Montoya was born at San Juan Pueblo (now Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo) in the family home on the edge of the plaza. His father passed away while Tommy was very young so his mother, originally from Nambe Pueblo, raised him herself.
Montoya attended the Santa Fe Indian School and the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. He continued on to get his BFA and MFA degrees at California colleges. After returning to the pueblo from California, Montoya took a job as technical illustrator and photographer at Los Alamos National Labs. He pursued his art in the evenings. Once his reputation was established and his commissions increased, he quit his job at Los Alamos and pursued his art career full time.
Ohkay Owingeh is the largest, most northerly, and the most geographically isolated of the six Tewa villages. It is known as one of the pueblos where ritual and political matters continue to be strictly observed. Living and working in this environment, Montoya developed two independent sides of his art: figurative studies of traditional Tewa ritual; and his more cerebral, purely abstract studies of color and form. His popular figurative works brim with vitality and action. His strong asymmetric compositions come to life as if one were witnessing a ceremonial function at the pueblo rather than viewing a piece of art.
Source: Adobe Gallery