UM’s MMAC Provides Uncommon Opportunity to Celebrate Montana Women Artists

January 10, 2017

MISSOULA – Later this month, the Montana Museum of Art & Culture at the University of Montana will open a special exhibition focused on pioneering women artists who came to Montana at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, and significantly contributed to the aesthetic and cultural milieu of the state.

“Intimate West: Women Artists in Montana 1880-1944” will be on display from Thursday, Jan. 26, to Saturday, May 27, in the Meloy and Paxson galleries located in UM’s Performing Arts and Radio/Television Center.

Josephine Hale (American, 1889-1949), Untitled (Missouri River), undated. Oil on canvas on panel, 9 by 11inches. MMAC Permanent Collection. Gift of Vivian Ellis and Fran Walton. The exhibition contains a selection of paintings and photographs that differs from typical Western iconography.

“The works on display do not extol the grandeur of Montana’s geography or mythologize its bison or cowboys,” said Jeremy Canwell, MMAC’s Curator and Exhibitions Coordinator. “Instead, these artists explore a different vision of Montana.”

The exhibition shows scenes from the early years of statehood, working spontaneously from life or documenting historical moments such as Missoula’s 1908 flood and the first airplane flight in the state over Butte in 1911. Artist Frances Carroll Brown brought a particular style influenced by French impressionism and the Fauves to her numerous portraits in the exhibition. Petite landscapes by Josephine Hale similarly adapt European techniques to uniquely Western subjects, including Glacier National Park and the Missouri River.

Canwell selected works for the show from the museum’s Permanent Collection, a cornerstone of which is the Fra Dana collection. Dana’s still-life paintings contemplate domestic interiors, which depict shelter from the natural environment for homesteaders like her and her husband during Montana’s harsh winters.

Works by artists who participated in the Winold Reiss Summer School in Glacier National Park, including Elsa Jemne, Elizabeth Lochrie and Caroline Granger, portray individual Native Americans with whom the artists spent time as they traveled around the Northern Rocky Mountain West.

Along with several of Evelyn Cameron’s photographs of ranch life, the Montana Historical Society generously lent many of these works to MMAC for the exhibition. Historical photographs by Alice Chandler, Marguerite O. Stevens Maloney and Mamie Elizabeth Burt will also be on view courtesy of the Archives & Special Collections at UM’s Mansfield Library.

“This exhibition brings to light the merits of some of Montana’s under-celebrated artists,” said Barbara Koostra, MMAC’s Suzanne and Bruce Crocker director. “We are proud to build the awareness of their record of the West.”

The exhibition “Intimate West: Women Artists in Montana 1880-1944” will open to the public with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, in UM’s PAR/TV Center.

Frances Carroll Brown (American, 1909-2002), “Lady in a Blue Blouse,” ca. 1940s. Oil on canvas, 19 by 15 inches. MMAC Permanent Collection. Gift of Mary Jean Warlen.Additional programming will be held in conjunction with the exhibition. All events are free and open to the public. The schedule follows:

  • 5-6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22: A guided tour of the exhibition by Canwell, PAR/TV Meloy and Paxson galleries.
  • 7-9 p.m. Thursday, March 9: Screening of the 1979 film “Heartland,” PAR/TV Masquer Theatre. A Q-and-A with Executive Producer Annick Smith and writer/co-Producer Beth Ferris will follow.
  • 5-6 p.m. Thursday, March 30: Stephanie Frostad will lead a guest artist tour, offering insights of a contemporary Montana artist.
  • 5-6 p.m. Thursday, April 13: UM Women’s Studies Adjunct Assistant Professor Beth Hubble will present her lecture, “Art is Not a Luxury: Women and the Production of Art,” PAR/TV Masquer Theatre.
  • Noon-1p.m. Thursday, May 4: Anne Foster of Humanities Montana will give a presentation, “Fashioning Montana: Clothing and Culture in the Victorian and Edwardian Eras Thursday,” PAR/TV Masquer Theatre.

A publication of the same name will accompany the exhibition, which has generously been funded in part by the Morris and Helen Silver Foundation and the Bill and Rosemary Gallagher Foundation.

MMAC’s gallery hours are from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The museum is closed Sundays, Mondays and UM holidays. The museum is open to the public with a suggested $5 donation. For more information call 406-243-2019 or visit http://www.umt.edu/montanamuseum/.

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Contact: Barbara Koostra, Suzanne and Bruce Crocker director, Montana Museum of Art & Culture, 406-243-2019, barbara.koostra@mso.umt.edu; Jeremy Canwell, MMAC curator of art, 406-243-2019, jeremy.canwell@mso.umt.edu.