Last One There Granger and Kemmick launch a film project centered on childhood recollections

Billings, Montana isn’t known for its pretty face. The city sways in a cradle of what was once the shore of a vast inland sea, yet a skyline of refinery pipes and spewing factory smokestacks steal the show.

These unassuming sandstone cliffs, compressed as the sea retreated, form the valley that holds Billings—described by explorers as expansively beautiful, and in the right light, at the top of the cliffs, it’s easy to imagine such an untamed landscape.

Billings’ street view isn’t as striking. Sharp, characterless buildings camp on the historic backbone of the downtown’s first structures, leveled to make way for the 1980s. There’s a gritty rhythm to the city, and it’s easy to be distracted by the soundtrack of passing trains and hollering transients, the swish of moderately priced suits and the sway of pencil skirts among ripped, greasy Carhartts and pastel medical scrubs. Sprawl further west and box stores merge into Roundabout Hell, where pavement seas on The Land Formerly Known as Farmland link one-story stand-alone structures.

JP Kemmick spent most of his remembered life surrounded by the Billings sandstone, moving to Montana at a young age with his mother. During JP’s teenage years, the town’s expansion was slow. Culturally, the city was quiet. Venture Theater was still a tiny operation in a garage. There was one brewery—Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co., but it wasn’t a thriving operation. Live music was sparse. The Babcock Theatre was shuttered.

“We roamed the streets until we found some basement stairs and hung out there,” said JP of growing up in Billings. “We hung out at Hastings for hours, until we bought some terrible $1 album and drove around listening to that. We got bored, and then we made some fun. That’s what Billings was for me.”

Along the same timeline, Marshall Granger was also milling about in Billings.

“Whatever drives 15-year-olds to hang out in a parking lot, or to drive up and down 24th Street at midnight, like it’s ever going to be a different experience…” Marshall recalled, trailing off as though his 15-year-old self suddenly surfaced, gawking at the space that Billings presented, a landscape of warehouses and flat, yellowing prairies where expansion seemed inevitable.

Independent of one another, JP and Marshall felt displaced, not interested in the party circuit. Both began filming their friends.

“We were just having fun, being creative individuals,” JP said. “Growing up in a place where there’s not that much to do, you have to be resourceful, and for us, that was creating stories constantly.”

Filmmaking interested Marshall in middle school, and he began taping his friends “being dumb.” At the same time, his older brother was studying film theory, and through these experiences Marshall began to understand cinema’s essence.

By melding those two sensibilities—the world of film appreciation and the different ways of approaching film—Marshall began to see how he could create in that field. It felt so open to him, a space that allowed experimentation and vignettes outside the Hollywood lens.

JP considers himself lucky, as he knew he wanted to be a writer from a young age. From his recalled experiences, JP has crafted many stories of growing up in Billings.

“Whenever I write a realist piece, it has a couple of teenage boys getting into a distinct kind of trouble that is unique to growing up in a smaller place,” JP said.

Though JP made plenty of movies in high school and a couple short films in college, he found the process incredibly difficult and frustrating.

“I discovered early on that it wasn’t really for me, but I continued to write stories and be madly in love with movies,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to connect the things I’m writing to film without having to do the work myself, which is where Marshall comes in.”

For Marshall, the stories he gravitates toward are the ones where nothing much seems to happen, but the underlying dynamics create a tension and dialogue that can spring deeper connections and conversation.

While both attending school in Missoula, JP and Marshall connected over a short story written by JP, which struck common chords in Marshall from his background in Billings.

The story follows two high school boys disconnected from their families and their struggles navigating life in this removed way against a backdrop of the open, empty spaces of Billings. The narrative is rancid with teenage time sucks: Taco Bell for dinner, Slug Bug punches, trailers wallpapered with pornography, and the darker side of youth, of picking on fat folks, and deadbeat dads, and mothers who drink away the day. Of a stolen handgun and the inevitable dramatic twist that such a possession creates in short narratives of teenage angst.

From the young protagonists we’re given a glimpse into trailer windows and the lives that play out behind the curtain: the mother peering out just once to shout unheeded advice to her child, her sleepy eyes holding yesterday’s mistakes; the early afternoon smell of alcohol on a father’s breath, the grasp of his hand too tight on his child’s shoulder; the desperation and displacement in a half-packed suitcase and the knowledge that you’ve got nowhere to go.

