Project: Lady Shalimar MontagueMarch 6–April 18, 2015 320 West 13th Street Project
White Columns is proud to present a solo exhibition by Lady Shalimar Montague (aka Frances Montague, 1905-1996.) The exhibition is presented in collaboration with New York’s Healing Arts Initiative (HAI). HAI is a Long Island City center that works with adult artists with mental illness and developmental disabilities. Over the past two years White Columns has collaborated extensively with HAI presenting artists associated with the center in both solo and group exhibitions.
Lady Shalimar Montague was one of the earliest artists to emerge from HAI’s art program. Shalimar, who lived and worked at the Surf Manor adult home in Coney Island, suffered from agoraphobia, fearing the outdoors. (Her only excursions were arranged by HAI to visit exhibitions of her own work.) In her hand-written autobiography – a facsimile of which is available from the gallery – Shalimar claimed to have been born in the Paris Opera House, and that she subsequently performed on many of the world’s most famous stages. She described her drawings as autobiographical, invariably depicting herself – in beautifully drawn and detailed costumes – performing in theatrical roles in the circus, opera, and ballet. In reframing her early life in this way Shalimar set the stage for an extraordinary body of work produced in the final two decades of her life.
Towards the end of her life – in the early 1990s – Shalimar suffered a debilitating stroke, which radically impacted upon her ability to draw. Slowly during the recovery process she started to work again, effectively learning how to draw once more. These late drawings (all of which are undated, but were produced in the early 1990s), are at once both fragile and exuberant – and are being presented here for the first time. Her subject remains consistent – Shalimar the performer – with each drawing augmented by the number (834 B) of her room at the group home. Alongside this group of eight late drawings a single example of Shalimar’s earlier drawings – made in 1983 and depicting Shalimar performing at London’s Covent Garden – is presented to contexualize the later work and also to amplify the formal and aesthetic shifts between her earlier drawings and those produced after the stroke.
This exhibition has been presented in collaboration with Healing Arts Initiative, New York. We are also grateful to Kerry Schuss – a long time advocate for Shalimar’s work – for allowing us to make a facsimile copy of Shalimar’s hand-written autobiography, the original of which is in his personal collection.
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