Interview with Kelsey Montague

US-based artist Kelsey Montague stormed into the art-scene when her angel wing project hit the streets of New York’s Nolita neighbourhood.

Her What Lifts You campaign saw people from all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, among them pop artist Taylor Swift, posing next to a large pair of wings drawn entirely by Montague. This project saw Montague use her art to spark global discussions about what motivates and lifts people around the globe.

Her work is often an amalgamation of a number of drawings within a larger picture, creating a sense of a story within a story. This style is a result of Montague’s creative process, as the images pop into her mind and the art takes over.

In this exclusive interview we find out the motivation behind her art and ask where her wings will fly to next.

fluoro. Why have you decided to select a positive message in all of your art?

Kelsey Montague. I think life can be tough and I would like my art to be a momentary escape from a person’s troubles. I want my art to make you smile, laugh, see the world in a more beautiful way and make you stop and think about the blessings in your life.

I also want to weave art into a person’s everyday life. That is why most of my social media posts deal with art woven into the fabric of a person’s life. That is also why most of my commissioned work is on the street. I want people to stop and ‘step into’ one of my interactive pieces and become a living work of art for a moment. I then want them to feel so lifted that they share what inspires them online through social media.

In my mind art shouldn’t be hidden from the public, it should be totally accessible both physically and emotionally.

f. What story are you trying to tell with your street art?

KM. I really am trying to spark a global online discussion about what inspires people in their lives. What lifts you up, what makes you feel like you can fly.

I also want to create community online. How cool is it to post a picture within a hashtag that literally has people from around the world all talking about the inspiration in their life?

Finally, every time someone takes a picture with my piece and then posts about it on their social media they make the art their own. It inspires me every night to go through the hashtag #whatliftsyou on Instagram and see how people pose with art, filter the picture, what quotes they use in their caption or how they describe a meaningful moment in their life.

I plan on doing these wings in major cities around the world over the next few years and urban living (especially in an place like NYC) can make you a bit jaded. I love seeing people open up and be vulnerable for a moment online.

f. Throughout your pieces, there are often multiple scenes drawn within an even larger theme, is there a reason behind this?

KM. Each wing is unique and the images within are designed to represent the city they exist in. I therefore pack each set of wings with images that represent that specific community. In the New York wings you’ll notice skyscrapers and pizza, in the Colorado wings you’ll see mountains and sports paraphernalia. I want each set of wings to be a source of pride for the community.

f. What Lifts You?

KM. My family – my sister is my manager, my Mum is my mentor (she’s an amazing artist), and my Dad spends every night liking every single post on #whatliftsyou on Instagram.

They are my biggest supporters and sources of strength.

Then it would have to be every person that has commented on my social media posts or posted within the #whatliftsyou hashtag. Honestly that support, from total strangers, gave me the strength to keep going early in my career when only a few people knew about my work and has continued to motivate me when I’m having a bad day.

f. How has transitioning from pen-and-ink art on notepads and paper, to larger more scaled art along city streets been?

KM. It’s been awesome. I love drawing on traditional sketchbooks but drawing huge pieces on city streets has allowed me to be a bit more courageous in my work. I’ve been told my work is unapologetic and that is music to my ears. I want my work to be powerful.

f. Is the approach on a notepad different to working with a wall on a city street? If so, how?

KM. Yes it is different. With street art you have a lot of external things that make it a bit more intense such as the weather, noise and typically a crowd of people watching you.

Also when I sketch I can really just let my current mood flow onto the paper. With a street art piece there is still an organic process within the wing design (I freehand every set of wings) but I am more conscious of the specific statement I’m trying to make.

f. What particular materials do you work with?

KM. I work with acrylic paint pens. They are awesome because I prefer pens to paint brushes. These huge pens allow me to create the fine detail you’ll see in my wing murals.

f. What’s next for you? Do you have any pieces planned for 2015?

KM. Yes!! #whatliftsyou has become a global campaign. We are planning on producing these wings in major cities around the world over the next 2 years. In addition to Australia in 2015 we have plans to go to Auckland (New Zealand), Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Vail, Jackson, Washington DC, Worcester and New York City (for a second pair). We are working on plans for late 2015.

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One thought on “Interview with Kelsey Montague
  1. Courtney says:

    Love this awesome piece on Kelsey Montague!!!! Well done.

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