Candace Hill-Montgomery: Pretty Birds Peer Speak Sow Peculiar

Opening reception: Thursday, February 8, 6–8 pm

Candace Hill-Montgomery (b. 1945) is a Queens-born artist now based in Bridgehampton, Long Island, whose decades-long career has spanned a wide array of media and approach: painting, photography, installation art, public interventions, video, poetry, performance, and fugitive combinations thereof. Over the last ten years, Hill-Montgomery has largely worked with weavings made on homemade looms, cunningly fusing an assemblage of techniques and materials including sheep’s wool, mohair, linen, paper yarn, and other fabrics, often augmented by found objects. The pieces are typically exquisitely layered in both composition and subject matter, bursting at the seams with color and movement, mirroring her iterative and free-associative poetry practice and variously drawing from pop-cultural and religious iconography, vernacular textile craft, art-historical and literary references, and delirious, free-wheeling wordplay. 

“Pretty Birds Peer Speak Sow Peculiar,” the artist’s first show in the five boroughs since the 1980s, comprises a spread of weaves produced between 2016 and 2023 that demonstrate Hill-Montgomery’s wry sensibilities, variously invoking the entrepreneurial power couple Jay-Z and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, the producer and rapper formerly known as Kanye West, the Machiavellian fifteenth century monarch Richard III, and the surreptitious visit by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Afghanistan in 2019. Two new works for re-stretched canvas, appropriating materials from more than forty years ago, grace the entryway, and other woven textiles become shawls for a pair of antique ceramic birds. 

The arc of Hill-Montgomery’s artistic career is as winding and manifold as her visual work. Raised in suburban east Queens, she grew up with the pre-fame Ronettes and babysat Count Basie’s daughter. From her late teens to early twenties, she did runway and print modeling for designers such as Jacques Tiffeau, Bill Blass, and Oscar de la Renta, before enrolling in the studio art program at Fordham University. In 1979, she was in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem and presented an artwork interrogating public space, dually installed at Artists Space and a tenement on Frederick Douglass Boulevard. She soon intermingled with the bustling downtown arts scene of the ’80s, presenting a work responding to the FBI raid against Fred Hampton at Colab’s “The Times Square Show,” staging a performance at Franklin Furnace, exhibiting at the New Museum in a 1982 solo show, producing a number of artists’ books, and collaborating closely with figures such as Ntozake Shange, providing sets (“built-poems”) for theatrical performances, and Lucy R. Lippard, with whom she co-curated the 1983 exhibition “Working Women/Working Artists/Working Together,” at Gallery 1199, operated by a local of the Service Employees International Union representing hospital workers. For roughly three decades, Hill-Montgomery worked as a high school art and journalism educator. Since her retirement in 2011, she has lived full-time in Long Island.

Hill-Montgomery continues to produce artwork and poetry prolifically; her latest publications include the collection Muss Sill (Distance No Object, in 2020) and Short Leash Kept On (Materials, 2022), a long poem inspired by detective fiction and the writing of Lloyd Addison and Russell Atkins. 

Organized by Lawrence Kumpf and Tyler Maxin.


Blank Forms’s gallery space is located on the third floor of 468 Grand Ave in Clinton Hill. There is a step down from the street into the building and two flights of stairs—thirty-five in total, plus a hand rail—up to the gallery. If you require help accessing the space, please contact Gallery hours: 12–6pm, Wednesday–Saturday. 

Thank you to David Grundy, Amy Tobin, and Luke Roberts. 

For press inquiries, please contact