The enlarged wood-cut replicas of fiat money and plump, brown cash bags bordering the doorway of Diego Montoya’s Maryland-based studio suggest the artist (also known as “Dieglo”) is acutely aware of commoditization. And while Montoya loves money, “It’s what makes the world go-round,” he says laughing, his focus is on balance and self-respect as an artist.
Consider the intention of art, why it exists. Art materializes intangible concepts and ideas to serve as a source of information that may be marketable, sellable, and collected. Today, artists fall somewhere on the spectrum between creating for the sake of creating and creating for economic resources.
Montoya’s work informs the ‘do-it-yourself’ nature of Washington, D.C.’s art scene. “I’m big on pushing art no matter what month it is, no matter what race, your sexuality, your religious beliefs–no matter what you do–art should be everywhere,” says Montoya. In this sense, the soon-to-be 24-year-old is a multi-hyphenate producer, assigning his version of macabre (e.g., technicolored skulls, horned monsters and deranged cartoons) to large scale works like graffiti on the DuPont Underground stairwell among commissioned projects, including the Tacos Borrachos food truck and Room 808 DC gallery installation.
Part Chilean, part Peruvian, Montoya’s narratives of death refer to his indigenous, South American heritage, where reincarnation and figurative creatures manifest in the forms of mysterious geoglyphs called Nazca lines. Over the summer, Montoya returned to Peru, visiting his father and younger sister, experiencing what he labeled an ego death. “It was powerful to see a real love for art at a young age. Art is not looked at as a career over there,” he says. Montoya passed-time painting with his precocious baby sister and fellow children from the neighborhood, admitting how removed and free he felt from worrying about money and resources to afford his art-making. “I once had that love, but it is no longer as organic as it was, and I was able to touch that root once again.”
As it is Hispanic Heritage Month, Montoya will also be celebrating his birthday all October, with new graphic t-shirts and merchandise to be released as well as pop-ups and parties to be announced. “I’m 100% Latino, that is my blood. My blood is ‘Inca Kola.’ My blood is Rocoto. If this is the month you’ll try a new heritage, try Peruvian food,” Montoya says, recommending Inca Social, La Limeña, and Pisco y Nazca for D.C., Maryland, and Virginia residents.
Visit Dieglo.com to learn more about Montoya’s practice and to purchase artworks.