Thirty years ago, the Missoula Art Museum hosted an exhibition called "Sweetgrass, Cedar and Sage" curated by artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Harmony Hammond that surveyed contemporary art by Native women.
Senior curator Brandon Reintjes said the show presented work, frequently ignored by the museum and gallery world, and made a case for its groundbreaking qualities.
To mark the anniversary, the MAM reached out to artist Wendy Red Star, who grew up on the Crow Reservation in Montana, to make a similar survey of contemporary work. Red Star, who now works out of Portland, Oregon, is tapped into the national art community, including a feature in Art in America.
"She brings in important perspectives and connections that we don't otherwise have," Reintjes said.
The resulting exhibition, "Our Side," features work by four indigenous women artists: Elisa Harkins, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Marianne Nicolson and Tanis S’eiltin. Their work spans tradition and contemporary issues and traditional and contemporary media.
The artists are concentrated in the Pacific Northwest with two from Canada.
The title is taken from the word "Bíiluuke." In her curator's statement, Red Star writes that it "implies that one has the same ancestry, language, spiritual beliefs, territory, and social structure." She goes on to say that the artists "creatively investigate identity, language, and territory, from their individual perspectives. Sharing a common understanding of the significance of origin stories as a temporal and historical space where community is shaped, each artist works from a broad range of media including performance, sculpture, painting, sound, social engagement, and video, and to maintain common ties around indigenous narratives, engagement with community, feminism, activism, and the importance of specificity.”
Between the four artists, a wide swath of media is covered.
Harkins, of the Muscogee Creek Nation and raised in Oklahoma, shares her video and performance pieces, plus a headdress used in one of the videos. The performance piece uses dance and traditional and contemporary music.
Nicolson, of the Dzawada'enuxw First Nation in the Pacific Northwest, is represented with a large-scale painting.
Linklater, originally from southern Alaska, has two installation works that incorporate text, fabric and found objects. S’eiltin, of Tlingit heritage, presented three hand-sewn garments.
On First Friday, Red Star and three of the artists will be on hand for a gallery talk, and Harkins will present a performance piece. On Saturday, they'll give a gallery tour to discuss their work individually, followed by a panel discussion.
The Missoula Art Museum will have a First Friday exhibition on Friday, Dec. 1, from 5 to 8 p.m. Curator Wendy Red Star and three of the artists, Elisa Harkins, Marianne Nicolson, Tanis S’eiltin, will be on hand. Harkins will present a performance art piece and there will be a gallery talk at 6:45 p.m.
On Saturday, the artists will give a tour of the exhibition and then hold a panel discussion on their work.
The tour and talk start at 11 p.m.
Eastern Montana native and L.A.-trained artist Dennis Sloan is sharing new paintings in "The Art of Refinement" this month.
According to gallery owner Don Mundt, the exhibit includes "recent works and past works that are abstractions and impressions of nature. The careful refinement of hues and color values all contribute to a sense of space and tranquility." While Sloan has worked in this style for decades, the sharp lines, bright palette and gradients are back in vogue, and many of the pieces wouldn't look out of place as minimalist cover art for an electronic album.
Sloan's work is on display until Dec. 29. The First Friday reception is from 5 to 9 p.m. at the gallery, located at 709 Ronan St. For more information, go to 406-541-7100 or montanaart.com.
Elsewhere on First Friday, those in search of gifts should check out a few of the holiday shows.
The Radius Gallery has hundreds of gift-sized pieces in all mediums for its third-annual holiday exhibition. They're open on First Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. at 114 E. Main St.
Over at the Clay Studio of Missoula, there are myriad styles of gorgeous, functional ceramics that make long-lasting gifts that the recipient can use every day. The Clay Studio's First Friday reception is from 5 to 8 p.m. at 1106 Hawthorne St.