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University workshop encourages students to channel their inner chicken

Linda Mary Montano, aka the ‘Chicken Woman,’ to lead two days of events focused on contemporary performance artistry

For the poultry inclined, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is set to host a workshop that will allow students to “walk and bawk” like a chicken, and even dress up like one.

While it’s scheduled for October, it has nothing to do with Halloween.

The event is one part of a two-day exhibition Oct. 1 and 2 to be overseen by contemporary feminist performance artist and University of Wisconsin-Madison alum Linda Mary Montano, aka the “Chicken Woman.”

The chicken-channeling workshop is billed as an “exploration of methods to empty out nightly news mind and appreciate an alternative consciousness,” a description of the event states.

“Wear loose clothing, and dress in all one color if you wish or come as ChickenWomanFliera chicken. Bring something to lie down on,” the description adds. “Walk & bawkkk with Chicken Woman to the Agriculture Department. Maybe we will see the chickens.”

“It’s a homecoming, bawk bawk,” Montano said in a telephone interview with The College Fix.

The two day event is called “The Return of Chicken Woman: Linda Mary Montano Flies Home” and also includes an artist talk and performance.

“Come and visit with Chicken Woman. Ask any question about your art or life. Receive a chicken drawing,” the invite states.

The “Art + Scholarship” presentation is part of the university’s effort to provide a variety of programming for the campus community, Meredith McGlone, UW director of news and media relations, told The College Fix in an email.

“Every day the university offers a wide variety of events, from workshops highlighting the latest scientific discoveries to arts programming both classical and progressive,” she said. “UW allows this event because it is in keeping with educational goals and the Wisconsin Idea of being good global citizens, concerned about farmers, the food we eat, and appreciating the artistry and beauty of nature.”

Montano’s exhibition will be funded by private donors, McGlone told The Fix.

“We are grateful to the private donors whose generosity allows us to bring this internationally known artist to campus,” she said.

According to Montano’s bio, she is a celebrated feminist performance artist, and her breakout role was that of the Chicken Woman.

“Montano’s first major performance, Chicken Woman (1972) was based on her MFA sculpture show at the University of Wisconsin, Madison,” her bio states. “There she exhibited 9 live chickens in 3, eight by sixteen foot long minimalist chicken wire cages on the roof of the art building.”

A talk Montano is slated to give will delve into that display and more.

“For my show I also rode around Madison with chicken sounds coming from my car loudspeaker and installed chicken sounds on my phone’s answering machine. Why chickens: because I spent more time with them on campus than I did in ‘school’ while I was a grad student at UW-Madison. Bawkkkkkkkk, bawkkkkkkkk,” the event description states.

The university appears giddy to have its favorite chicken come home to roost.

“Returning to her roots, Montano will now present a new site-specific Chicken Woman performance based upon her early work,” according to the event announcement.

“Attempting to dissolve the boundaries between art and life, Montano continues to actively explore her art/life through shared experience, role adoption, and intricate life altering ceremonies, some of which last for seven or more years,” it adds.

Montano told The Fix her work relates to the world around her.

“It’s very simple; if there is something wrong, make art, if there is something right, make art,” Montano said. “I am an artist of life.”

According to the Austin Chronicle, she helped pave the way for feminist performance artistry on college campuses not only as a student, but also a teacher.

“In 1991, at the end of Seven Years of Living Art, Montano was offered a job as an assistant professor of art at the University of Texas at Austin. As Rachel Martin, performance artist and assistant dean of the College of Fine Arts, remembers, when Montano interviewed for the job, “it was like Keith Richards coming to town.”

While in residence at UT, Montano distinguished herself through her collaborations and close relationships with students and colleagues. “She taught performance art, but she also taught 3-D foundations, one of the core components of our curriculum,” Martin says. “I give her kudos for teaching generations of art students to think more conceptually about making.”

In addition to her chicken performances, she delves into life and death struggles, Catholicism, chakras, and Mother Teresa.

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About the Author
Michael McGrady --University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.