Silas Thompson

Idaho painter Silas Thompson is having his first solo exhibition at the Dana Gallery.

Courtesy photo

The influence of Robert Moore looms large in the Dana Gallery.

Not just in his sprawling canvases – some of which fill whole walls.

It's also in the apprenticeships he gives to younger artists from his home base in Declo, Idaho.

Caleb Meyer, a 30-something Idaho native, apprenticed under Moore and began showing his work at the Dana, even going so far as to move to Missoula, the site of many of his expressive nighttime streetscapes.

The gallery's latest exhibition is by Silas Thompson who apprenticed under both Meyer and Moore.

His show of landscape oils, "Gold, Frankincense and Mirth," contains work that the 25-year-old is particularly proud of.

"Every so often it feels like, you make a really big breakthrough in painting," he said.

In "Midas Autumn," he renders yellow-leafed forest and stream in a more impressionistic fashion than he has in many of his works.

"It feels like it's right on the edge," he said. He thinks if left any more visual information, it'd tip into abstraction.

That's something he learned from Moore, who uses a palette knife to achieve that effect.

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The Twin Falls, Idaho, native began working with Meyer, a painter, when Thompson was in high school and Meyer was a first-time art teacher.

After graduation, he began apprenticing with Meyer at his studio, learning the fundamentals of oil painting.

Thompson was working the night shift stocking shelves at a grocery store. He remembers pulling a full shift and then getting in as much painting as he could before he needed sleep.

At age 21, he began apprenticing with Moore, the Declo artist who has remained the most prominent painter at the Dana for years.

Initially, Thompson was something of a personal assistant: They'd work in the studio, but also helped with run-of-the-mill maintenance of Moore's property.

Moore went back to the beginning with Thompson: they painted in black and white for a time and slowly moved forward from there.

Meanwhile, Thompson would work through Moore's gallery contacts and frame his paintings.

He said Moore taught by example: imparting the strong work ethic, which means producing a lot of paintings.

"It takes a lot of time, a lot of years before you get to where he's at," Thompson said.

Then there's the philosophy: "Being, as an artist, grateful to God for creation and trying to capture some of that creation in painting," he said.

Some of that carries across in the titles of Thompson's paintings: "Majesty and Refuge," or the previously mentioned "Midas Autumn," both of which are on display at the Dana this month.

After several years participating in group shows, gallery owner Dudley Dana gave him his first solo exhibition.

Dana, a photographer, admires the way Thompson includes broken edges in his imagery.

Other accolades have come from Southwest art magazine, which named Thompson on its list of "21 Under 31" young artists to watch earlier this year. (It's an award that his teacher Meyer also won.)

Asked what he wants to work on next, Thompson spent more effort thanking his mentors than elaborating on his own plans.

"I just want to keep painting and growing," he said. "I don't have a big house or a lot of loans."

Without anything to pay off, he doesn't have to think about painting as a product to keep moving.

"I don't have to pump out stuff just to sell stuff," he said.

Partially, that's because he went the apprenticeship route instead of art school. That's not a knock against art school, he just doesn't have $80,000 in debt. That's thanks to the apprenticeship, which he points out was the traditional method of learning to be an artist in earlier times. And he was sure to thank his mentors again.

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At Real Good, artist Halisa Hubbard and space operator Jack Metcalf collaborated on "Polybius," which they've described as "a deconstruction of the American video arcade." Expect replicas of classic games, stripped of their electronics and replaced with human-operated opponents and obstacles. As usual, attendees should expect interactive art elements, the enjoyment of which depends on whether you'd like to take part.

The opening will take place from 8 to 10 p.m. on First Friday only. The space is located at 1205 Defoe St. No. 1. For more information, go to realgoodartspace.com.

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A significant long-term exhibition is coming down over at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture, where "The Intimate Diebenkorn," a selection of two galleries' worth of drawings and paintings on paper, has been on display since summer.

Diebenkorn is best known for his "Ocean Park" series, a decades-long exploration of architectural abstraction and nuanced color named for the artist's California neighborhood. These drawings span most of his career, stretching back into his earlier bodies of work in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Saulsalito, California, where his sense of color and line were more aggressive, with broader hints of Robert Motherwell's influence.

The exhibition also covers a middle period when he returned to the figure and the landscape. Renderings of the latter, particularly the hilly neighborhoods of California, hint at the transition back into pure abstraction. Like everything Diebenkorn did, the exhibition is worth revisiting.

The MMAC's Meloy and Paxson galleries are located in the PAR-TV Center at the University of Montana. Regular gallery hours are Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday noon to 3 p.m. and Friday noon to 6 p.m.

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Arts & Entertainment Reporter

Entertainment Editor for The Missoulian.