Marshall latched onto the visual potential in JP’s characters, these aimless high school kids trying to figure out questions bigger than they were capable of digesting at that age. The setting, these drifting spaces where people live on the edge of poverty, was a ringer for some of the scenery Marshall experienced while knocking around Billings as a teen.

“When I first read the story, there was a lot of meat that I didn’t process, such as the family dynamics,” Marshall said. “What I did see were visuals of the Billings area and the scenarios that these kids are in—they are photographs of growing up in Billings and having nothing to do as a kid and just wandering around. Those images were frozen for me. It became clear that (the film) should be done.”

Marshall is currently working on preproduction of the piece, titled Last One There. Filming of Last One There will take place in Billings and surrounding areas this summer, and Marshall hopes to release the film in the early part of 2016.

JP describes the story as “99 percent fictional, and by that I mean 10 percent fictional, like all things.”

Early drafts didn’t explicitly state that the setting was Billings, JP explained, “but I always had some version of Billings in my head. I like to use more of an imagined landscape, because I don’t like being bogged down in being accurate about a real place, but it was so very Billings to me.”

To Marshall, Billings has been a place of transition, even when it felt stagnant. “I saw it as a proper city when I talked to kids from rural towns, and it felt like an empty mess when I would visit my brother in Missoula,” he said. “But what I have come to see in Billings is a perfect synthesis of the sides of Montana I know. I met all my best friends doing community theater with a loving tight-knit group of kids and adults working together constantly, and then spent my teenage years with those same kids wasting time in empty parking lots and trespassing box stores after hours. There’s a lot of emptiness in Billings, but there’s also a ton of vibrant life.”

To fund the project, during the Christmas holiday Marshall and several friends and Billings musicians (many home for Christmas) turned the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co.’s stage into a transient living room that glowed with mismatched lamps and was covered in treasured furnishings and trinkets collected from homes of the participants. Five dollars were collected at the door to “lend a helping hand” to the production of Last One There, and $1,500—half of Marshall’s projected budget—was raised.

The jam, a roving collection of Billings musicians, included the Kemmick family, Dan Page, Hannah Habermann, Jenni Long, and Marshall (who, in addition to his filmmaking skills, can sling a guitar and sing) taking the stage with friends and fellow musicians with Adam Roebling & Skylar Jessen. It was worth more than the price of admission. Musicians rolled though tunes so comfortable that the living room concept became real.

Marshall’s a bit hesitant when it comes to “crowdfunding” the rest of the money needed for the project (the latest Internet way to raise money). He’d rather trade goods, barter, or provide a service in exchange for funds raised.

“Over the past year, a lot of my projects have been very Montana-centric,” Marshall said. “I want to keep exploring that, and there’s plenty of room for people to be contributing to that here and plenty of resources to take advantage of.”

Though currently living in Missoula (he will finish his degree in spring), Marshall’s relationship with Billings continues. “I’ve gone from ‘How do I get out of this place?!’ to ‘How come no one has done this?!’ There’s a lot of untapped space here.”

For JP, who is currently finishing his master’s work in Missoula, his Montana run isn’t finished either.

“You learn to love a place after you leave it,” JP said. “It’s a big state, and I still know very little about it. I’ll keep coming back.”

Marshall isn’t quite sure what direction he’ll go after finishing school. “I feel it’s necessary to head out for a while,” he said. “I’ve never not lived in Montana.”

Yet, after spending the first 20 years of life here, Marshall views Billings as his first act. “It’s weird to think of having that and not coming back.”

For more information, or to contribute to Last One There (financially, spatially, actorly, etc.) email marshallgranger@gmail.com.

Sarah Morris Conjuror of Solace

A Sarah Morris painting seems lifted from a familiar drive, where expanses of highway open across hundred of miles, where mountains parade across the skyline, and where the road seems endless—only the sky can cap its winding existence. Like driving such a long, familiar road, Sarah’s paintings inspire comfort, a sense of time and place, and a luminous feeling only Montana can give.

We're living in the middle of this world-class scenery. I let my imagination take it from there. Sarah Morris

Sarah paints in long expanses and bright, vivid colors with the aide of photos she takes on road trips. These familiar images are rendered new though Sarah’s filter, one of lucid lines and dynamic tones, where she captures some of the most insanely beautify skies cut by curving roads leading into Montana mountains.

“Fences”

It’s a familiar scene, one we’ve passed a thousand times, yet perhaps never fully acknowledged. Amongst the sound of highway—the monotonous whirr of the vehicle’s engine lulling us into contemplation—the mountains loom, their presence a form of therapy, a conjuror of solace.

