Show Preview | Joe Kronenberg & Don Oelze

Bozeman, MT
Legacy Gallery, July 14-23

Joe Kronenberg, Last Scout for Longhair: 24 June 1876, oil, 30 x 40.

Joe Kronenberg, Last Scout for Longhair: 24 June 1876, oil, 30 x 40.

This story was featured in the July 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  July 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Inspired by the land, people, and history of the American West, artists Joe Kronenberg and Don Oelze bring their passions to the canvas in a group of 20 new oil paintings on view this month at Legacy Gallery in Bozeman, MT. The show opens on Friday, July 14, with an artists’ reception at 6 p.m. General manager Scott Jones commends not only the talent of both artists but also their exceptional commitment to researching the historical subject matter they depict. “Both Joe and Don have the potential to become very important painters in our world of western art,” says Jones. “The future looks good for artists of their caliber.”

Pacific Northwest native Kronenberg discovered his artistic muses in the region’s rich Native American and pioneer heritage and in the buffalo, wolves, elk, and grizzlies that roam the land. The versatile painter brings wildlife and figurative works to the show, including a tension-thick scene depicting an encounter between a grizzly and her cubs and an approaching wolf pack. Kronenberg painted the scene after a trip to Yellowstone National Park, where he photographed the grizzlies as they gorged on a fresh moose kill at the Madison River. Most of his new works, however, reflect the Idaho artist’s growing interest in the collective story of Native Americans. “Every day we get further from that history,” he says. “It’s going to be harder and harder for people to tell these stories as time goes on.”

In LAST SCOUT FOR LONGHAIR, Kronenberg portrays Lt. Col. George Custer and two Arikara scouts the day before the momentous Battle of the Little Bighorn, where all three men died. In the painting, the sunlight principally falls upon Custer’s favorite scout, Bloody Knife. “With everything I do, it comes down to getting people emotionally involved in my paintings,” says Kronenberg. “Light is a huge factor. It’s the main ingredient in everything I paint.”

Montana artist Oelze paints the everyday scenes that describe 19th-century Native American life, such as hunting, collecting water, or fleshing a buffalo hide. Scenic western landscapes often envelop his figures, but in his painting THE HEALER, Oelze made the figures especially prominent and included only a sliver of mountainous landscape in the distance. The scene, staged and photographed at the Beaverhead River in southwest Montana, depicts an elder medicine man burning white sage during a healing ritual. “This painting, for me, wasn’t about suffering,” he says. “I put the patient in the shadows to deemphasize him, and I put most of the color and light on the healer.”

Recently Oelze has been increasing the density and intensity of his pigments with more layering and glazing, and he’s exploring colors he’s never used before, including turquoise. For the artist, creating stimulating compositions and engaging narratives is essential, but achieving historical accuracy is also paramount, and he frequently consults historians to supplement his own careful research. “This is my passion, and I want to do it right,” says Oelze. “It’s art, but it’s a bit of history, too.” —Kim Agricola

contact information
406.577.2810
www.legacygallery.com

This story was featured in the July 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  July 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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