Noah Ptolemy works out his issues - and he seems to attract many - in his art, disjointed and cerebral multimedia pieces that are more psychological than esthetic.
He does so in a tiny one-room flat in the Howard Apartments downtown, where he lives and sleeps among his paintings, which stare at him day and night, serving as a sort of spiritual biofeedback.
"What I've really learned to do is actually deal with my work, and not let it overtake me," said Ptolemy, a Detroit native who's lived in Missoula for just over a year but has already had 14 shows. "You can imagine that this stuff can overtake you. But every morning, I wake up and it reminds me of what I'm doing. I'm not just waking up in some white-walled room with puffy white sheets. I'm living raw."
Life is more colorful these days for Ptolemy - not in any sort of life-appraisal sense, but quite literally. Those paintings he sleeps next to have changed abruptly in a new series that's more Picasso and less Jean-Michel Basquiat, the late Brooklyn street artist whose gritty, urban work Ptolemy's has been compared to.
With bold splashes of bright colors and simpler forms, Ptolemy has deviated from his blacks and grays and social commentary into something more playful but nevertheless serious.
The new series of six paintings, which will be on view at the Catalyst in June, are a bold departure for Ptolemy - in his own word, less "scatterbrained."
"It's basically simplifying everything I want to say," said Ptolemy. "I'm getting it all into a figure, a thing, this something that I want to say."
What does he want to say? Well, in one work - "I'm lost in the mall and I can't find my mom," identical portraits of a young woman, set next to each other upside-down - he wants to send a message to his girlfriend.
"It's sort of a personal thing," said Ptolemy, standing in front of the piece. "Me and my girlfriend were having lots of ups and downs. When you're with a girl, it tends to take up a lot of your life. … As my girlfriend put it when we got back together, 'It's kind of our ups and downs, literally.' It's the two faces of her - the good, the bad, the pros, the cons."
Ptolemy has never had much money, so he's rarely gotten the expensive paints that made this exhibit possible. But through some hard work and a trade, he landed some pricey art supplies, including some high-end paints.
Still, armed with a rainbow, Ptolemy - always the emotional discontent - went searching for a thunderstorm.
"Picasso said you have to attack the canvas, that it's better to start a painting angry than mellow, or being completely sad," he said. "It's better to go in with a completely full emotion. That's what these things came from. I was disgusted with myself, angry, down. You live in a room like this, and you go mad sometimes."
OTHER FIRST FRIDAY EVENTS
All Around Art, 123 W. Broadway, 829-3634: In June, new large landscape paintings by Arlee artist Peter Kola. First Friday reception, 5-8 p.m.
The Artists Shop, 306 N. Higgins: In June, the fifth annual Teapot Show, an invitational featuring the work in clay, fabric and paper of 35 artists from western Montana. First Friday reception, 5-8 p.m.
The Badlander: First Friday, June 1, 6-9 p.m. Art by Jonathan Marquis and Adelaide Every. Music by The Mermaid.
Bernice's Bakery, 190 S. Third St. W., Missoula, 728-1358: Featured in June: Dirk Lee, oils on canvas, paintings of women over the age of 40. First Friday reception, 7-8 p.m.
Betty's Divine, 521 S. Higgins Ave., 721-4777: In June, stenciled artwork of Marlo Crosifisso, "Legs, Stags and Things That Fly." The First Friday event features two screenings of "Montana Canvas," a three-part PBS series that profiles independent female artists from Montana - Stephanie Frostad, singer-songwriter Sonya Lacava and clothing designer Emily Kurth. The screenings will take place at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. during the First Friday reception, 5-8 p.m. Acoustic music by Freewood.
Bitterroot River Inn, Hamilton: Montana Professional Artists Association Show and Sale, June 8-10. Friday reception, 6-10 p.m. Show hours, Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Butterfly Herbs, 232 N. Higgins Ave., 728-8780: In June, "Mondo Bizzarro Constructoids and Some Pretty Pictures," new works by Wes St. John. First Friday reception, 5-8 p.m.
The Catalyst, 111 N. Higgins, 542-1337: In June, new works by Missoula artist Noah Ptolemy, eight to 10 paintings on canvas. First Friday reception, 5-8 p.m.
Ceretana Gallery, 801 Sherwood Ave.: In June, black-and-white photography by Amy Doty, a show titled "Exposed," featuring images revealing hidden emotions and human fetishes. First Friday reception, 5-9:30 p.m., featuring music by Garden City Expendables, Jacktop Town and Post Boredom Riot. $5 donation requested at the door.
The Dana Gallery, 246 N. Higgins Ave.: In June, introducing the new works of the Dana Gallery's celebrated artists of the summer of 2006. The June show features acclaimed Impressionist painter Robert Moore; Billings artist Carol Spielman; Parvin of Seattle; Oregon artists Robert Schlegel and Ken Roth; Davi Nelson of Ryegate; and bronze sculptor Joe Halko. First Friday reception, 5-8 p.m.
dB Sound, 420 N. Higgins Ave., 728-9685: Oil paintings by Elizabeth Bass will be on display during First Friday, 5-8 p.m.
