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Gordon McConnell: When the West Was Won
Through May 02, 2020
Morris and Helen Silver Foundation Gallery

Born in 1950 and raised in southeastern Colorado, James Gordon McConnell grew up watching Western films with his dad. Now based in Billings, McConnell made his newest body of work, When the West Was Won, over the past five years. Since the late 1980s, McConnell has created works inspired by Western films and informed by his sustained study of the history of the American West and its representations in literature, art, film, and photography.

Dr. Leanne Gilbertson, Assistant Professor of Art (Art History), Director of the Northcutt Steele Gallery at Montana State University Billings, and curator of When the West Was Won states:

"The works interrogate the intersections of a series of iconic and familiar scenes of the West with the
history of modern photography and film-making, and considers their roles in constructing ideals of
American masculinity. Collectively, the works offer an opportunity to examine these rich intellectual
concerns in a suite of lovingly-wrought, carefully constructed images that prompt us to consider our
personal attachments and investments in these scenes—the promises they hold, and the losses they contain and perhaps even perpetuate. Together McConnell’s works offer a timely meditation on representations of the American West and depictions of America’s past at a moment when such issues have once-again assumed significant political dimensions on the national and international stage."

McConnell, a self-described postmodern painter, has wrestled with the complicated inheritance of the West, the active colonization and decimation of Indigenous populations, the perpetuation of tired myths, of hyper-masculinity, of violence. He says, “My work is informed by a post-modernist aesthetic of appropriation, allegory, and mediated experience. At first, I had a subversive or satirical intention. The early work was intentionally crude and also tended toward darkness and expressionistic violence. As I’ve matured as an artist, my intentions have [been to]… honor the heritage of the West.”

McConnell’s father, J. G., was born in 1918 on the range near Pampa, Texas, and raised on the frontier
stories of his great uncle and aunt, Henry and Fanny Lovett—buffalo hunters and ranchers. J. G.’s uncle, Skinny Adams, was range boss on Charles Goodnight’s legendary JA Ranch in the Texas Panhandle. Goodnight [1836–1929], one of the principal cattlemen who drove wild Texas longhorns north in the great drives after the Civil War, was the reputed model for author Larry McMurtry’s character Woodrow Call in Lonesome Dove. J. G. reluctantly left ranching in 1959 but retained “a great love for the mythic West,” and watched the Encore Westerns channel “obsessively.” His passion for Western film was contagious, and McConnell recalls how his father could recount the blow-by-blow plot of John Ford’s 1946 masterwork My Darling Clementine which remains one of McConnell’s visual touchstones.

McConnell received a BA in Studio Art from Baylor University and an MA in Art history from the University of Colorado at Boulder. After receiving his BA, McConnell spent a semester at California Institute of the Arts, where he studied with John Baldessari. McConnell moved to Montana in 1982 and served as curator at the Yellowstone Art Museum for over 20 years

This exhibition was organized by the Northcutt Steele Gallery at Montana State Uni

Out of Modernism
Shott Family Gallery
Through May 02, 2020

Bonjorni, Mary Ann
DeWeese, Josh
Karson, Terry
Smith, Jaune Quick-to-See
Spang, Bently
Out of Modernism

While the definition of modern art and the time frame of the movement are generally accepted, definitions of postmodernism are much less agreed upon. MAM is committed to ensuring the legacy of Montana Modernism as a focus of programming and the MAM Collection. Just this past Fall, MAM featured an exhibition titled, From the Ground Up, which featured examples of how craft was intertwined with the roots of Modernism in Montana in the 1950s through the 1970s. As a continuation of this line of inquiry, Out of Modernism is a focus exhibition that highlights some of the critical tenets of postmodernism featuring works by Montana artists from the MAM Collection.

Touchstones of postmodernism include the appropriation and re-contextualization of images, the rejection of a singular narrative in favor of pluralism, and often healthy doses of irony and skepticism towards the notion of universal truths. One of the best examples of a postmodern approach can be found in the example of Robert DeWeese. DeWeese (d. 1990)and with his wife Gennie (d. 2007) are considered as primary progenitors of the vibrant modernism movement in Montana. However Robert’s aesthetic strategies mirror postmodern developments in particular. He was an especially fluid artist who worked easily across media and styles and by the 1970s and early 1980s he was embracing ideas that would become definitive tenets of postmodernism. In Fall (1983), a curtain hangs in front of a wooden frame. Inset in the frame are index cards that include sketches and notes glued to a background—a great example of appropriation and re-contextualization. Drawing the curtain back, is the viewer looking into the past, the future, or both?

DeWeese was adept at combining text and imagery to create open ended meanings.

In addition, the exhibition includes works by MaryAnn Bonjorni, Terry Karson, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Dennis Voss, Bentley Spang, and others. Out of Modernism is shown adjacent to Gordon McConnell’s postmodernist painting exhibition, When the West Was Won.

This exhibtion was organized and curated by the Missoula Art Museum

Featured Acquisitions in the MAM Collection
Through May 02, 2020

This spring, MAM features five collages by Terry Karson, donated by his estate in 2017, to complement his sculpture shown in Out of Modernism in the adjacent Shott Family Gallery, February 25 through May 2.

Faience VIII
Fragment #245
Fragment #291
Fragment #338
Fragment #390

Stephen Braun's Montana Legacy, a major ceramic wall relief, is on view in the Travel Montana Lobby during his solo exhibition in the Carnegie Galleries, March 3 through August 8.

Stephen Braun, Montana Legacy, 2011, ceramic wall relief, approximately 4 x 6'. Missoula Art Museum

Collection, purchase funded in part with support from Virdinia Moffett, Dan Weinberg, and Roger Barber, 2014.01, 9c) Stephen Braun.

