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photos of Whit Montgomery's Alpine Meadows art installation, paintings on a white gallery wall with a table in front.

Who We Are — Meet Whit Montgomery, a World-Building, Satire Loving Portrait Artist, and Creative Capsule Year One Resident

Whit spent his residency creating Alpine Meadows, a fictional nuclear dystopia.

Words: Molly Hurley

At some point in my conversation with Whit Montgomery, a Montreal-based artist, it seemed clear what the recurring theme of our discussions would be: connections. He spoke of numerous parallels across diverse media from a wide variety of origins and time periods while I nodded vigorously in agreement with his analysis. With shared fascinations for propaganda, the potency of a well-told story, and an unexpected overlap in the culturally appropriate way to ask for favors in Canada and the Midwest US, Whit and I most passionately agreed on one thing in particular: We love lore. And in this interview, Whit has only just begun to give me a glimpse into the lore of his artwork and the fictional town of Alpine Meadows, a parallel reality where weaponization is both embraced and celebrated.

Professionally, Whit entered the Creative Capsule Residency in an almost opposite direction from our previous profile on Dr. Chantell Murphy. Whit received his BFA from Concordia University but has always felt curious about the ability of art to sway opinions. Now, after eight months of collaborations and research with nuclear historians, Whit has generated a series of paintings that aim to exaggerate and amplify the absurd, provoke, and encourage understanding of the consequences of glorifying tools of violence. Given my own pop culture x national security focused column, The Mixed-Up Files of Inkstick Media, Whit’s practice of melding fiction and non-fiction to challenge our perceptions of the world was right up my alley.

Molly: We’ll jump right into the questions and start with the most basic, the thing that every interview starts with, which is: tell me a little bit about yourself!

 Whit: One thing interesting about me is that my mom was an artist, so art has kind of come naturally to me. And although our art is different, having that space as a kid to work creatively, to be encouraged to do so, and to have the tools to experiment so readily was a formative experience in the earliest parts of my career. Though I didn’t take artmaking very seriously until later on in high school, I have now been showing work for I guess around 10 years or so.

Molly: What was it like going from a formal art background with your BFA to this highly intersectional environment in the residency?

Whit: One thing I really appreciated was the ability to collaborate with the folks. For example, I’ve been able to meet Alex Wellerstein [a historian of science and nuclear technology, and Whit’s mentor in the Creative Capsule Residency] a few times, and that was an incredible opportunity just being able to pick his brain. Critiquing in general is so important in artmaking. And getting feedback through this residency from a whole range of different backgrounds rather than a purely artistic one felt like a big broadening of that iterative process. And it was reassuring to see people on the other end be excited to collaborate. I’m just… I never want to bother anyone. That’s just ingrained in me. Canadian culture, I guess.

Molly: Haha, Midwest US culture isn’t too different in that respect. It’s always, “Oh, if you don’t mind, but only if it’s not too much trouble, I’d really appreciate it if you could consider maybe doing this one little thing for me!?”

Whit: Always! Honestly, it’s exactly that.

image of a painting by whit montgomery with a man in a helmet and the words "celestial deterrence"
Whit Montgomery, "Silo Operator Recruitment Campaign," Oil on Canvas, 2023.

Molly: Segueing into your actual artworks, your Instagram bio specifically mentions portrait work as a large part of your practice. And your page and your website reflect that. But what do you think draws you to portrait work and the human form? Do you see any parallels or overlap with the reasons for this affinity towards portraiture and the political themes of your work?

Whit: Oh, for sure. And the bridge, I think, is propaganda overall. I’ve always been interested in portraiture. Although so much of it is subjective, the stories they tell are huge. You have to get in tune emotionally to capture and then convey these stories though. And then politically, I think the power of portraiture coincides with propaganda because of how fluidly both lend themselves to storytelling. The way emotion in portraiture can bolster the power of propaganda and those in control of that propaganda, the kind of despicable ways propaganda is so often used, and then for me to try to reveal these “behind the scenes” to folks so that we can all be more aware of these processes—that’s the intersection of the two that drives me towards these topics.

Molly: On that note of storytelling, I was wondering, in your creation of Alpine Meadows, did you have a specific locale within the US in mind where it could theoretically be found? Maybe Alpine Meadows is in the northeast of Appalachia, the southwestern deserts of Los Alamos, or maybe the Bible belt of the Midwest. Or, maybe Alpine Meadows is meant to be a town that exists in any state of America?

