Montana Murdoch, aka Susana Montana, aka Susan Murdoch. And, to those of Oaxaca: Susanita or La Pintora Montana.

Class warrior, actor, teacher and feminist majorette, Great Falls, Montana. Fish slinger, Ekuk and Excursion Inlet, Alaska. Actor, director, stage manager, developer, playwrighting novice, Seattle, Bay Area, Boise, Idaho. Once- and now-again-academic administrator, University of California, San Francisco. Painter/papel picadora, San Francisco Bay Area and sometimes Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico.

My motto: That which doesn’t kill you becomes your nickname.


For the first decade and a half of my grown-up life, I was a creature of the theater. It’s been a long road from there to here—with diversions into fish canneries, academia, and other countries—but in comparing that time with this, I realize that painting shares a physicality with theater that I seem to find necessary in art-making. An early immersion in the almost foreign language of Shakespeare led eventually to a form of contemporary theater that was similarly removed from the vernacular. It merged poetic language, movement, and sound in a way that is almost an abstraction of conventional theater, and in so doing could express the most difficult of subjects: violence, love, tragedy, prejudice, hope.

As a painter, I am always trying to find a similar form, a hybrid of various influences, to express what is tender and difficult to touch on. While keeping the subject close to the bone in form, I am looking  for an abstraction of the visual language that will make my subject accessible…without tipping into sentimentality on the one hand, or alienation on the other.

I use mythology and symbolism (including syncretism, the imperfect marriage of differing mythologies), storytelling devices from theater, and cultural traditions like Mexico’s Loteria, to circle the central themes that interest me: individual stories (the Character Portraits), the relationship between religious and political power and how art works with both (the Pietà Project and Myth & History paintings), and—in the one series of paintings that stand outside the overriding and largely unifying force of the feminine perspective in my work—the Meditations on Trees, which are essentially totems of nature for urban life.


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