Photographs contemplating family, migration and an artist's move from Missoula to Sweden. A Wisconsin artist's prints that mix indigenous beadwork and abstraction. A performance by his live band, right in the gallery. A Bozeman artist's haunting sculptures in the Missoula Art Park.
The Missoula Art Museum's next Art Swing event on Friday, May 31, looks to be one of its most eclectic events yet.
Linda Thompson, a former Missoulian photographer, traveled from Sweden to install "Emigrant Memoir," a years-long project. (See related story.)
In this case, the live music will come from John Hitchcock, a printmaker and associate dean from the University of Wisconsin Madison.
Hitchcock is bringing his band, Nate Meng and the Stolen Sea, to perform music from a new album that accompanies his exhibition, "Bury the Hatchet/Prayer My P'Ah-Be."
Hitchcock, whose heritage includes Comanche, Kiowa, German and Dutch, came to Missoula in 2017 and produced more than 100 original prints in a collaboration with the MAM and MATRIX Press at the University of Montana. A smaller selection were displayed as part of a group show, "Shape of Things: Contemporary Indigenous Approaches to Abstraction."
This selection of 20 large prints, from his "Flatlander" series, are informed by his residency at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, where he researched and sketched artifacts, including beadwork patterns. He transferred the sketches directly to prints, where they were layered with an emphasis on bright color.
Hitchcock also plays in bands, and broached the idea of bringing his art — and his musical work — together. In the exhibition gallery, they arranged a small, white-cube playing area, with neon lights shaped like bison on the walls and prints of bison skins on the ground. He also screen-printed the album sleeves, which have been arranged into an installation with a taxidermied bison head. A copy of his album plays in the gallery, too. The large chamber-folk ensemble accompanies indigenous stories and songs.
They'll also perform on Saturday, June 1, at the Zootown Arts Community Center, with Oh, Rose, Hannah Edlen, and Arrowleaf. They'll make screen prints at the show, and conveniently enough the ZACC has the gear to do so within eye-shot of the stage. Hitchcock appears to be the ideal artist for a show at the basement performance space, Reintjes said.
This marks the third season of the Missoula Art Park, which spans Pine Street with room for installations on the MAM's side and the area in front of Adventure Cycling.
The featured artist this summer is Clarice Dreyer, a Missoula native and retired professor from Montana State University who lives in Bozeman.
Reintjes said their outdoor look makes them a perfect fit for art park.
Her sculptures for "In the Garden" resemble vintage decorative objects, but the heavy cast aluminum and bronze forms, complete with vines and apples, gives them an otherworldly appearance that Reintjes said suggest fairy tales.
While she hasn't shown much in Missoula, her work has been seen around the country and collected by museums here — one piece is on loan from the Holter Museum of Art in Helena.
In the lobby, you can view several of her newer, minimalist abstract landscape paintings that pair well with the sculptures.
Third Art Swing
This is the MAM's third Art Swing, a reconfiguring of their events. They had traditionally featured exhibiting artists at a reception during the First Friday art walk, and they would give a talk at 7 p.m.
While First Friday was started as a way to spotlight visual artists, it's now a "self-driving culture machine" that's the envy of other cities around Montana, Reintjes said. Visitors expect to be able to circulate freely through exhibits and mingle, rather than conform to a timetable.
It also meant pitting their events against the myriad others — concerts, readings, plays and more — that aim for First Friday, since organizers know that audiences will be out. The MAM decided that on First Fridays, they'll stay open till 8 p.m. and allow people to come and go as needed without putting a schedule on them.
At Art Swing, they offer catered hors d'oeuvres, drinks, and live music. Artists will give an introduction and then viewers have the chance to talk with them directly. Pairing three artists of varying styles helps, too.
"You're bringing in different audiences at the same time, and not with the expectation that every artist is going to attract the same audience, but there might be some good crossover," he said.