Born on December 23, 1983. Received the Anne Rimkus Memorial Scholarship in 2002 and The Grace & Walter Smith Scholarship from 2002-2005. Graduated from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2006 with a BFA in Photography and Graphic Design. Lives and works in Denver and Chicago.
My photographs of nature evoke tranquil, serene, and sometimes transcendent states of being. Trees, clouds, water, and mountains are literally placed in front of your feet as if you are experiencing the subject matter first hand on an epic scale. The seamless panoramic photographs range from 6 to 10 feet tall and can consist of three to ten images which are manually stitched together to make on final photograph.
My grandfather was a professional photographer and worked with Playboy based in Chicago. Since the age of twelve I had a Minolta XG 1 - 35 mm camera with a 50mm lens. I was raised in both the city and suburbs observing environments of skyscrapers and nature, a complete duality. In Hickory Hills my grandmother taught me the simplicities of life and showed me how to paint, draw, and even cook authentic Spanish food. But it the end she evoked my passion of learning how to capture nature for the rest of the world to see. When I reached high school I knew my path in life was art and my life would develop as a tree showcasing all its branches of passions and talents. I attended Nazareth Academy in La Grange Illinois 2002-2006.
In college my art quickly began to reflect the understanding and love for both the raw urban characteristics of the city and the beauty, solidarity, and expansiveness of nature. I immediately opened my horizons and studied all forms of religion and spirituality, visual communications, graphic design, hundred year old processes/modern techniques in photography, classic/abstract painting, and even foundry/sculpture. When graduating college people asked, what are you going to do? I said, everything that drives my attention and allows me to explore and utilize my creativity.
My twenties would paint the picture of me excelling in many directions: helping start a book company called Front40Press, starting my own commercial photo company DLM Photography & Design, and even drive into being a beverage director/mixologist for multiple conceptual restaurants across Chicago for twelve years. When I turned thirty I knew my time in Chicago would soon come to a slight end and I needed to move west and truly live in the mountains in order to further my career as an artist. Chicago truly molded me into a tough, independent, forward thinking artist…..but I know something was missing. I needed to engulf myself in nature completely. In 2016 I decided to move to Colorado. In my heart and mind, I needed to get back to the same energy I shared all those years as a kid with my grandma. So I present to you, the beauty and wonder of the world captured though my lens.
They say the code to joy is awe and what better way to experience wonder than to immerse oneself in the bounty of mother nature. As a steward of the earth, artist Dan De Los Monteros captures not only the beauty of natural landscapes, but the visceral experience provoked by the great outdoors. His work reflects how he moves in the world and is a conduit for connecting and transporting audiences into these organic environments. De Los Monteros presents his work in the Aspens in the Fall exhibit at R Gallery in Boulder, Colorado. To mark this touchdown, the artist spoke with his friend and fellow kindred spirit Katrina Ilagan.
Ilagan: What recent experience provoked a sense of awe within you and how has that inspired your art?
De Los Monteros: Driving from Evergreen, CO to Carlsbad, CA with my dog Merdok. I’ve never really spent much time in Utah. This trip I made sure to stop in as many national parks as possible and pull over for all the landscapes that caught my eye. I took off work for almost two weeks and made sure not to plan for a strict itinerary. With the car fully packed with camping gear and photo video gear I had a complete open mind to what lied head on the road trip. Bryce Canyon took my breath away. I’ve seen pictures of the canyon since I was a kid but to witness it in person was next level. I documented the canyon at sunrise, sunset, and in the moonlight in complete silence. From there we drove straight to Carlsbad. I’ve spent a ton of time in Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Venice but never stayed in towns near San Diego. Carlsbad was very quiet, clean, and offered introspection. While sitting in my tent on Carlsbad beach I couldn’t help to think that this same tent has seen 14 thousand foot mountains, deserts, and rain forests. Seeing the rhythm of the Pacific gave me plenty of time to think how far I’ve come as an artist, a son, a friend, and a man. The number of places me and Merdok have experienced together is more than people will get to do in two lifetimes. My thirst for travel all began here at age 21, in front of this very ocean, and here I am again over a decade later. The mountains and canyons bring me a sense of grounding. The ocean gives me a better understanding of time where it slows itself down for you to contemplate, plan new goals, and give thanks. I feel like the trip took weight off my shoulders, lines off my eyes, and energized me in anticipation for winter. I returned home focused and determined to start new art projects, make new connections with clients within my community, and last set new goals. It’s exactly what I needed to produce more art and expand my horizons.
Ilagan: What has spending time in nature taught you that you are most grateful for?
De Los Monteros: What is actually of importance in this life and this world, and more importantly what’s important in my life. Humans in 2022 are consistently stimulated by technology. Not many people turn the phone off and sit there with their own thoughts facing Silence without the modern world interrupting. To most the silence can be deafening but to others observing nature and witnessing its natural course can be life changing. Watching the seasons change- This is everything. Impermanence, resilience, immeasurable power and strength, and my favorite…..reciprocity. The two golden rules they should teach children in school- treat your neighbor how you would want to be treated, we are all one on this earth, we are the earth, and the earth is us. Knowing those two morals, why would we ever seek harm in something we find in ourselves? When you see summer turn into the dead of winter then be reborn into spring, new life, you understand that everything in this life comes full circle. Sun will always rise again. You understand that the hardest struggles and obstacles have wonder and awe at the end of them. You’ll be amazed what you can find out there. I like to say I went to go get lost in the mountains and what I found was myself.
Ilagan: What do you want your legacy to be?
De Los Monteros: Well, I’ve completed some fun chapters in my life from being a Mixologist working 12+ years in the industry working alongside world renowned chefs, to now being in year 13 running my commercial photo/video company. I hope to start a family one day and pass on all the many hobbies and talents I’ve learned over the years - from sports, survival skills, cooking, photo/video, painting, to running a business, having a strong work ethic, and leaving this place in better shape than how I found it. I’d love to see all these qualities be shared and passed on to a family. Other than that, I would like my art to thrive long after I cross over to the other side and be known as a man of many talents.
Ilagan: What words of wisdom would you give your younger hats self?
De Los Monteros: If you put your heart and mind into something there’s nothing you can’t accomplish or conquer. Hard work pays off, but you have to be consistent. Nothing, absolutely nothing in this world is deserved or just handed to you, at least the best things in life. Failing is very important, but you have to dust yourself off and keep going. This life isn’t easy and can be disappointing, but if you keep trying to succeed eventually you will reach that mountain top and be able to look back and be happy with your journey. Stay true to yourself and others you care about. Don’t ever let the world change who you are, but first, know who you are and your purpose in this world and run with it.
Ilagan: Most importantly, what’s your favorite taco joint?
All-time favorite is Nuevo León in Pilsen, but it burned down. Atotonilco in Pilsen for street style tacos. Tacotlan near Logan Square for Birria. El Faro in Summit for burritos the size of your head. And now as a strong contender- Tuetano Taqueria in Old Town San Diego…..that damn bone marrow birria set my word on fire ha-ha.
Interview and portrait of DDLM by Katrina Ilagan.