“Being on the road is really therapeutic—almost scary,” Sarah said. “You can be so deep in thought while also operating heavy machinery.”

Painting through pain

Sarah has always felt like an older person in a younger person’s body. She was widowed at age 19, shortly after her daughter was born. From such pain she found art a comfort, something tangible to create from her anguish. Now her mid-20s with a 7-year-old, Sarah embraces her surroundings and the creativity that has evolved our of her circumstances.

“So many females don’t realize what a struggle it was 50 years ago (to be a female artist). I feel that I am privileged to be doing this and actually be taken seriously,” Sarah said.

Sarah and her daughter’s home, which she purchased on the south side of Billings in her early 20s, provides her a painting studio and a sense of peace, and it grounds her. Like a cook creating a meal from scratch in a home kitchen, Sarah paints in her dining room, often while friends gather in the adjacent living room, plucking guitars and talking amongst themselves.

“Some artists are really reserved, but I’m the opposite,” Sarah said. “I choose to paint in my dining room; it’s where people gather. Even if I don’t say anything, I am still part of a conversation.”

Sarah likens painting to problem solving. “I like to think that painting puts my brain in order and brings clarity to any issue that I have,” she said. “This has aided me in getting over things.” Other times Sarah feels stagnant, but she sees this as part of the creative process. “Sometimes you have this block—sometimes you have to be unproductive. That is human character.”

Becoming Sarah Morris

Sarah was 15 when she finished her first painting, which currently hangs in her best friend’s kitchen. “Hopefully she can sell it and retire someday,” Sarah said with a sly grin. A charming 26-year-old and Billings native, Sarah’s charisma stems from her intensely personal nature. She surrounds herself with the things that bring her happiness—friends, music, and art. Her smile is contagious, her curly hair charismatic, and when she paints, all that personality pours onto the canvas.

Sarah attended Montana State Univerisy-Billings, originally pursuing an art education degree. Realizing she lacked patience to teach art, but had the passion to create it, Sarah switched to a fine arts major. In MSU-B’s art department, Sarah cultivated an interest in watercolor.

“(Watercolor) really developed how I paint with acrylics,” Sarah said. “I’m not that patient, and watercolor made me a little more patient in that it’s less forgiving than other mediums. You really have to plan your work and wait for it to dry completely before moving on.”

Such a technique set off Sarah’s anxiety, an anxiety she feels made her grow as an artist and evolve into her main medium—acrylics. “I like to handle anxiety in a productive way,” Sarah said. “Having (anxiety) means I’m taking a leap—it is not something that makes me curl up.”

In an idealistic world, Sarah figures she could paint pictures that aren’t about selling. But for her, there’s always hunger involved, which makes her paintings all the more urgent.

To pursue this hunger, Sarah left her home for the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu. “It was there that I felt this drive to feel real hunger,” she said. “If I wanted to eat that day, I had to sell enough paintings to pay for my gas and my food.”

Merging Hawaii and Montana

It wasn’t long on O’ahu till Sarah got island fever. “I needed our wide open spaces and our friendly faces,” she said. “I needed to get lost.” She returned to Montana in mid-December, and spent the frigid end of winter in her house painting.

“I did nothing but paint how I felt,” Sarah said. “I didn’t realize was how many people in the world are so envious that we live here. Hawaii was paradise to me, but I also realized what a paradise I had here.”

This was a new start for Sarah. Feeling so much emotion for Montana, her painting took on a different style.

“I wanted to bring back this young, contemporary art going on. Everyone appreciated the beauty of Hawaii, yet here so many of the young artists aren’t grasping that Montana is a part of them. It is emotionally overwhelming. It’s like sitting in front a 40-foot wave.”

Sarah’s art has evolved since her time in school and her time in Hawaii. “I eventually reached this point of not needing to prove my artist ability, which gave me the freedom to paint things that my emotions wanted me to paint,” she said.

Not setting out to prove herself, Sarah found her niche. “When I switched to making my painting about me and not what people think about it is when I created a fan base.”

Originally published in Noise and Color, January 2013. Photos by Ben Cooper.

