Celebrity: Who is Montgomery Maxton? (Part 1 of 3)
National Geographic nabbed his photo of Barack Obama, and his “Self Portrait with My Dying Grandmother” was both nominated for an International Photography Award and criticized for its content.
Montgomery Maxton is a rebel artist living life out loud…but quietly.
Montgomery Maxton is still known to his family and close friends by his given name, Michael. I however, first became a fan because of his literary name, so to me, he’ll always be Montgomery.
"I decided to go by an artist name when I was 23. I chose Montgomery from the actor Montgomery Clift; whom I adore both in skill and in looks—his best acting and beauty was "A Place in the Sun." Maxton is a variation on Sexton, from my favorite poet Anne Sexton...she taught me to be brave. And let me tell you, it takes bravery to tell your mother that you're changing your name. For the most part the name change has indeed propelled my career, but on the contrary my friends and family still call me Michael, and that's cool."
Maxton with his 2008 National Geographic photograph, "Barack Obama in Ault Park"
Maxton records his whereabouts in photos that can be gritty, poignant, or simply reflective. He tells a story of each city he lives in through his images. Currently residing in New York City, he embraces the diversity of culture and manages to capture beauty in places that others might overlook.
"I returned to New York City because it was what was meant to be. I spent from the time I moved out of my parent’s house at age 19 until the time I moved to Philadelphia at age 30 moving to different places for other people. They’d say things like, “Oh my career depends on it” and “I have to be there even though I’ve never been there and have no work there.” I bought in to their reasons, foolish me. So I really said to myself, “it’s time to return to New York.” A lot of people feel energy here. I do, as well, and that feeds into me---which is how I was able to complete my first book, This Beautiful Bizarre. I was living here in 2007 when I began writing it. I’m a rebel artist and I can safely get away with that in this city. The museums here are stunning, and there seems to be an endless supply of art galleries, which is a long-term goal of mine - open an art gallery and wine bar hybrid. Everywhere you go there are people from all over the world and all walks of life. It’s an exciting place."
Lazaro: Tell me more about being a rebel artist...
Maxton: I will not obey terms and conditions in the art world. You cannot term and condition art... I publish all my own poetic work. I don’t like to wait in line (my time is too precious, as is yours, choose your route wisely), I don’t like competition, and I certainly don’t like other people popping in at the end to have a piece of the cake that I labored in the hot damn kitchen to bake while they were by the pool sipping martinis, so I avoid the entire pomp and circumstance of publishing poetry. It’s a very crowded field, as are most arts. So many want to be the next Frank O’Hara or Langston Hughes and quite frankly I just want to slap them and tell them to sit down. Write poetry as if your existence depends on it, not to inflate your Twitter followers. Sell books out of the trunk of your Mazda (when I was 19, 20, and 23 I published three poetry collections via Kinko’s and sold or gave them to anyone who expressed an interest). Get your hands in the mud. I’ve developed friendships with the writers and poets that I want, that I trust. I hate giving readings---I gave my last one in 2006---although I’ve tossed the idea to do a few with my next book, but on my terms and with poets that I adore and admire. I do not care if I sell ten copies of Champagne or ten thousand. What matters most to me is that I produced something from within me, where it goes after I offer it up to the small world is up to the fates.
Lazaro: Like so many others in the LGBT community, you suffered bullying and attempted suicide. Can we talk about that?
Maxton: Yes. Bullying for me was pretty severe, and know I’m not alone on this one. I had three bullies. It was almost an everyday thing. I mean hit, harassed, and threatened, from sixth grade until the very last day of my senior year.
When classes ended, my best girlfriend Andrea met me in the hall and we decided we were going to walk out of the school for the last time together. As we were walking, one of my three bullies approached me and punched me really hard right in the chest. I literally thought my heart had just stopped. It hurt so bad. I was never any match for him. He was a star football player, three times bigger than me, total cornpone jock. I was so glad that that was the last day...a few years later he was killed in a farming accident. I’ve never seen the police report, but I heard he was run over by a combine tractor or something to that sorts. I don’t know, I don’t care, God rest his soul, what a waste. My other two bullies are in prison. One killed a man in a drug deal gone bad by beating and stabbing him to death before throwing his body into the river. The other killed two people while driving drunk and running them over with his car while they were out on an early morning bike ride. The first is in prison for life, I think, and the second is out in 2022 or so. It took me seeing him on the news crying in front of the judge to spare his life to forgive him. I wrote him a letter his first year in prison...something to the effect of "you nearly killed me from your behavior but I forgive you".
But yes, I tried killing myself as a teenager. It was a horrible way to grow-up. I failed my first two years of high school because it was so severe. I know it still happens, and I’m not sure if it gets better if you don’t take actions yourself to better your life. If you live in a bigoted small town and that’s where your bullying is taking place, best you leave it. If it’s your family, leave them for awhile; make a life that surrounds you with loving friends and places. You can attempt to educate people once you’ve gone out and made yourself stronger.
Lazaro: "God rest his soul"...so you do believe in God? I have seen you post about streaming Church at times. I fear that anyone who is subjected to bigotry will equate that with belief in God, instead of realizing that there are a lot of haters out there that claim to be super religious, and yet judge people constantly...
Maxton: I do. I'm am not at all for organized religion, but I believe in God.
Stay tuned to The Daily Affair for the next two weeks to find out more about Montgomery Maxton, as we explore his art and his activism. In the meantime, you can keep up with Montgomery and/or purchase his art at:http://montgomerymaxton.tumblr.com/
Labels activism, artists, Barack Obama, bullying;, celebrity, civil rights, Dani Lazaro, LGBT, Montgomery Maxton, National Geographic, New York City, photography, poet, This Beautiful BIzarre