About Visual Arts: Fall 2019
Gomez, Czelsi

About Visual Arts: Fall 2019

Here We Are   Now: Works by Anne Appleby        

Through Oct. 18 at Helen E. Copeland Gallery, MSU Bozeman, with a closing reception and gallery talk 5-8 p.m. Oct. 17

Artist’s website: www.applebystudios.com

“Here We Are Now” showcases prints and paintings of indigenous Montana flora and trees by Anne Appleby. However, this is no traditional botanical exhibition. In the late 1970s and ’80s, Appleby held a 15-year apprenticeship with a Chippewa elder, learning to deeply observe nature and transpose the quintessence and marrow of it to the canvas.

Regarded as a minimalist painter, she creates color field compositions that consist of at least 30 layers of wax and oil paint washes. Her luminous surfaces capture not just the various hues of landscape or object, but the overall sentiment of a specific time and place.

Artist and art writer Diane Armitage, puts it this way: “Walking into the gallery during the artist’s show and taking a quick look around gave local viewers the impression that they had stepped into an ecosystem that they knew very well yet were also seeing for the first time.”

 “My paintings are not about the other world,” writes Appleby. “They’re about our place in this world. What nourishes the soul is the experience of being in the body.” 

Appleby was born in Harrisburg, PA, and received her BFA in painting from the University of Montana and her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. She has shown nationally and internationally and her work is in the permanent collections of the National Gallery, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Daimier Art Collection in Berlin, and the Boise Art Museum. She currently resides and works in Jefferson City and will have a solo exhibition, “A Hymn for the Mother,” at the Missoula Art Museum in 2020.


Cory Holmes, “Orphaned Iron,” and Tom Otterness,  “Loopy Landscapes”

Through Oct. 31 at Artitudes Gallery in Havre

Artists’ websites: tomostudio.com; www.facebook.com/corywc.holmes

Artists from New York City and Havre join forces in a photography and sculpture show at Artitudes Gallery, located on the upper level of the Atrium in Havre.

The most famous anonymous sculptor in Montana, Cory Holmes of Havre, shares his eccentric, welded fence art in a tandem exhibit with another sculptor, Tom Otterness, who ventures into panoramic photography for this show.

To create his sculptures, Holmes welds together found steel objects. These materials could include machine gun links, buggy parts or railroad spikes. 

Among his better-known works are the Iron Buffalo on Main St. in Havre, giant iron spiders crawling on rooftops, or more abstract objects that appear on random fence posts between Havre and the Bear Paw mountains. Some are graced with poetic, but enigmatic titles like “Angels Wept,” “A Tsunami of Sloth” or “Robbed of All Dignity.” 

Holmes has installed more than 750 sculptures in 17 states and four Canadian provinces in the last 22 years. He roams the country in a pickup alongside his toughest critic, wife Charlotte Miller-Holmes, or with a small gang of retired railroaders. After choosing a fence post for the sculpture installation, and using Zen-like intuition, Holmes records the sculpture’s exact location with a GPS.

“Cory’s populist impulse in his work as the ‘Fence Post Bandit’ is almost like a 3D version of the train graffiti that travels on boxcars,” says Otterness, who came to Havre with his partner, the filmmaker Coleen Fitzgibbon, 30 years ago. They have returned with their daughter Kelly every summer since.

 After a mysterious iron sculpture with the title, “A Twinge of Resentment,” showed up on one of the couple’s fence posts west of town, Otterness asked people in Havre who the anonymous artist was and eventually tracked down Holmes. The two families have remained friends for the last 20 years.

Otterness may well be “the world’s best public sculptor,” as the art critic Ken Johnson opined in The New York Times in 2002. Public art is his focus, and Otterness has had major outdoor exhibitions of his sculptures throughout the U.S. and around the world, with more than 35 permanent installations in locations ranging from small towns in western Washington to the Doha International Airport in Qatar.

He typically casts his smiley-faced cartoon-figure sculptures in bronze, and many pieces are designed with children in mind. However, having grown up in Kansas, flat landscapes are nothing new to him. Inspired by the plains and the endless sky of the Hi-Line, he began using the panorama setting on his camera to craft the fluid, painterly image on display in “Loopy Landscapes.”


Melanie Alvarez-Home Gun, Portraits of the Blackfeet

Through Nov. 22 at the Emerson Center for Arts and Culture in Bozeman

Melanie Alvarez-Home Gun, who was born in Brownsville, TX, of Mexican and American heritage, finds inspiration in the Mexican muralists, Diego Rivera and Siqueros, and painters Orozco, Frieda Kahlo, and Tamayo. Her work focuses on the human condition and indigenous people, depicting “the raw side of life that we all came from, where endurance is recognized and the spirit of humanity is revealed.”

Her formal art schooling began in Mexico at the prestigious Bellas Artes and at the Instituto de Allende. Later, she attended the Glassell Museum School and the University of St. Thomas in Texas, and earned her BFA from the Parsons School of Design in New York City. Her work has been collected nationally and internationally.

She was co-owner of the Catlin Gallery in Missoula, which became the Melanie Alvarez Gallery, from 1999 to 2004, when she moved to the Blackfeet Reservation with her husband. For the past 11 years, she taught on the reservation and along the Hi-Line and became part of the second cohort of the Montana Teacher Leaders in the Arts.

Alvarez-Home Gun is currently teaching special education at Castle Rock Middle School in Billings, a move that allows her two children to attend school in a more urban environment. She’s also completing her doctorate in curriculum and instruction at MSU Bozeman, with an emphasis on  “the importance of using the arts in education for at-risk children.”

Her exhibit at the Emerson pays homage to her husband’s tribe: “the culture and values of the Blackfeet and the benevolence and the strength that they have given, shared and taught me.” The titles of her paintings reflect these values: “Strength,” “Wisdom,” “Mother and Child,” “Warrior,” “Elder,” “Medicine Man” and “Young Woman,” a tribute to “the beauty and strength of the Blackfeet women and how they have taught me about my position as a woman on this earth, my role and my identity.”


Carla Potter: Go Figure

Oct. 4-25 at the Clay Studio of Missoula

Artist’s website: carlampotter.com

For her solo exhibition, “Go Figure,” Helena-based ceramic artist Carla Potter creates several small vignettes that parody historic artists or impersonate contemporary artists she admires and knows.

Potter, who spent most of her life in Alaska, says a long-term residency at Helena’s Archie Bray Foundation in 2005 “shook me loose from the hold of that vast domain.” She went on to earn her MFA at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and spent 15 years presenting workshops in the public school system in Alaska, including collaborative projects with institutions such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, CA, and the Sheldon Art Museum in Lincoln.

At the same time, she’s exhibited her work across the U.S., while finding time to serve on the board of directors of the Holter Museum of Art. “My service on the board has been a wonderful context for deeper conversations and relationships with art supporters,” she says. She was recently elected chairman of the Holter board and is embracing that role with an increased commitment to the museum and its vital role in the Helena community.

Working from her studio in Helena, Potter uses hand-building techniques and works primarily with porcelain. Her work has taken a dramatic shift from the exuberant colorful sculptures inspired by her Alaskan environment to making delicate unglazed porcelain vessels and figurines that weave her own personal narrative with her experience of nature, Catholicism and the history of European art. As her website professes, “Work is a place to be absolutely free and wonderfully devious.”


Photos: “Oregon Grape” by Anne Appleby, Sculptors Tom Otterness and Cory Holmes, “Doing the Holy Dishes” – in reference to Tony Marsh, by Carla Potter (Photo by Tom Ferris) , “Wisdom” by Melanie Alvarez-Home Gun




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