Suk Byung Park: Warrior Spirit

Suk Byung Park (photo by James Woodcock)

Originally published in Magic City Magazine

Courtesy. Humility. Integrity. Perseverance. Self-control. Indomitable spirit. Words to live by in the self defense world, said Master Suk Byung Park, founder of Parks Martial Arts Academy. Master Park, who holds a black belt in both Tae Kwon Do and Juod, has been teaching martial arts in Billings for more than 30 years.

Sorting through a box of photos at his studio at 1920 Central Avenue, Master Parks proudly showed a photograph of the 1974 International Judo Championship team in front of the U.S. capitol building—his first time in the states.

Continue reading Suk Byung Park: Warrior Spirit

Carol Spielman Color and Community

The walls of Carol Spielman’s childhood bedroom weren’t plastered with posters of teen heartthrobs and movie stars. Instead, she pinned the art of Matisse, Rauschenberg, Picasso, and The Fauves.

Spielman grew up on Orcas Island, the largest of Washington’s San Juan Islands. Though the island was rural, the location cultivated creativity. Spielman recalls residents growing their food, working with leather, crafting jewelry, and painting watercolors to sell during tourist season.

Spielman started working at age 14 and graduated in a class of 25 students. Her pension for art was cultivated by her great aunt, a modern artist living in Seattle. She would take Spielman to contemporary art exhibits and encourage her to analyze art, its textures, layers, and the varying degrees of color—even within a seemingly stark, white Rauschenberg. After such outings, Spielman would return home with a poster of her favorite artist to hang on her wall.

spielman2_aftermidnight
“After Midnight” by Carol Spielman

Spielman, who now lives in Billings, has developed an unmistakable, uniquely western style. Her elongated horses, created by layers of acrylics and washed and scraped numerous times, have a personality derived from childhood.

While living on Orcas Island, Spielman was captivated by horses and would ride bareback along the beach. Her love of horses translates into her majestic pieces, full of evocative colors and rich textures. Her background in modern art also makes an appearance through techniques of minimalism, where she’ll strip the subject down to its essence, embodying the horse with overlapping layers of paint and texture.

Spielman left Orcas Island to attend the University of Washington. She began taking art classes, but it would be another 20 years before she finished her degree. Spielman’s life diverged from college into the fashion world, where she worked her way from gift box assembly to becoming a buyer for the northwest department store.

While buying for Nordstroms in Utah, Spielman met her husband Jim, a ski instructor, and their path brought them to Billings where Jim—in an effort to find work during the off-season—started up a successful road striping business. They’ve been residing in Billings for 20+ years, raising their two daughters, and consider Billings their home.

“I like that you can go in the grocery store and you know people,” Spielman said. “I grew up that way, so for me it fits. I don’t like to be in a big city where you’re an unknown entity; I like the interaction.”

It wasn’t until Spielman’s children were grown and off to college that she ventured back to finish her degree. She obtained her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from Montana State University Billings. During her schooling, she poured bronzed, painted, worked with melting glass, photography, silkscreen, prints, welded, and toyed with ceramics.

“It’s under the radar how great MSUB’s art program is,” Spielman said.

A minimalist approach

Spielman’s horses are well known around Billings, yet her portfolio is full of images of the west: cowboys riding in a line, animals in the wild, farmers in the field.

The rich colors and thick textures of Spielman’s work remind of oil paintings, yet she’s strictly an acrylic painter. Perhaps by default, as when she was obtaining her degree the classroom didn’t have proper ventilation, so oils were out of the equation.

Spielman makes acrylics her own, evolving her style into more primitive forms, similar to pictographs. “I want the viewer to figure out what my images are,” Spielman said. “It’s ambiguous in a way, paired down to the essence of what you see—shapes and color.” She’s also heavily influenced by art of the 1950s, when bright colors reigned supreme.

Spielman was the fourth Artist in Residence at the Yellowstone Art Museum. During her time at the YAM, Spielman worked closely with the educational department and taught children and high schoolers alike the joys of painting. She also taught an art class at Crow Agency.

“In Billings there’s a wealth of people from all over,” Spielman said. “I meet so many interesting people. I find their insights and thoughts fascinating.”

Giving back

Spielman has a philanthropic approach to painting. She donates art to auctions and charities to help raise money for worthy causes. “I love doing it, and the rewards are huge. I’m thrilled that someone wants to buy my work, and that money can go toward a good cause.” In 2012 alone, Spielman donated 14 paintings, with three months still to give. “It’s so rewarding and worth it to me.”

