This story was featured in the July 2013 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art July 2013 print issue, or get the Southwest Art July 2013 digital download now…Or better yet, just subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!
Tom Gilleon’s collectors may feel justifiably assured that the 71-year-old Montana-based painter won’t spring any surprises on them. They know his newest work—powerful images inspired by Native American themes, the western landscape, and potent primary colors and shapes—will be as compelling and skillfully executed as ever. But Gilleon’s one-man show at Altamira Fine Art in Jackson, WY, this month does offer one major, exciting work that is different from the rest.
Along with a dozen recent oil paintings, a stunning, first-of-its-kind new-media art installation is being unveiled. Three large flat-panel monitors, framed as a triptych with a combined size of 55 by 90 inches, will feature a digitally painted image of three teepees glowing from within. Through a combination of technological magic and the artist’s renowned painting skills, the image very slowly changes. It begins as a starry, moonlit scene and morphs through the gradual awakening of dawn, ending with the first rays of morning sun lighting up distant hills. In this one-of-a-kind piece, Gilleon’s brush strokes and strong colors are enhanced by the projected lighting and grand scale.
The installation will be the highlight of Gilleon’s 10th annual solo exhibition at Altamira, set for July 1-13 with an artist’s reception on Friday, July 5. The show’s title, Ménage à Trois–Eternal Triangles, reflects the iconic shape of the teepee as well as the artist’s ongoing interest in works involving a configuration of three parts. Among these is TRIAGE, a 60-by-120-inch painting of three teepees at sunset. A trio of Plains Indian portraits also underscores the triad theme while creating a combination of the three primary colors, which are essential in Gilleon’s art: yellow, red, and blue.
“Tom has always excelled as a colorist, and his recent work has a heightened quality in that regard, with even crisper tones and palette,” notes Altamira gallery director Mark Tarrant. “This has been exciting for his collectors, as evidenced by a record sale at auction this past March. Tom’s 50-by-50-inch oil on canvas, HAIR APPARENT, hammered at $225,000. Many people have asked if we are increasing prices because of that,” Tarrant adds. “We are not, at least not yet.”
The record auction sale also recognizes Gilleon’s well-established career as a western artist. While always involved in fine art, for many years he refined his illustration skills with NASA’s Apollo program and as a designer and illustrator for Disney. In the early 1980s he turned his attention to imagery based on the landscape and Native American legacy of the West. The artist’s 2,000-acre ranch near Great Falls, MT, continues to be a source of inspiration, and several works in the show feature the land and nearby Missouri River he loves.
“This show will include paintings of areas that have become my personal friends on my daily walks,” Gilleon says. “I’ve created a demand for specific subject matter—We love your diversity and broad scope, but do you have any teepees?” he says, smiling. “So I try to always balance that with paintings of other things that are personally interesting to me.” —Gussie Fauntleroy
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