Creator Q&A : Erica Montez
Traveling Herbalist, Medicine-Maker, Visual Story Teller and Artist
In a few words state who you are, your occupation and what it is that you create.
Hi, my name is Erica Montez and I’m a traveling herbalist, medicine-maker, visual story-teller and artist based out of Brooklyn, NY. I create plant medicines such as herbal lozenges, sacred smoke bundles and lead ceremonial harvests with respect to the land and all of their inhabitants. My work around wellness involves using visual art as a bridge to reconnect us back to nature, earth’s medicines and to increase environmental awareness.
Describe what you see when you look out your window.
I see a blue-grey sky hovering over a sea of apartment buildings. Some very old, some very new. I see an avenue with closed stores at the street level but lights on in the apartments above. The street is sleepy with the exception of a man having a smoke. I see Brooklyn, NY.
What is a podcast, book, or song that is keeping you sane?
I’ve been in love with “for the wild” podcast with Ayana Young. They interview leading grassroots activists and introduce projects that interweave spirituality, culture, and ecology. It’s super packed with information and many episodes have been so great that I’ve listened to them multiple times. The March 11th episode titled “KURT RUSSO on the People Under the Sea” is one of my favorites as is “Homebound: Embodying the Revolution with Bronte Velez”. I also love “Live Awake” when I need something soothing, gentle and meditative. Very relaxing for the nervous system.
What is a word that makes you laugh?
Luftballon pronounced Schloofballoon (SH-LOOF-BA-LOON) in a heavy german accent. Lol this comes from the 1983 song “Luftballon” by Nena. My sister and I would blast this song on road trips to the Colorado mountains and it’s become a term of endearment between us. My little schloof. My little schloof-ballon.
What is the color of your current mood?
Orange. I’m in a period of recommitting to a certain area of my photo work and this color reminds me that I’m capable and ready to birth new ideas that align with the core fundamentals of my ethics and intentions.
What is something that brings you joy?
Early mornings before the world has risen. Waking up to puppy breath. Bare toes wandering around wooden house floors. Prepping tea or elixirs with present finger tips. Clean water, clean air. Greeting new growth in my plants + in myself. Warm, flavorful, home-made food. Oh, and farmer’s markets.
COVID-19 aside, what frustrates you?
I’m frustrated by the existence of misogyny and the quick profit giants of the world. At the legal system that allows perpetrators to abuse and capitalize on nature, wildlife, humanity, our waters and wildlife kin. I’m frustrated at the horrific levels of heavy metals/ toxins/arsenic/ prescriptions/chemicals and fluoride in our waters. At corrupt media outlets that perpetuate chaos and systematic oppression. I’m frustrated by flawed school systems, college debts and that in many textbooks and classrooms our nation’s history is taught through the lens of colonizers.
I’m frustrated by the lies told to us as a collective. By our food system and the use of chemicals that mess with the body’s chemistry, hormones and health. I’m frustrated by some doctors who using scare tactics to override patient’s sovereignty instead of empowering them. That prescriptions are the default remedy in our society, rather than food as medicine. I’m frustrated by food quality in hospitals, schools, nursing homes and other institutions. By the criminalization of mushrooms and plant medicines that are here as allies to open up our minds. I’m frustrated over the glorification of productivity, exhaustion and burn-out with little space for rest or when I see little respect for birthing people, mothers and elders (earth’s portals and wisdom keepers). Plus hearing the electronic hum that comes from our refrigerator.
What do you feel most hopeful about?
I feel most hopeful about our ability to reconnect to nature and each person answering their call, passion and purpose. I’m hopeful about each one of us becoming curious about where/ who we come from. Taking initiative to collect the stories and rituals from our lineage, connecting with our elders and preserving their stories for our future generations. I’m hopeful about children, the game changers and what love can do. About the land and ecosystems to forgive, replenish and restore. I look forward to a future where we that we as a planetary community will get back to a natural rhythm and live/move in accordance with the seasons and our environments.
How do you define your creative process - what makes you tick, what is your practice?
Creativity comes in cycles for me. Inspiration rises, peaks, spills out and then asks for rest and reflection in anticipation for the next birth. It’s a great mirror to the waves and growth cycles in my life tbh. When I feel lost or detached from who I am, I go to my creative outlets to remember. I allow the inspiration to rise within me and other times I run towards it gathering any fragmented pieces of myself I may have left somewhere or forgotten about. My practice is sacred and important to my well-being.
Right now I’m working on projects involving visual art as a form of story-telling. I pull inspo from our Earth. Plants. Soil. Water. Sunlight. Shadows. Our skies. The elements. The feminine. Culture. Cob homes. Open spaces. Elder’s stories. Love. Romance. Birth. Death. Food + culinary arts. Ceremonies. Natural dye + fabric. Hand-work. Anything that reminds me of the old ways of living. When we lived peacefully with nature and were connected to a much slower and healthier rhythm of life and connection. Some days inspiration comes from putting my hands right in the soil.
I also find inspo from naturally grown foods, new knowledge, empowered sexuality, pigments, great use of negative space, the stories a person’s hands tell about them and anything that makes me feel something and expands my perspective. My creative process is a way for me to express, expand, be radically free and connect.
What is something challenging you’ve accomplished as a creator?
Ooof. Photographing an intimate forest wedding in the pacific northwest without a second shooter. At sunset with constantly changing light. Very challenging but so beautiful + full of learning.
Name an artist or creator you draw influence from? I draw inspiration from nature indigenous artists. Feels like a bridge that connects me to my ancestors.
How has COVID-19 affected you? Have you changed your process during quarantine?
I’ve spent a lot of time cleaning my home and in doing so I found some of my camera equipment I’d put away and spent time with them. I didn’t realize how much I missed creating through those lenses. I used to do lots of photo work years ago and would collaborate with other artists or create self-motivated projects. Sometimes there was a purpose but other times it was just for fun. I took a break from that and am rediscovering that part of me and am so excited to share that work soon.
In your opinion what do you think the “new normal” should look like for our global society?
I believe the “new normal” should look like us collectively becoming actively involved in the state of our world, ecosystems, and systems of oppression. I believe that a balanced and loving global community should replace the corrupt profit giants of the world.
What do you look forward to most once quarantine restrictions are lessened?
I’m looking forward to seeing people’s faces, their smiles, petting friendly dogs that come up to me without awkwardly asking their parents if it’s okay, and walking in and out of the grocery store as I please.
In closing, describe or reflect on an aspect of nature that inspires you.
I’m inspired by the death and rebirth cycles of nature. How seeds crack open. How they reach towards the light and ground into the darkness of soil. I’m inspired by the pace and teachings of different ecosystems. How there’s a range of personalities, hues, shapes and whispers in all the diversity.