By Ron VandenBoom
by Ron VandenBoom
Thursday, May 20
A collection of contemporary abstract and expressionist art by American Indians from Montana and the western U.S. is currently on display in the H. Earl Clack Museum. The works are part of a display that is heading for The Westphalian State Museum of Natural History in Muenster, Germany, for a showing scheduled for the fall of 1999.
It was our idea not only to store the artwork here at the Heritage Center, but to display it, said Dr. Manuela Well-Off-Man, curator of the show for the Westphalian Museum. It is a good occasion for local people to see contemporary American Indian Art.
An opening reception for the art will be held Sunday, May 23, from 1-4 p.m. at the Heritage Center.
John Murie and Robert Gopher, two artists from the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation, also have some of their work included in the exhibit.
The paintings and sculpture now on display is just the first installment of art that according to Well-Off-Man will change almost every week as new works arrive at the Heritage Center.
Well-Off-Man explained that The Westphalian Museum already had an exhibition of historical American Indian items on display, but that they had few works of contemporary fine art.
We think many people overseas have a certain image of Indian art and we want to show what the reality is, she said. It is the goal of the museum in Germany to show the wide range of contemporary American Indian Art.
Well-Off-Man said she believes the most striking difference between what people in Europe perceive and reality is the way modern Native American artists blend contemporary abstract and expressionist techniques with cultural symbolism.
Many Indian artists use symbols of their tribal culture and history but they also translate it in a very contemporary language of art, she said. I think that makes the art so much (more) alive, she said.
Visitors can expect to see works by Dwight Billedeaux, Bently Spang, Seidel Standing Elk, Jim Denomie, Jeneese Hilton, and Gloria Enerson, to name just a few.
Recycled Warrior, a mask sculpture by artist Dwight Billedeaux, is one of the pieces currently on display at the Heritage Center.
Billedeaux has incorporated wire, pop cans, and other common materials he has found into a colorful Indian mask that achieves an interesting esthetic affect, Well-Off-Man said.
Another sculpture by Bently Spang, uses deer bones and packing material to depict how man has become detached from nature through filtering by modern media.
Paintings in the display can be both symbolic and very personal, Well-Off-Man explained. Two works by Seidel Standing Elk are typical of this kind of art.
A Northern Cheyenne story of a red buffalo that leads a hunting party to an outcropping of red pipe stone used for making peace pipes is depicted in one of his paintings while the other uses brilliant colors and a three dimensional dragon fly to depict a personal vision quest.
Jim Denomie examines the American Indians battle with alcohol in his very personal work, Live Music Tonight. A landscape painting where lacquer bottles compose the landscape and death is the ultimate result.
The work is a perfect example of how contemporary issues and cultural symbols can blend together through contemporary expressionism, and abstract art.
Well-Off-Man said she would be happy to give a personalized tour of the exhibit to any interested group.
Interested parties should call the H. Earl Clack Museum at 265-4000 to make an appointment.