Elisa Ortega Montilla is an artist who currently lives and works in Santa Barbara. She 
completed a Master of Fine Arts at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2019 and was chosen as the university's 2019-2020 Artist-in-Residence. Her work has been featured in The Los Angeles TimesLos Angeles Review of BooksHyperallergicKCRWNew Times (San Luis Obispo), VoyageLA Magazine and the University of California's Women's Month. Her work has been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions in Spain, Guatemala, and across the US, including the Sur Biennial at the Torrance Art Museum, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, AD&A Museum in Santa Barbara, and Escuelas Pías, and Eduardo Chillida Cultural Center in Madrid. She has also participated in the International QiPO Art Fair in Mexico City as well as Spring/Break Art Fair in Los Angeles. 

Before shifting her focus to art, Elisa spent over a decade as a social worker. She has worked with groups as diverse as drug addicts; the gypsy community in Spain; victims of domestic violence in Guatemala; homeless LGBT youth and adults with intellectual disabilities in Los Angeles. She graduated in 2006 from Pablo de Olavide College, Seville, with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and has a masters in Education and Human Rights from the University of Córdoba, Spain.


Growing up in the 1980s in Spain, ten years after my country transitioned from dictatorship to democracy, has marked the way I relate to materials in my art practice. I grew up hearing stories from my grandmother about the Spanish Civil War while she mended hand-me-downs for me from my cousins. What was a result of economic austerity from the Franco years later became an ethical choice for me.
My work explores three fundamental parts of who I am: my experience of being a woman and my feminist values; my feelings of acculturation from living in the US while maintaining my Spanish identity; and my opposition to consumerism and commitment to environmental sustainability. 
My practice uses installations, wood sculptures, and reclaimed and overlooked textiles, addressing themes of memory, transformation, adaptation, and identity through materials that have been discarded, deconstructed, and reconstructed. I mix the found and the made, the new and the old; tradition and experimentation, the mass-produced and the handmade; my Spanish values and my American experience, the present and the past.
I’m drawn to the expressive and experiential nature of abstraction because it provides me with a universal language that transcends regions, structures, and categories. Non-binary anthropomorphic volumes, bodily suggestions, sensual movements, and feminine shapes are oblique references to the human condition and a soft invocation of the female body.

Photo credit: Elena Zhukova & Matt Perko