Teaching is another way Spielman gives back. “Children are really open. It’s fun to get their insights, reactions, energy, and spirit; it’s contagious. I’m a messy painter, so I like to get them making a mess. Art is a great way to express yourself, and the horse—especially with kids—is such a beloved animal.”

Find Carol Spielman’s art at Toucan (2505 Montana Avenue), Visions West Galleries (Bozeman, Livingston, Denver), Dana Gallery (Missoula), RARE Gallery of Fine Art (Jackson Hole), Terzian Galleries (Park City, Utah), Coda Gallery (Palm Dessert, Calif., Park City, Utah).

Originally published in Magic City Magazine, Nov. 2012

Clyde Aspevig’s symphony of oils

At first glance, a Clyde Aspevig oil painting appears to be a snapshot from a moment in time—something you’d imagine only a photograph could capture. Looking deeper into the layers of paint, brush strokes converge into a melding of color and shape, as though the painting were a musical composition.

“A photograph is going to show a very cold, mechanical image,” Aspevig said, “but a painting shows all the human intuition and qualities that make our interpretation of nature beautiful.”

Aspen Pond
Aspen Pond

Aspevig paints naturalistic landscapes in the ways that composers create music—describing the syncopation of shapes in his paintings like visual notes on a page. Orchestrating his works, Aspevig softens the scene as a musician would apply pianissimo to a quiet section of music, then builds toward the center of interest in the piece with powerful brush strokes—building a crescendo of oil paints and textures.

Music, just like art, is innate. It's something that we have to do. It's a part of us. Clyde Aspevig

Aspevig describes art and music as interrelated, as both are the earliest forms of expression. “Music, just like art, is innate. It’s something that we have to do. It’s a part of us,” he said.

When Aspevig paints, he looks at his surroundings in an abstract form, taking into account the shapes. Even though his paintings seem detailed, his landscapes are composed of abstractions. “I don’t paint every leaf on a tree and every blade of grass. I paint the idea of it—a symbol of it.”

Aspevig, who grew up near Rudyard in rural northern Montana, didn’t have access to an arts education, but was fortunate to have parents who understood and encouraged his passion for painting. Though he dabbled in watercolors in college, Aspevig said oil painting has consumed his life. “The fun thing about oil painting is that it’s more forgiving than watercolor. Oil paints have a lot more flexibility and you get to try all these different possibilities.”

Big Sur
Big Sur

What brought you to the medium of paint?
From kindergarten on, I was always dabbing in art: watercolor, drawing, pen and ink. One summer, when I was 10, I broke my leg in a horse riding accident. I was staying with my uncle at the time, and he got me started in oils.

How did growing up in Montana influence your artwork?
Growing up on the highline, the big sky and the flat plains dominated the landscape. Sitting on the tractors as a young boy, looking at the sky and nature, watching the raptors and hawks following the plow, I developed this attachment to the land that any farmer or rancher understands. That had a huge impact on my life. Landscape is what I was destined to create.

Tell me a bit about your technique.
I used to think if I copied every detail, the painting would be more realistic, but that is not the way the human mind sees. We don’t see with our eyes, we see with our brains. I don’t pay attention to detail. I rely on an intuitive reaction to the environment—I have to make up certain symbols in a very immediate way, which helps create my own personal style.


Aspevig’s fifth book, “Visual Music – The Landscapes of Clyde Aspevig” is available for order at Aspevig’s website or by calling Juniper Ridge Studios at 294-5677.

Article originally published in Magic City Magazine, April 2012.

Lisa Harmon: Downtown Maven

Lisa Harmon (photo by Casey Page)

Originally published in Magic City Magazine

Lisa Harmon’s path to Downtown Billings began with a cookie. The Executive Director of the Downtown Billings Association and the Business Improvement District, Harmon relocated her family and her cookie business to Billings 18 years ago.

“When I moved the company, this was an amazing community to do business in,” Harmon said. “There is a strong small business mentality and initiative here.”

Harmon’s cookies—a healthy treat free of additives and preservatives—were created as a response to her mother’s cancer. Given no more than six months to live, Harmon’s mother lived four years beyond her diagnosis, a result, Harmon believes, of healthy eating. “It was pretty amazing. We tried to live as naturally as possible and took that into our home,” she said.

Continue reading Lisa Harmon: Downtown Maven

Carol Hagan Colorful Intoxication

The beauty of a Carol Hagan painting cannot be quantified, but rather its allure rests in the richness of vivid color and thick texture, and in the visual honesty her artwork offers.