Stephen Braun: Hindsight and Foresight Are 20/20
Through September 19, 2020
Carnegie Gallery

In a corner of northwest Montana, deep in the woods, Stephen Braun is making powerful, challenging ceramic sculptures. “I love the planet and all of its beauty. But all I see is loss. I see the scars we leave to support our consumptive nature. We leave a landscape of heartache…it breaks my heart to see how ubiquitous we’ve been in radically changing our environment.

Self-deprecating and evasive, Braun would rather focus on his artwork than himself as an artist, or his history of activism. He says, “I have tried for many years to create change through environmental activism, legal challenges, and legislation. My art is just another form of activism.”

For this exhibit, he’s been making his trademark environmentally, and socially- and politically-themed sculptures using what he calls a "bastardized American raku technique" that was pioneered by Paul Soldner in the 1960s. The exhibit will include large, narrative wall-based and free-standing sculptures, some of which encourage audience interaction, including pieces that spin and works intended to be walked directly upon, around, or through.

Braun comes from a long history of radical artists. As an anthropology student at the University of Montana, he was introduced to ceramics and studied with ceramics pioneer Rudy Autio, conceptual artist Dennis Voss, and sculptor Ken Little. As a student, he lived up Grant Creek in a tipi for 4½ years, despite recorded temperatures as low as -50°F, biking 13 miles to his site, and scavenging food out of dumpsters. “I tried to figure out the minimal level of consumption I needed in order to live and after doing this I determined everything else I consume is in excess”.

This commitment impacts his studio practice, in particular. Braun explains, “Art materials are linked to extractive industries and filled with heavy chemicals. I’m judicious in what I make. It’s a moral and ethical question…a conundrum. Hopefully the content, the impact, of my work will supersede the resources that go into making it.”

Spanning over 30 years, Braun’s career comprises solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally, as well as broad representation in public and private collections. This exhibition will be accompanied by a new illustrated catalog with essays of Braun’s work by artist and writer Peter Koch, critic Lucy Lippard, and MAM Senior Curator Brandon Reintjes.

This exhibition is sponsoed by LH Project, with project support by Chris Antemann, Jakob Haßlacher Tim Speyer, Virginia Moffett, Monica Pastor, Dan Weinberg, Pat Sullivan and Jim Kolva, and Richard Braun.

Love Letters to the Collection
March 03 - December 31, 2020
Lynda M. Frost Contemporary American Indian Art Gallery

Bartow, Rick
Loos, Donna
Pitt, Lillian
Smith, Jaune Quick-to-See
Love Letters to the Collection

Dear Reader,
We invite you to visit Love Letters to the Collection and take part in creating meaning around the works on view. But if you can’t attend or want to try on this participatory format first, this newsletter is our love letter to you. No matter where you are now, we cherish your unique insights. We want to spend more time with you, to have you join the museum’s story, to invite you to participate in the MAM Collection story. We trust your open heart and mind. We don’t think you need to be a curator, artist, or scholar to express ideas, emotions, and questions about an artwork.

Consider this image by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, the first artist whose work was represented in the
Contemporary American Indian Art Collection, and who has donated dozens of her own and other Native artists’ works to MAM. Send a love letter to this artwork by emailing 40000years@missoulaartmuseum.org.

Your comments will help the museum and the public better understand the importance of this artwork. MAM will add your comments to the collection record, and we might share your message in the Love Letters exhibit, but we won’t share your name unless you tell us to or we ask you separately.

If you’re unsure, start simply with these questions:

What do you notice?

What do you wonder?

What does this piece mean to you?

We can’t wait to hear what you have to say!



Earthborn: 30 Seconds to 40 Moons
Through August 22, 2020
Aresty Gallery

Earthborn: 30 Seconds to 40 Moons features recent work by photographers Elizabeth Stone of Greenough, MT and Linda Alterwitz of Las Vegas, NV. Though they work independently, they share an interest in wellness. They use poetic processes to explore human awareness of the body, cycles, loss, and connection and suggest that what is deeply personal and fleeting may be universal and timeless.

In January 2012, Stone’s mother began receiving personal care for the Parkinson’s disease that was slowly taking her life and in April 2015, she passed away. Over the course of those 40 months, Stone watched her physical and mental health wax and wane like the cycles of the moon. “Mythology and astrology have taught us that the moon is a symbol of subtlety,” Stone says, “a luminary that provides light through reflection. As my mom’s death neared she reflected more light.” As part of her healing process, Stone undertook a project to photograph the pages of notes that her mother’s caregivers wrote daily. Every day of the last 40 months of her mother’s life were recorded in handwritten notebooks, which totaled more than 3,000 pages. The culmination of Stone’s project is a series of 40 composite images, each unique and made from layers of photographs of notes, that each represent phases of the moon. “Collaborating with my mom’s caregivers, weaving their words together, creates a blueprint of my mom’s existence as she returns to the stars.”

Alterwitz also embraces forces beyond her control to create images that connect human life with the cosmos. Just Breathe is an ongoing series that represents the artist’s unique vision of self-portraits. For this series, Alterwitz recruited participants to capture 30-second spans of life by photographing the process of breathing. While lying outside on their backs, collaborators rested a camera on their diaphragm, pointing skyward, and simply breathed. Alterwitz clicked open the shutter for a 30-second exposure and in doing so captured a truly unique image that combined the skyscape with the movement of the individual’s breathing. Each photograph, Alterwitz explains, documented the “physicality and essence of each participant as well as their common connection to the infinite.”

Alterwitz and Stone completed their projects independently, only realizing the overlaps in their approach later. The two collaborated to present a joint exhibition that is featured here at MAM before continuing to Las Vegas in Fall 2020. **This exhibition was originally slated to close on July 25, however, due to extended closures because of COVID-19, the show now closes on August 22, 2020.

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