Photographer Shawn Bell Smith’s series, “Sept. 10th,” is part the VonCommon art collective’s “Missoula 911” group exhibition.

Shawn Bell Smith

In years past, VonCommon, a Missoula art collective, has hosted an annual group show on Sept. 11.

It was based on a "911" or "emergency" theme, and was typically dedicated to showcasing current work by artists in Missoula.

This year, artists were encouraged to submit work that contemplates the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the concept of anniversaries in general, or base their work on events that happened on Sept. 11 throughout history.

"We've expanded the theme to fit the historic meanings behind that date," said Marlo Crocifisso, one of the collective's artists.

"We wanted to open it up for exploration: For people to find other events besides the one that is so permeated in American culture now from those attacks," she said. "We also wanted people to explore that date in 2001, to feel free to explore where they were, their thoughts, their interpretation of that date."

Some artists picked events, obscure and not, tied to the date.

Artist Lauren Tyler Norby has produced a glass-and-rubber sculpture called "Hard Luck," about the theft of the famed Hope diamond on Sept. 11, 1792, after the arrest of its owners, Louis and Marie Antoinette.

Courtney Blazon produced a lightly surrealist drawing of Benjamin Franklin writing his famous quote, "There was never a good war, or a bad peace," which he happened to write on Sept. 11.

Photographer Shawn Bell Smith submitted a series of photographs called "Sept. 10th," all night-time scenes with a single lighting source.

"It seems like there's such a strong emotion in these pieces - the calm before the storm. Everything seems in its right place just before something tragic happens," said Adelaide Gale Every, one of VonCommon's resident artists.

Loryn Zerr created an assemblage piece that's viewed in the round, dedicated to her late husband, who died on Sept. 11, 2004. "There are doors and drawers that you can open up," Every said. Each is filled with mementos of his, such as a sheet of song lyrics he'd written down.

Others had open-ended conceptual works.

Alissa Wynne created a series of 50 slips of wide-ruled paper, the kind you learn to write on as a kid, that are covered in hatch marks. It's titled, "What I Learned in School Today."

"She's a younger artist, so I was interested in what that younger generation had experienced and taken with them," Crocifisso said.

Two print-makers tied their works directly to the events in 2001. Dannette Fadness' black-and-white print creates a collage of disaster: burning buildings, smoke-filled skies, cowering faces and an ominous eagle overlooking the scene. David Sampson's more minimal diptych features a close-up view of an insect assembled from human fingers, entitled "Dust."

There are performance pieces lined up as well.

Author Josh Wagner will read a poem about Ground Zero, and another short piece about the invention of the figure of Death from his upcoming collection, "Nothing in Mind," and another piece about a homeless man in Brazil who was captured on video getting killed while rescuing a hostage at a cathedral.

Janaina Vieira-Marques will have an installation piece on an 8-by-8-foot stage using shoes "arranged in mid-motion" and a bucket of white flowers. The piece will incorporate live dance from Laurel Sears of Headwaters and Bare Bait Dance companies.

Tricia Opstad, who specializes in contact improvisation dance, will also have stage-based dance piece, "Frame, I’m Gonna Live 4EVER" that uses empty frames as a prop device.

Most of the artists participating in the Friday event have pieces in the Missoula Monster Project at the Zootown Arts Community Center, so the event has been shifted to 7 to 10 p.m. to avoid a conflict.

VonCommon is a collective of Missoula artists who banded together for shared studio space. The other artists include Every, Elisha Harteis, lady pajama, Kerry Eyman, Aaron Jennings, Bridey O'Brien and Nate Biehl.

In the coming months, they plan to host informal open studios where people can come see their art, and then in December they'll have the annual ArtBlizzard, a holiday art fair.

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Arts & Entertainment Reporter

Entertainment Editor for The Missoulian.