When Hagan paints, the eyes of her subject are the first to immerge—bright, vivid, and the gateway to understanding Hagan’s work. Through these expressive eyes, Hagan communicates the virtue and integrity of her animal subjects, most of which she’s photographed before beginning to paint.

Fiesta Coyote
Fiesta Coyote

Hagan begins her work by building a relationship with the animal, photographing it, and working from these photographs to capture the essence of their interaction. Such a process makes Hagan’s animal subjects spring from the canvas, their personality further heightened through her use of color.

I’ve always worked with as many colors as I could get my hands on. Carol Hagan

“Color is intoxicating to work with,” Hagan said. “I’ve always worked with as many colors as I could get my hands on.”

Hagan, a self-taught artist, describes vibrant color as the backbone of her work. Though she began painting in acrylics to avoid introducing toxic paint fumes into her home, she switched to oils to achieve richness and viscosity only an oil paint can provide.

With the support of her husband Pat, Hagan moved her studio from the family kitchen to a workspace attached to the couple’s home south of Billings, and she has been working in the medium ever since.

Hagan’s studio—permeated with the aroma of oil paints—is crowded with her works in process. Baby barn owls peer out from the canvas, their majestic allure captured in layer upon layer of warmly colored oils. Animated bears, their disheveled fur carved from palette knife strokes, gaze from the canvas. And horses, their dignified faces conveying much personality, evolve in the workspace.

“Obviously I love animals,” Hagan said, indicating her favorite subjects to paint are bears and horses. “What little girl never wanted a horse?”

Along Moose Creek

Hagan describes herself as fortunate to live in a pastoral setting where beauty and inspiration are in such abundance. “(Horses) are such an elegant animal, and I’ve always been drawn to them. Bears, too, are a favorite of mine. They have such personalities, and their coats lend themselves incredibly well to experimenting with different colors.”

To achieve such rich texture and color, Hagan’s paintings have upwards of 30 layers of paint, so she rotates the art around her studio, working on a handful at a time as others dry.

“(Painting) is a slow process for me,” Hagan said, explaining a painting will typically take upwards of three weeks to complete. “The fun part is building it up and standing back and taking my time with it.”

Describe your process of painting.
I try not to box myself in by trying to be someone else’s style. When you look at someone’s work and can say, “That’s a Kevin Red Star,” or “That’s Rocky Hawkins” just by a glance, it is because that work comes out of them uninhibited, and it’s their personal style. It comes out and flows through them, and that is what I want to see through me is what flows out of me. I paint by feel; it’s more of an expression.

What led you into painting?
I picked up the paintbrush purely as a form of self-expression. I did not have any intention of selling my paintings or showing them; they were just for me. Someone saw one and asked if they could buy it. It took me by surprise. I loved painting and just the fact that someone would want to having it on their wall meant a lot to me…I really didn’t think that it would continue to evolve into this full-time business.

Hagan’s original works are on display in art galleries in Bozeman, Livingston, Whitefish, Red Lodge, Jackson Hole, and Santa Fe, and her prints can be viewed at Rimrock Art and Frame in Billings. For gallery listings or to contact Hagan, visit www.carolhaganstudios.com.

Originally published in Magic City Magazine, Nov. 2011

Curator discusses Pulitzer Prize photographs display at YAM

Coming to the YAM August – December 2011

Among the bullets they shoot their cameras, and in viewfinders they watch as the world unfolds. Documenting moments of time, photographers record humanity’s stories—stories of human anguish and triumph, of the impoverished and defenseless, the fearless and the frustrated, and often stories of the forgotten.

Arguably the most iconic photographs of all time, the works of Pulitzer Prize recipients are coming to the Yellowstone Art Museum in August. Vividly these still images represent humanity’s resilience through triumph and disgrace. So many stories are captured in the grains and pixels of photographs—stories that make up who we are.

The exhibit, titled “Capture the Moment: The Pulitzer Prize Photographs,” is the most comprehensive traveling display of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs, featuring works by Pulitzer recipients from 1942 to present.

Newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer established journalism’s highest honor, the Pulitzer, in 1917. The Pulitzer Prize for distinguished newspaper photography was established in 1942, and a second prize was added in 1968 for feature photography. To receive the Pulitzer, photographs must first be published in American newspaper, though subject matter has a global scope.

