Show Preview | Icons of the West

Missoula, MT
Dana Gallery, May 15-June 15

Frank Hagel, Lewis and Clark on the Upper Missouri 1805, oil, 30 x 40.

Frank Hagel, Lewis and Clark on the Upper Missouri 1805, oil, 30 x 40.

This story was featured in the May 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art May 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!

“You know you can’t just do a show,” says Dudley Dana as he explains the advent of Dana Gallery’s annual Icons of the West show. While attending The Russell auction in Great Falls, MT, one year, Dana was struck by a painting of a bison entitled WESTERN ICON, and at that moment he realized he had a winning concept that would give a show cohesion and relevance.

This year, the fourth annual show opens on Friday, May 15, with a reception for the artists from 5:30 to 8 p.m. The gallery anticipates upward of 140 artworks by 120 participating artists giving voice to what symbolizes the West. “Yes, the bison is an icon of the West,” says Dana, “but so is a pipeline and an oil well. The show is built around artists interpreting, however they see fit, what they conceive as an icon of the West.”

As in years past, the gallery is inviting about 15 well-known artists—including Frank Hagel, Robert Moore, Kevin Red Star, Theodore Waddell, and Bye Bitney—and the remaining works and artists are juried into the show by a diverse, four-person jury, which comprises a university art professor, a museum curator, a professional painter, and an art collector. Past participants have included Rox Corbett, Terry Cooke Hall, Tim Joyner, Howard Friedland, Jeff Walker, and Diane Ainsworth.

Painter Caleb Meyer, who has been juried into the show in past years, returns this year as an invited artist. He says that while it’s sometimes liberating to paint whatever he wants, he looks forward to the challenge of painting within the show’s theme. “I love older architectural elements, indications of the past that are still present in the landscape,” he says. Collectors can expect grain elevators or other landscapes depicted in Meyer’s signature thick brushwork and bold color.

Tom Gilleon, Spring Camp, oil, 36 x 36.

Tom Gilleon, Spring Camp, oil, 36 x 36.

Returning invited artist R. Tom Gilleon says that he likes seeing what other artists think of as an icon of the West. “They can be pretty different than what I think of,” he says, “but that is what makes it interesting.” And Gilleon appreciates that the works are accessible to the viewer. “It seems [the artists] make a special effort to submit work that explains itself and doesn’t require a caption or narrative,” he says. “That’s how I would define an icon.”

While the works may be accessible, that doesn’t make the show typical. For example, to encourage diversity, the gallery presents an award for the most original interpretation of the theme. Unlike other western towns where the art is more traditional, Dana says that Missoula offers a broader platform. “The art can be more conceptual,” he says. The gallery has, in fact, developed a relationship with the University of Montana, and students from its art department intern with the gallery and offer fresh ideas on how to expand the show’s 
offerings. In 2014, Clay Pape, a former student at the university and a current employee of the gallery, was put in charge of the show. “He came up with great ideas for getting people to participate,” Dana says. “We had videos, interactive sculptures, all kinds of things.” Including, he says, a performance art piece organized by a painting instructor at the university. —Laura Rintala

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Featured in the May 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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