This Puerto Rican-Colombian Artist Celebrates the ‘Unusual’ Parts of Her Subjects


Raquel Reichard (Remezcla) writes about Bianca Montoya’s Unusual Girls, a multi-platform project by the Puerto Rico-based artist.

In a culture obsessed with labels, placing people in strict boxes and unrealistic—largely Eurocentric—beauty standards, embracing the eccentricities of our appearances and personalities is often frowned upon rather than considered a healthy display of self-confidence. That’s why Unusual Girls has resonated with thousands of people across the U.S. and Latin America. The Puerto Rico-based art project celebrates our oddities and accentuates the aspects of our characters and physical features that make us extraordinary.

Founded in 2016, Unusual Girls is a multi-platform project by San Juan-residing artist Bianca Montoya. Through personalized portraits, murals, merchandise and events, Montoya lauds the weird, the loud and the mismatched.

“My goal is to find the unusual in every person,” Montoya, 26, tells Remezcla. “I extract the weird, funky and cool things that you have inside you that you don’t usually wear or show, and I portray them in my art.”

The self-described unusual girl is able to capture our peculiarities through a series of questions she asks each of her clients. Among them: “What do you most enjoy doing?” What do you love about yourself?” “What makes you unusual?”

By getting to understand the quirky details of people’s personalities, she’s able to portray them artistically through vibrant hues, patterns, fabrics and sequins. Her portraits represent both the physical and immaterial personas of her subjects. To emphasize the offbeat, for example, Montoya might paint the person’s hair polychromatic or color their skin in shades of purple or green. For clients who prefer their portraits to appear more realistic, she’ll convey their idiosyncrasies through patterned backdrops, gaudy accessories and glaring facial expressions. For instance, if the person enjoys yoga and meditation, then Montoya might draw them with their eyes closed. If they’re bossy and often told they have an attitude problem, then the artist will likely depict them with a resting bitch face. [. . .]

From the success of her enterprise, it’s apparent that more people want to join her in the sparkly, sequin-sewed land of the jazzy weirdos. To date, Montoya has painted 20 murals, completed more than 300 portraits and even has an IGTV series called The Unusuals Show, where she interviews quirky women leading endeavors in the arts, fashion, beauty, business and more. [. . .]

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