Show Preview | Dana Gallery: Icons of the West

Missoula, MT, June 1-July 10

Rob Akey, A Distant Drum, oil, 48 x 48.

The Dana Gallery holds its second annual Icons of the West show from June 1 through July 10. Last year’s show featured more than 50 nationally known contemporary artists, and this year’s event showcases some 75 artists and their works. The gallery hosts an opening reception on June 1 from 5 to 9 p.m. The participating artists have been asked to create their own interpretation of iconic images of the West: landscapes, horses, cowboys, Native Americans, and other contemporary elements of the region.

“We’re basically a regional gallery,” explains owner Dudley Dana, “so it’s nice to have a variety of artists from different areas of the country. The show offers a unique blend of work.” Dana says that, at first, he had difficulty coming up with a theme. “I knew I wanted something more than just a group show,” he comments. Eventually, he found himself inspired by the changes occurring all over the American West. “The show has been a real mix of subject matter—from portraits of Native Americans to images of a housing development,” he observes. “These are icons of both the Old West and the modern West.”

Dana also feels that the breadth of last year’s show gave some artists a chance to think outside the box of what normally constitutes an icon. “There was an incredible variety of art,” he recalls, “including a lot of animals, landscapes, and a surprising number of still-life paintings.” Dana, who is himself an artist, believes that the diverse nature of the show also prompted some innovative work from the participants. “Many took risks,” he says. “One landscape painter painted a teepee that is basically a tourist trap. And a portrait artist did a fabulous, moody painting of a bison—it was the first time he had ever painted an animal.”

Last year’s Icons of the West show offered awards in such categories as Best Figurative, Best Landscape, Best Contemporary Western, Best Traditional, and Best Critter. “This year there are cash awards of up to $2,500 for all major categories, as well as several other forms of prizes,” notes Dana. The Best of Show award winner receives a cash prize of $5,000.

Located in downtown Missoula, The Dana Gallery boasts more than 4,000 square feet of space, making it the largest contemporary art gallery in Montana. In 2006 and 2008, the gallery hosted the Oil Painters of America national exhibition, becoming the first gallery in the country to host the show twice. In 2007, the gallery hosted Out West: The Great American Landscape, an exhibit featuring 60 contemporary western artists, organized by the Meridian International Center and the National Museum of China. “I like a lot of different styles of art,” says Dana, “so the gallery is very eclectic.” —Mark Mussari

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