Erin Currier

UFC Fighter Nicco Montano as a Not-So-Repentant-Magdalena (after Gentileschi)

Acrylic & mixed media on panel, 36"h x 24"w, Item No. 16372,

The daughter of a Gold Gloves boxer and a rodeo queen, born and raised on New Mexico's Navajo Nation reservation, Nicco Montano (Dine, Chickasaw) was the first women's flyweight champion and the first Native champion in UFC history.

Over the years, portraits of mixed martial artists and boxers, such as Amanda Nunez, Rose Namajunas, and Johnny Tapia, have become part of my overall oeuvre-- as I have great admiration for the fighters’ strength, courage, and sheer athleticism.  Having practiced martial arts myself (for personal well-being—not professionally!), I know firsthand the commitment the art entails at the level in which UFC Fighters must train.  I wanted to pay homage to Nicco Montano not only for the above reasons, but also because she has used her successes as a fighter to advocate for the preservation of the Indigenous traditions and language of her ancestors. For instance, she delivered a speech at a parade in her honor-- attended by Indigenous peoples all over the Americas-- in Navajo: which she had learned from her grandfathers (both World War II code-talkers). 

    The “Penitente Magdalena” is a recurrent theme in Art History that has inspired numerous masterpieces.  I wanted to paint my own version of Mary Magdalene, however, I don’t feel that women should have to repent for their passion, their sexuality, their sensuality, for defending their fellows, and for fighting for what they believe in.  I wanted to paint a “not-so-repentant-Magdalena” and Nicco Montano embodied the idea. In the portrait, I’ve replaced Magdalena’s robe with a boxer’s hoodie, the skull has been replaced by a fighter’s glove. My Magdalena has lifted her head to gaze directly, unflinchingly, yet kindly, and unapologetically, into the eyes of the viewer.

"So much of what I represent metaphorically and physically is about being the underdog and coming out on top," Montano said. "It's having those obstacles to overcome with everyone thinking 'she's going to lose.' Then changing everybody's minds and changing beliefs. A lot of indigenous peoples have seen that and felt it firsthand."

Over the years, portraits of mixed martial artists and boxers, such as Amanda Nunez, Rose Namajunas, and Johnny Tapia, have become part of my overall oeuvre-- as I have great admiration for the fighters’ strength, courage, and sheer athleticism.  Having practiced martial arts myself (for personal well-being—not professionally!), I know firsthand the commitment the art entails at the level in which UFC Fighters must train.  I wanted to pay homage to Nicco Montano not only for the above reasons, but also because she has used her successes as a fighter to advocate for the preservation of the Indigenous traditions and language of her ancestors. For instance, she delivered a speech at a parade in her honor-- attended by Indigenous peoples all over the Americas-- in Navajo: which she had learned from her grandfathers (both World War II code-talkers). 


Join