Sierra Montoya Barela in front of one of her artworks

Paint Studio Demo Artist Sierra Montoya Barela

Sierra Montoya Barela will be in the Paint Studio demonstrating still lifes and self-portraits noon–3 pm on December 28-29, 2019, and January 4-5, 2020. The Paint Studio is included with general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and under.

Sierra Montoya Barela earned a BFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2015 and was an Artist-In-Residence at the Vermont Studio Center and the Horned Dorset Colony later that year. She has since shown her work in various group and solo exhibitions, most recently at David B. Smith Gallery, the Museo de las Americas, Yes Ma’am Projects, and as part of the Octopus Initiative at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

There’s a fair amount of symbolic imagery that I put into the paintings, but I don’t necessarily intend or expect the viewer to decode it. There are a lot of ways that things could be understood.

– Sierra Montoya Barela

Lindsey Bell: What will your demo at the Denver Art Museum look like? What can visitors expect?

Sierra Montoya Barela: A lot of the work I’ve been making lately has been about interior spaces and everyday objects being presented in ways that make them feel really special or giving them an added level of importance. For these demos, I’ll continue on in that direction and bring in a few objects or plants that I’ll paint into domestic scenes.

LB: I noticed that you reference a variety of motifs and subject matter in your paintings. Can you explain some of these choices?

SMB: Yeah, a lot of these symbols and imagery that I’m using are self-narrative and relate back to things I’ve experienced or family history. There are nods to stories I heard growing up, memories I have, maybe things that remind me of people.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the home and plants and how we live together with the objects that we have around us. I’ve been working as a product designer for the past nine or so months designing things like vases and planters, so that’s definitely been influencing some of the things I’m thinking about right now in these imagined realities and spaces.

still life painting called Motherly by Sierra Montoya Barela
Sierra Montoya Barela, Motherly. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of the artist.

LB: What is your process for beginning a new work? What kinds of things are you thinking about before you paint?

SMB: I start by making collages. It’s usually a kind of stream-of-consciousness process with one thing leading to the next. I generally have an idea of where I want things to go but I try to just let things happen.

LB: Is there anything in particular you want people to see or feel when viewing your work?

SMB: I want people to look at my work and see what it means to them or how it relates to their experiences or thoughts. There’s a fair amount of symbolic imagery that I put into the paintings, but I don’t necessarily intend or expect the viewer to decode it. There are a lot of ways that things could be understood.

LB: What are you up to next? Where can visitors see more of your work?

SMB: I’ll have work in a few shows opening soon! January 3–March 7, 2020, I’ll be showing a few paintings in Great Expectations: 2020 at GOCA UCCS and January 11–April 5, 2020, I’ll have a painting in the Dearly Disillusioned exhibit at the McNichols Civic Center Building. I also have works at the MCA Denver right now in their art lending library as part of the Octopus Initiative where they lend out work for 10 months at a time to local Denver residents! Besides that, I’ll just be painting and thinking about plants.

Lindsey Bell is a studio and artist programs intern in the department of learning and engagement at the Denver Art Museum.

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