted onto it. Or a young boy who would look out each morning through the front window into his mother’s prized garden can regain a treasured glimpse of his youth.
    For Montgomery, she sees no end in sight to her windows into the soul.

    “Until I can’t find any more windows, I continue on,” she said.

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