Connecticut College Magazine · Fall 2008

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Seeing Double

Seeing Double
Detail of Dawn by Oscar Monteon

Twins Edgardo and Oscar Monteon ´09 are creating futures in arts & technology


To see a gallery of Edgar´s work, visit http://emonteon.deviantart.com.

To see a gallery of Oscar´s work, visit http://omonteon.deviantart.com.

by Julie Wernau


Although he knew it would be there alongside his own, when Edgardo Monteon first saw his brother Oscar´s life-size self-portrait on exhibit at Charles E. Shain Library this spring, he thought he was seeing himself. Both brothers say they often inadvertently find themselves dressing the same. And, as with their decision to come to Connecticut College, they often discover that they have separately reached the same conclusion. But the fact that Edgardo and Oscar Monteon are identical twins is one of the least interesting things about them.

These 21-year-old Connecticut College seniors, born in a small village in Mexico, can create fantasy worlds from a blank computer screen, turn objects in space and bring the viewer inside the body´s organs. Their artwork is the stuff of dark underground lands, fantastical warlords and armored creatures, each intricately detailed to a hair´s breadth. Both are enrolled in the Ammerman Center for Arts & Technology, which allows students to explore both art and technology across disciplines through individual studies, course work, internships and a certificate program that incorporates an intensive research project.

“It´s a new age,” Oscar said. “The creative process that takes place in the pre-production industry is quickly making more and more use of digital art. Traditional painting and drawing is essential, but its tools only go so far when rendering something realistically or when making use of speed.”

Both young men work on their art daily — either sketching an image, then scanning it into the computer or simply starting on the computer where they are able to bring color and dimension to their art.
“This is going to sound cheesy,” Edgardo said, “but it´s like you give life to your creations. What you create can some day go on the big screen.”

Being a part of the Ammerman Center means that Oscar and Edgardo are attending intensive workshops toward their program requirements during winter and spring breaks. It also means they are utilizing the kinds of technology used to create movies such as “Shrek” and “Finding Nemo.”

This summer, both brothers landed ideal internships: Edgardo with the New London Public Schools, where he applied his creativity to two-dimensional animations and objects for educational purposes and for the school district´s Web site; and Oscar at XVIVO in Rocky Hill, Conn., where he learned computer programs like Softimage XSI. The programs helped him to create and animate anything from model organs to medical tools for a company that, according to its Web site, creates medical and scientific animation for companies like Pfizer, Amgen, PBS and even Walt Disney.

“We´re really looking for internships that piggyback with arts and technology,” said Elizabeth O. Friedman ´80, assistant director of the Ammerman Center. Friedman said both twins landed the internships on their own and worked 40 hours per week for eight weeks during the summer. In Oscar´s case, he was asked to learn new software and create files from that software before he was accepted to the internship.

“He had to prove to them that he was serious,” Friedman said.

When Edgardo and Oscar were in the second grade they moved to the United States with their mother and were reunited with their father.

“The way my father convinced me to come to America was he told me — in this land, they have pizza. We didn´t have pizza where we lived,” Edgardo recalled.

Since the 1970s, their father had worked in the U.S. to send money back to central Mexico, where the twins grew up in a close-knit town that depended mostly on subsistence agriculture.

“They didn´t have a lot of high expectations for me. We come from a village where people don´t ever go to school,” Edgardo said. Oscar said that while elementary and middle school were available in the town, the drop-out rate was high, and there was no opportunity to attend college. In their new home in California, Edgardo´s usual A average sunk to Ds and Fs as he tried to acclimate to a new country and language. He pretended to recite the Pledge of Allegiance because he didn´t know the words.

Meanwhile, the Monteons´ parents worked night and day to support their family.

“They would both wake up at 4 in the morning and come home late at night,” Edgardo said.
Both parents feared what the streets of Pomona might do to their sons and encouraged them to stay off the streets, where gangs were rampant. Instead, the brothers worked hard at their art through high school and were often called upon to design T-shirts and tattoos for their peers. Edgardo, who at first struggled with the language, graduated in the top 5 percent of his class, as did Oscar.

“You either work hard for the next four years in high school or you work really hard for the next 40 years of your life,” Edgardo recalled someone telling him.

It is a sentiment he has passed on to his peers and, now, to the young people he meets.

The Monteons came to Connecticut College through the Bright Prospect Scholar Support Program, a nonprofit charitable organization in Pomona that collaborates with high schools in low-income urban areas to “identify and nurture young people who, against seemingly insurmountable odds, are determined to realize their dream of a college education.”

Bright Prospect helped the Monteons apply to dozens of schools at no cost. When both brothers chose, independently, Connecticut College, the program provided a stipend to purchase books and winter clothing their first year.

“Connecticut College has a very clear commitment to diversifying and the College puts its money where its mouth is,” said Stephanie Campbell, executive director of Bright Prospect. Campbell said the College has been wonderful in providing financial aid to the 13 Bright Prospect Scholars who are enrolled there, more than any other college or university in the country.

Oscar said it was important to him that he leave the environment where he grew up in order to succeed. He considered going to art school but felt that he would be missing out on a well-rounded education and liked the cross-disciplinary experience that Connecticut College offered.

Both brothers say their experience at the College has helped them to expand beyond paint and canvas into new worlds and dimensions. Oscar´s artwork is inspired by movies and stories of ancient people and civilizations, and he plans to create concepts for film design.

Each time he sits down to work on his art, Edgardo says he feels that much closer to being an art director at a studio, which he wants to become.

“Also, I don´t want my brother to beat me. He´s getting better all the time,” Edgardo said.


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