Western wildlife and one of the most enduring subjects in visual art – the horse – will be celebrated in two new exhibitions at the Montana Museum of Art & Culture.
The exhibitions “Horse” and “Denizens: Wildlife on the Western Frontier” will be on display from Thursday, June 7, to Saturday, Oct. 6, in the Paxson and Meloy galleries of the Performing Arts and Radio/Television Center at the University of Montana.
MMAC Curator of Art Jeremy Canwell selected works for “Horse” that trace the vast array of media in which artists have sought to capture the spirit of this iconic animal – from early photographs to ceramic, paint on canvas, pen and ink, ceramic, steel and textile. The variety of scale and style on display speaks to the profound artistic spirit inspired by these ancient animals.
“The drive to make images of wild horses surely formed as a response to their elusive nature,” Canwell said. “From ancient cave paintings in France to contemporary ceramics and photography, the art historical record is awash in horses. That lasting urge to make art arguably descended from our ancestral desire to possess their wildness.”
Horses played a foundational role in the history of the American West. From Spanish breeds used by Native Americans and early explorers,to early mining industry pit ponies and today’s professional rodeo lines, equines play a critical role in human work and leisure.
“Horse” traces the art and culture inspired by what was merely, at first, the most pragmatic and efficient form of travel and power available to early Americans. Included are works from the MMAC Permanent Collection, several loans from private collectors and works by artists Aden Arnold, Rudy Autio, Sheryl Bodily, MaryAnn Bonjorni, Fra Dana, Monte Dolack, Nick Eggenhofer, Stephanie Frostad, George Gogas, Michael Horse, Louise Johns, Bruce Lubo, Alfred Jacob Miller, Henry and Peter Meloy, Sheila Miles, Frank Morbillo, Charles E. Morris, Eadweard Muybridge, Ace Powell, Karen Rice, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Ben Steele, Ted Waddell and Olaf Wieghorst.
“Denizens: Wildlife on the Western Frontier” elucidates the breathtaking variety of the fauna of the American West of the 18th and 19th centuries. The spectrum of indigenous wildlife on the American frontier – from wolverines and bison to eagles and rattlesnakes – will be on view through 64 vintage engravings by legendary artists, including John James Audubon, Karl Bodmer, Alfred Jacob Miller and Frederic Remington. Through a generous loan from UM’s Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum, corresponding animal specimens also will be on view. “Denizens” was curated by Lee Silliman.
The exhibitions will open with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, June 7, in the lobby of the PAR/TV Center.
Programs presented in conjunction with the exhibitions will include:
- 7 p.m. Monday, June 11 – MMAC and the Roxy Theatre presents “The Horse Whisperer” at 718 Higgins Ave., $8/$7 for students and seniors.
- 7 p.m. Monday, July 9 – MMAC and the Roxy Theatre presents “Black Stallion,” $8/$7 for students and seniors.
- 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13 – MMAC and the Roxy Theatre presents “National Velvet,” $8/$7 for students and seniors.
- 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10 – MMAC and the Roxy Theatre presents “Seabiscuit,” $8/$7 for students and seniors.
- 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13 – MontanaPBS presents special screening of “3 Miles an Hour” with featured horseman Smoke Elser and producer John Twiggs in the Masquer Theatre, PAR/TV Center. Free and open to the public.
- 5:15-6:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20 – Talk: “A Tapestry of Western Wildlife: History and Lore,” by exhibition curator Lee Silliman in Alexander Blewett III School of Law Building Room 101 in conjunction with “Denizens: Wildlife on the Western Frontier.” Followed by a Q&A in Meloy Gallery.
- 5:15-6:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27 – Gallery Talk: Art Professor MaryAnn Bonjorni will present in the Meloy Gallery.
- 5:15-6:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1 – Talk: “An Ecologist’s View of Early Art in the American West,” presented by Josh Millsbaugh, Boone and Crockett Chair of the UM Wildlife Biology Program in the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, in Alexander Blewett III School of Law Building Room 101 in conjunction with “Denizens: Wildlife on the Western Frontier.” Followed by a Q&A in the Meloy Gallery.
- 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8 – MMAC and the Roxy Theatre presents “The Man from Snowy River,” $8/$7 for students and seniors.
MMAC’s summer hours are from noon to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. Friday. Academic year 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 UM holidays. The museum is open to the public with a suggested $5 donation. Docent tours are available with advance notice. For more information call 406-243-2019 or visit http://www.umt.edu/montanamuseum/.