Not Much of A Writer, I Love You | A conversation with Sierra Montoya Barela

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Written by Corianne Wells |  


(Denver CO)

Not Much of A Writer, I Love You is an examination of alterity and the desire for meaning. Oscillating between playfulness and indifference, Sierra Montoya Barela’s new painted works are riddled with dark humor, diagrammatic forms, and icons of past and present. Drawing influences from embroidery, collage, and sculpture, the artist considers cynicism and sincerity within the paradoxical realm of painting.


How did you get started/introduced into the arts?

As a kid my grandpa taught me how to draw and I would see his paintings and wood carvings around my grandparents home and my mom also quilted and sewed. I think seeing those things as precious objects got me interested in making things of my own. 

How do you research and conceive a piece?

I think it comes pretty organically. It never begins with an idea of knowing what I want. I usually just get a feeling and see where I can go with it. I am usually surprised with what I end up with. 



What mediums are you working in currently?

I mainly paint with acrylic on canvas or panel - recently I have been playing around with an embroidery machine and I feel like there are so many ways I can go with that. I’ve also done a little bit of sculpture in the past and would really like to focus on that more in the future. Maybe that’s next for me.



What do you do to get over your creative blocks?

I try to work through it by putting my mind in other places. Sewing clothes has been something creative that helps me get out of my mind when I feel stuck. It’s amazing that a medium so completely different from what I usually do can feel similarly satisfying. 

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What is a typical workday like for you?

My studio days are pretty different from one another. Some days I spend the whole day painting and other days I spend the whole day thinking and making notes and writing. It all depends on how I feel or where I’m at in a project and what I need to get done.  

‘Not Much of A Writer, I Love You’ seems to be somewhat of a departure from your previous work. What’s most exciting about this body of work for you? 

I think I’m most excited about the machine embroidery I tried out in in a few of the paintings. I want to push that into some really large scale work next.


What are you most excited about for the coming year?

I’m just excited to see where my work goes in general. I’m also working on a few collaborative projects that I think will turn out really cool. It’s a lot of fun to work with other artists and see the progress that can be made in your work when working alongside someone else. 

Bonus: What's your favorite piece in “Not Much of A Writer, I Love You”?

I think my favorite piece in the show is the painting with the two Greek figures and the Matisse mug. I left a lot of linen exposed and there's a little bit of hand sewing in the top left corner that made the piece feel a little more precious when working on it. 

Sierra Montoya Barela is an artist living and working in Denver, Colorado. Barela earned a BFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2015 and was an Artist-In-Residence at the Vermont Studio Center and the Horned Dorset Colony in the months that followed. She has since shown in various group and solo exhibitions, most recently at Yes Ma'am Projects, Gildar Gallery and as part of the Octopus Initiative at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

Not Much of A Writer, I Love You is now closed, but you can view Available Works here.