Whit: I love the idea of “a town from any state,” like the town of Springfield from The Simpsons. Although I didn’t have a specific intent in the original creation of Alpine Meadows for its location, I did take a lot of inspiration from Colorado. That was because of tensions I perceived between things like its lax gun laws with its beautiful landscapes. There was also an aspect of the history of being on the “frontier” in some way and how we romanticize cowboy movies in Western culture. This stands in direct contrast with the reality of colonization of that land, the gold rush, the fixation on making money and stealing from the land that has itself been stolen. It really spurred this sense of Americana for me. But although Colorado serves as my primary inspiration for Alpine Meadows, I do want it to be an “every town” type of town.

image of a painting by whit montgomery with a green rifle
Whit Montgomery, "P.P.E." Acrylic paint on wood sculpture, 2023.

Molly: Building off these tensions and these dualities, you mentioned in your artist statement an affinity towards war films. You also said that you’ve used this series of work as an opportunity to unpack what that means — to “like” war films. That reminds me specifically of the phenomena of techno-eroticism within a lot of sci-fi media, and, obviously, to an extent, in war films. In all these media, we see this conundrum of highly advanced technology’s inherent allure of power in contrast to its grotesqueness and ability to warp a canonical “Good” with a canonical “Evil” into this very inextricable new thing… so, I guess, where do you think your work falls within those realms? Or is it just a part of this big amorphous, weird web of it all?

Whit: Definitely a weird web. You mentioned technology and a kind of eroticism with that. I think my version of that intrigue is in the idea of the cowboy and his romanticized image as a symbol of something more than just a cowboy. And I also see that in the image and symbolism of the astronaut, like a modern extension of the historical cowboy. Then in the Marlboro Man as the hyper-consumerist extension of the cowboy, too.

And then all of this overlaps further with the notion of the American frontier, spaghetti westerns, and the concept of space as the final frontier for humankind. There’s a lot of crossover in the romanticizing of these things, the ways of life, and the kind of patriotic, go-getter attitude that I feel US culture is sometimes built upon and which can turn really toxic in a lot of senses.

Molly: What’s next for Alpine Meadows? Do you plan to expand this town’s story further or move on to new projects?

Whit: Alpine Meadows in general is a nice little snippet of what I’m interested in overall. Meaning, I’d like to work on different bodies of work that are intertwined and live in the same kind of world as Alpine Meadows but aren’t necessarily set in that same town. This has been a great starting point, and I think I would like to continue to expand this worldbuilding, with or without explicit references to Alpine Meadows — more just for me to know as I continue building. Like little Easter eggs.

Molly: I love lore. This is truly the inside scoop, the lore of Whit Montgomery’s artwork!

Whit: Of course, I mean even when most of the lore or easter eggs go over people’s heads, for the people who really look into it, it’s there and it’s deep!

Molly: And it’s fun!! It’s fun to discover those things. So, I guess that’s the official stance of the interview: We Love Lore. So, Whit, how can readers and viewers stay up to date on the newest Whit-Montgomery-as-Artist lore?

Whit: While there is my Instagram account, I really recommend checking out my website. Instagram’s great for giving little sneak peeks but I think my website as a platform allows me to create more of an experience and others can also see different shows that I’ll be in. I’m excited because I really want to connect with galleries and present this project. It’s much more meaningful than a lot of my past art shows and exhibitions as I really tried to make it as cohesive as possible.

Keep up with Whit’s work through Instagram @whitneymontgomeryartist and his website

Join us on September 14, 2023, at noon Eastern to hear directly from Whit and other year one CCR residents at the Creative Capsule Residency Showcase! Register here.

Learn more about the Creative Capsule Residency here.

Molly Hurley


Molly Hurley is a recent MFA in Community Arts graduate from Maryland Institute College of Art. She has previously spent time as a Wagoner Fellow from Rice University, Nuclear Fellow with The Prospect Hill Foundation, FutureFirst Fellow with Beyond the Bomb, and Communications Associate with Women Cross DMZ. In between her ever-growing anime watchlist and full-time work with WombWork Productions, she arguably spends too much time consuming social media but justifies it through her contributions to Inkstick’s culture column The Mixed Up Files of Inkstick Media. She has also published multiple articles with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and serves as a youth advisor for The Prospect Hill Foundation’s nuclear committee.


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