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Works of Billings artist featured here


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The next featured celebrity at the Heritage Center luncheon series is a Montana artist with exhibitions and artwork in collections around the country.

Neil Jussila, who teaches at Montana State University-Billings, will present his discussion of "Relevance and Art" at a luncheon May 8. The Clack Museum Board is sponsoring a wine-and-cheese reception for the artist in the museum art gallery the night before.

Butte native Jussila received an undergraduate degree from Montana State University in Bozeman, then earned a master's from Bozeman after serving in the Army in Vietnam. He first served in an infantry battalion for three months, then for 10 months as a combat artist.

A main theme for Jussila is painting mothers and babies from south-central Montana. In a letter to the committee that schedules displays at the Havre gallery, he said the theme entered his work somewhat unexpectedy, when a model arrived with her infant child.

"At the time, I didn't believe I could draw from a mother and baby but found that I could a pleasing discovery," he said.

He said he switched from drawing maternal-themed art to painting it when he found himself in need of a change in his life.

"My education and background had been in abstract painting, and to be able to do something realistic from life with the most difficult traditional subject that at artist can undertake was a challenge," he said.

Jussila said that there are two especially difficult aspects of painting women with their babies, along with other basic problems like giving any painting energy and freedom and having relevance, where the viewers are compelled to complete the work with their imagination.

One special problem is working with infants, Jussila said. Since babies rarely hold still for long, the artist must be able to work quickly and dexterously.

Another is the risk of becoming overly sentimental and too sweet. Jussila said the trick is to find a balance between between the subject's appeal and restraint.

Jussila's work is in collections across the state and in cities ranging from Minneapolis to Salt Lake City and New York City.

The history of Jussila's exhibitions extends from a one-person exhibition at the Carnegie Art Center in Leavenworth, Kan, in 1993 to bookings through 2003 in Montana and out of state. He is represented by galleries and consultants in Montana, Nevada and Colorado.

Jussila's art will be featured in the Clack Museum gallery May 7-20.

The May 8 luncheon, which begins at noon in the third-floor courtroom in the Heritage Center, costs $15. People are asked to call 265-7258 to make reservations. The May 7 reception, from 7 to 9 p.m., is free and open to the public.


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