Montana Triennial: 2015
The excerpted text below was provided by Peter Held, an independent curator from Phoenix, selected as the Juror for the Montana Triennial: 2015.
"Having resided in Montana for more than 25 years, I was honored to be asked to curate this year’s Triennial. The Missoula Art Museum staff and I started a conversation almost three years ago to discuss the possibilities of the complexion of the exhibition; a mutual decision was made to finely curate with fewer artists and larger bodies of work by each artist. We have succeeded.
Jurying exhibitions of this nature is a reflection of my personal tastes, honed by years of organizing shows in a variety of formats, drawn from experiences as the former director and curator at the Holter Museum of Art and, until recently, the curator of ceramics at the Arizona State University Art Museum. I am fortunate that my career has taken me across the globe to visit artist studios, art fairs, and to lectures—each journey informing my mind’s eye. It was a daunting task to come to final conclusions. But several themes arose that facilitated envisioning an end result: Intimate; Expansive; Mark-Making; and We the People. I believe the sum total accurately reflects the state of the arts in Montana today.
An added dimension in the jurying process is becoming familiar with artists previously unknown to me. Certainly, I was well-acquainted with a majority of artists submitting for the Triennial, having worked with most in the past. Throughout my career, I have always strived to champion emerging artists, artists from other cultures, and equal representation of women. I am pleased with the mix of recognized and underserved artists for this show. Survey art exhibitions convey the cultural temperature of our time in myriad means. Different media, numerous concerns, and various manners of expression all find validity in a world of diversity.
The works range from the abstract to the figurative, but all reflect years of artistic preparation honed by schooling, travel, experience, critical theory, knowledge of place, and repeated trips to the studio revisiting themes and craft. Whether black-and-white or color, intimate or world-weary, rendered by manipulating clay or pushing paint, the works in this exhibition relate private tales and shared subject matter. All are rich in distinct personal expression, yet similar thematic concerns can be discerned. Some of the artists have a special affinity for the land. Others empathize with persons known and unknown, portraying the human condition in all its variety. Technical matters are of utmost importance to some, while other artists are storytellers. Humor can be the main objective. Some scrutinize intimate relationships.
No survey of Montana art would be complete without the inclusion of ceramic works. Drawing upon the legacy of Peter Voulkos and Rudy Autio and the establishment of the Archie Bray Foundation in 1951, which has attracted international resident artists, it is no small wonder that the Triennial has attracted accomplished artists within the field. From innovative large-scale cast porcelain sculpture to post-pop narrative vessels, the ceramic offerings in the exhibition display a full range of ceramic design and originality that would be at home in any major clay survey in the country.
Truthfully, I had twinges of being homesick reviewing the works by these talented artists. They have captured all that I love about Montana: the windswept vistas of the eastern plains, the craggy snow-capped mountains ringing the western front, bursting fields of wildflowers, and bear grass pregnant with spring. But most of all it is the spirit and independence of the people who call Montana home that brings me back on annual sojourns. I have never lost touch in absentia, and the artists in the Montana Triennial: 2015 have captured all that and more.
In closing, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all the artists who provided me the opportunity to preview their art and to my long-time friends at the museum who made the process of organizing the Triennial a deeply enriching experience. MAM should be commended for their unwavering support of Montana artists and for continuing to provide a lively platform to showcase the rich artistic legacy informed by the land and its people."
This full-color catalog features the complete Peter Held interpretive essay, exhibiting artists' biography, and images of the selected works. This exhibition and project are supported in part through the Montana Cultural Trust.