First Presbyterian Church, 235 S. Fifth St. W.: Art in the Upper Room, a show of local artists, with music by Jacob Kuntz and others. First Friday reception, 5-8 p.m., with refreshments.
Gallery Saintonge, 216 N. Higgins Ave., 543-0171: In June, "The Rocky Mountain School of Photography Instructor Show," featuring work by instructors Neil Chaput de Saintonge, Tony Rizzuto, David Marx, Marcy James, Allison Leach, Jeremy Lurgio, Steven Begleiter, Elizabeth Stone, Kathy Eyster and more. First Friday reception, 5-8 p.m.
La Parrilla: In June, birds in metal, welded sculptures and zinc plate etchings by artist Kate Davis. First Friday reception, 5-8 p.m.
Missoula Art Museum, 335 N. Pattee St., 728-0447: Featured: "New Spaces/New Vision," a series of six exhibitions funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation. Artists are Bently Spang and Brad Allen. Featured through July 28: "Blake Haygood, Depending on Your Perspective it Might Be O.K." Featured through June 8: "Women Beyond Borders." Featured June 15-Aug. 7, Faith Ringgold Exhibition. First Friday reception, 5-8 p.m., with artist reception and gallery talk with Blake Haygood, 7 p.m.
Monte Dolack Gallery, 139 W. Front St., 549-3248: In June, on view will be Dolack's four newest images "Kingfisher," "Witness to Change," "From the Mountains to the Prairies" and "Montana Power." Also on display will be the watercolors and prints of Mary Beth Percival, the jewelry of Marlene Dolack and the work of silversmith D.G. Walker. First Friday reception, 5-8 p.m.
Opportunity at the Palace Gallery, 149 W. Broadway, 329-1755: Featured: hand painted ceramic tiles by Chris Olson. Opening, June 1, 6-8 p.m.
The Sacajawea Gallery, 213 Main St., Stevensville, 777-3806: The first Bitterroot Birding and Nature Festival Art Show and Auction, with opening reception from 6-9 p.m. The show featuring photography, printmaking, painting, drawing, sculpture, fiber arts and bead work from 46 artists around the Northwest. An auction will be held June 23 under the direction of Troy Black of Black and Associates Auctioneers from Coeur d'Alene.
Whooping Crones Gallery, 508 E. Broadway, 721-3042: In June, "Night Visions" by M. Scott Miller, with new ceramics by Will Farrington and Al Huntsman, and new prints by Rabbit and Allen Knows Gun. Kelly Apgar will be demonstrating floor cloth painting at First Friday reception, 5-8 p.m.
The 344 Gallery, 344 Main St.: Featured in June, photographs by nature and outdoor photographer Nick Fucci.
Ceres Bakery, 318 Main St., (406) 755-8552: Featured in June, artist Judy Stevenson's photographs. First Friday reception, 6-8 p.m.
Colter Coffee Roasting, 424 Main St.: Fishnet Grove provides live jazz and blues from 7-10 p.m. during the First Friday art walk.
Doc Walker Photography, 37 Fifth St. E., (406) 752-6390: Photographs of Glacier National Park will be on display during the First Friday art walk, 6-8 p.m.
Montana Stone Gallery, 418 Main St., (406) 756-7625: In June, "Good Art Won't Match Your Sofa," work by Kelly Apgar, and "Cattle Marker Paintings," on display through June 22. First Friday reception, 6-8 p.m.
Noice Studio & Gallery, 127 Main St., (406) 755-5321: Live music by 13-year-old pianist Damaris Gemmer, playing her own compositions and classical pieces during the First Friday art walk, 6-8 p.m.
Paint, Metal and Mud, 16 First St.: In June, "Paw Prints on My Heart," featuring work by Pia Eaves. A percentage of the sales of this show will be donated to the NWMT Humane Society. First Friday reception, 6-8 p.m., featuring music by Porter Creek.
Sassafras, 120 Main St., (406) 752-2433: Art and craft demos, including china mosaic, silk painting, bear felting, knitting, oil painting and cross-stitching cards. Live music at the First Friday reception, 6-8 p.m., by the Tradewinds.
OTHER GALLERY LISTINGS
Sandpiper Gallery, 2 First Ave. E., Polson: Featured through June 2, Marie, A.M. and Michael Stockhill's work.
Rocky Mountain Bank, corner of Main and Third streets, Stevensville: Featured through June: paintings and sketchbook prints by Bob Phinney.
Montana Museum of Art & Culture, University of Montana, in the PAR-TV building on the UM campus, 243-2019: Featured through June 30: Marilyn Bruya: A Retrospective. Summer hours (through Aug. 31): Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.