Featuring creatures and critters of all shapes and sizes, the Zootown Arts Community Center’s annual group show in tandem with the International Wildlife Film Festival boasts sculptures, prints, paintings, photography, textiles and more.
“Montana Wild” is on display through April 30 in a virtual gallery on the ZACC’s website and can also be viewed in the nonprofit’s Giant Front Windows Gallery on Main Street. The show is paired alongside IWFF, which runs through Saturday.
The open show includes a mix of returning artists like Kim Foils and John Thompson, as well as new faces like Joe Boddy and Andrea Morawic.
“The greatest thing about this show being open is you’ll have a piece from somebody who’s an experienced artist in Missoula and everybody knows their name next to a student’s work,” said gallery manager Patricia Thornton.
She set up the display currently visible at the ZACC’s downtown storefront last week and said people seemed to be uplifted walking by and seeing fresh art going up.
“There were people high-fiving through the window and giving the thumbs up. It was really great.”
There are wood-carved mythical creatures from Thompson, Missoula’s “unofficial carousel artist,” a woodpecker painting by Laura Blue Palmer, a stone sculpture of a mother and baby bunny and Foils colorful tiger collage, to name a few.
While the ZACC is disappointed they can’t show art in their new facility right now, they’re making every effort they can to maintain a space for artists to share their work and provide shows for the community.
“We’re all heartbroken because we just opened the main gallery, and all the spaces are just so amazing and we want to be in those spaces,” Thornton said. “Everybody is just going with the flow of the coronavirus.”
Morawic, a portrait and landscape artist, incorporated the pandemic and her feelings around it into her piece, “Family Portrait.”
“I just kind of had this sentence in my head, ‘No matter the distance, you still have your roots.’ I based it off that because before all of the lockdown and everything happened, I was actually going to visit family in Germany, so there’s a great distance there,” the recent University of Montana graduate said.
She already had a pencil sketch going, but said the piece evolved quite a bit as the pandemic worsened and she realized she wouldn’t be seeing her family.
“It was kind of a way for me to cope with that realization. I felt inspired to add more to it once the shutdown happened.”
In the piece, a female face is engulfed in swirls of pale blue and black ink wash and pen lines, with gold leaf highlights. She’s emerging from what looks like an abstract birds-eye view of a river and forest scene, with her face framed by tree-like figures.
“The gold leaf comes from the tradition of fixing broken plates with gold and highlighting these injuries that happen,” she said. “I like to think of that as mental healing.”
The traditional Japanese art form is known as Kintsukuroi.
Much of Morawic’s work incorporates nature or wildlife in some way, a reflection of her Montana upbringing spent hiking and camping in the wilderness.
“To be in nature, it’s very calming,” she said, adding she gets a similar feeling when she’s creating art. “You put the two together and it’s a wonderful process.”
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