Collection: Nichole Montanez - In Lieu of Flowers

In Lieu of Flowers – Nichole Montanez

Death is the final, tangible transition we experience on this plane — the punctuation on a life lived. I wasn’t seeking it out as inspiration for this latest body of work. It was inspired, as most of my work is, by a child. Evan was one of “my kids.” I worked on a documentary photo project from 2013 to 2020 and had the privilege of getting to know so many special children. Along the way there has been undeniable heartbreak. These last few years, especially, have been filled with loss. I was able to attend a burial at sea for “E” (as her mom, and subsequently, an entire community affectionately refer to her). At the end of the ceremony we tossed flowers into the ocean and watched as they floated there on the surface -- drops of color interrupting the darkness. I often think about how the colors were more vivid, bold and bright against deep, dark waters. Such a fitting tribute to a tiny girl who lived her life in a big way. She suffered but there was joy, breathtaking beauty in the dark. Not in spite of it but because of it.

I paint and create around these themes because they are my experience. It can be crushing and difficult to sit with. But amid the loss is beauty.

It's not possible to see this kind of beauty without also looking into the darkness from time to time. And it's not possible to see without having parts of yourself revealed. For that reason, it was important to me to use the most reflective surface around the flower. To represent water, sure. But also, to render it impossible for a viewer to remove themselves from the piece -- to create a moment of, both, introspection and reflection.