From the raising of an American flag at Iwo Jima to the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald to attack on the World Trade Center, a total of 160 works (including all 118 Pulitzer winning photos through 2011) are displayed in “Capture the Moment: The Pulitzer Prize Photographs.”

Continue reading Curator discusses Pulitzer Prize photographs display at YAM

Combining forms: Polly Apfelbaum’s ‘Fallen Paintings’

Billings resident Trista Henry takes in “Mini Hollywood,” a display of Polly Apfelbaum’s work at the Yellowstone Art Museum, which opened on April 1.

Instead of hanging on the wall, contemporary artist Polly Apfelbaum’s creations are displayed on the floor. Like painting or sculpture, Apfelbaum’s work relies heavily on color, texture and form, yet her textile pieces are created from materials formed into abstract shapes to create what she has termed “fallen paintings.”

“I’m a person who is between paining and sculpture,” Apfelbaum said in a recent interview while in Billings setting up her latest artistic endeavor. Termed “Mini Hollywood,” the art display opened April 1 at the Yellowstone Art Museum.

Since a showing of her assemblage art in 1986 in New York, where Apfelbaum calls home, she’s been working as an artist and exhibiting her work internationally. Crushed velvet, crepe paper, felt, bed sheets and safety pins are some of the materials Apfelbaum has used in her work. For the Billings instillation, she selected sequined fabrics commonly used in the fashion industry.

A close-up of the fabric Poly Apfelbaum uses reveals sequins shimmering in the gallery lights.

These fabrics, laid on the floor like carpeting, sprawl from the corners of three galleries on the YAM’s first floor. Yet the material, like wet slabs of colorful paint, embodies a high sheen. The work is playful; the colors create holographic rainbow hues across the gallery and float from the ground to the ceiling, creating a multi-layered effect that fills the spaces.

“I want people to feel the color,” Apfelbaum said. “When you look at a painting on the wall, that’s one thing, but when you have to walk through, colors start moving and shifting, and that for me is really wonderful. Every minute it’s a different thing.”

Continue reading Combining forms: Polly Apfelbaum’s ‘Fallen Paintings’

Julie Pederson Atkins Detail in Graphite

Julie Pederson Atkins describes working with pencil on paper as though she’s working with clay. “It is a matter of caressing the paper,” Atkins said. “I baby it. Paper isn’t just a surface to me. Right from the beginning I want it to be transformed.”

Adkins is drawn to people, animals, and landscapes for subject matter. Each piece of art has distinct mystery with a sense of a captured moment in time. Each line of the pencil is blended into a perfect replication of the subject, the subtle grays melting together to create form. She describes her technique as “all over the place” because she uses black to white and all the grays in-between.

“I love to draw people and their expression. I want to capture them as them—not as a posed person, but more so a true representation of them,” she said.

Graphite drawing of Julie’s father

Born in North Dakota, Atkins grew up mainly in Montana from a young age. She studied fine art in Bozeman, and has resided in Billings since the late 80s. She turned to visual arts because she’d always loved to draw.

“My first memory is from when I began drawing,” Atkins said. “I must have been four and I don’t know if I had seen a lot of other drawings, per say, but I do remember thinking I want to make that look as real as possible.” The drawing, a simple coffee table and loveseat in her family’s living room, began her obsession with the medium.

“I just drew all the time,” Atkins said. Trees, animals, blades of grass—her atmosphere became her muse. She was drawn to the medium because a pencil and piece of paper “is always there; it’s always available,” she said.

Atkins reflected on her father, who would sketch small pictures for her as she watched. “He wasn’t an artist, but he just had fun doing it. He’d laugh, and I thought, ‘Hey, that’s what I want to do.’”

Was drawing an easy form to embrace?
I am the kind of person that has to have something to create. My hands have to be busy creating something all the time. There are times that my husband might say ‘Let’s do something else,’ and I can’t because I am stuck in that mode where it is all that I can do. I do think a lot of artists are like that; hopefully I am not the only one.

What attracts you to portraits and landscapes?
I mostly paint landscapes. There is detail, and I like to create large-scale with lots of contrasts. Pencil work lends itself to more realism. For portraits, it’s the natural person, not a posed person. If I can catch them off guard that’s better. I love textures and portraying hair and fur and things like that. I like tall blades of grass, leaves in the trees in a distance, or peeling paint off old barns. And there is something about wheat fields. We farmed in North Dakota, and that is what I know. Everything I do comes from where I grew up.

Download the article, originally published in Magic City Magazine.