The Yellowstone Art Museum first opened its doors in October 1964 as the Yellowstone Art Center in the old county jail. At that time, anyone could wander through, free of charge, and enjoy the art. Pen illustrations by Will James often hung on the rough old sandstone walls.
But the lack of both space and funds limited exhibits. After over three decades of organization, fund-raising and planning, art in the jail became art at the YAM in 1998. The present building, with its high ceilings and giant windows, is a work of art in itself. Right now, it houses the YAM’s Art Auction 44, “Wild in Montana,” a showcase for 150 artists, most of whom are from Montana and Wyoming.
The “Wild” title and the catalog cover suggest a woodsy, folksy, theme, but the art is just the opposite, with everything from Ted Waddell’s signature black Anguses to newcomer Sheilah Healow’s abstract piece entitled “Accident.”
Art Auction 44 begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3. Call 256-6804 for tickets.
Read on. Just a smattering of the artists talk about their art....
Grace Frankforter - sculptor, Billings
I’ve been doing art since my early 20s. Why sculpture? I made jewelry for a long time. I like touching things. I like the process. A pipe fitter taught me a couple of basic welds and then I taught myself. I really like steel, welded steel. I don’t think spaces, I feel them.
I like the artists from the Modern Era — Calder, Nettleson, Bourgeois, Bella Feldman, and Dr. Seuss as well as Picasso.
Right now, I’m making a lot of seeds, pods and pod forms. I like the idea of things being contained and then breaking free.
Dale Beckman - painter, Helena
As early as I can remember, I’ve been creating art. I started working formally, in elementary school; I painted with a teacher before school. At Rocky, I studied with Bob Morrison.
Right now, I’m forcing something in my own direction. I’m blending realism with abstraction.
Some people like it, some people don’t.
I think of myself as an image maker. I start with an image as a point of entry and then go from there. It can be new each time a person looks at it. It gives it a life of its own. Look at my drawing. I hope one can see the energy bouncing around.
Tracy Linder - sculpture and installations, Molt
I drew all my life, took art classes and then studied at the college level. There are so many artists that go into my work, a very long list: Lynda Banglis, Eva Hesse, Kiki Smith, and many more.
I grew up west of Billings on the family farm. I definitely enjoy living on the prairie (in Molt). It’s either way out, or way in. I like the extremes. I’m dealing with agricultural issues. “Flow,” the piece in the auction, I would call wall sculpture. It’s part of the Wings series and uses a dove wing, but bigger. It was once believed that all people, when they died, became doves.
Ms. Linder has an upcoming exhibit at the Nicolayson Museum in Casper, Wyo.
Sheilah Healow - painter, Billings
I drew when I was a little and it became the thing I was good at in elementary school. I’m more a drawer than a painter. I like to see things in multiple dimensions. It makes a more difficult process, but it’s more interesting for me.
“Accident” was a stepping off point from a mind-blowing event in my family. I tried to go from my emotions to something others could relate to. It’s hard work, but I just keep drawing.
Paul Whiting - photographer, Billings
I flunked sandbox and graduated to a Donald Duck camera. We had gas streetlights where we lived outside of Chicago. A man went around with his ladder every evening to light the lamps.
That was a pretty good photograph. Then there was the fire lookout tower. I do take pictures of people once in a while.
I don’t really look, I respond or react. I have a camera with me most of the time.
The pictures find me. The architects I work with tell me I have a good eye. Gordon McConnell once said that I remind him of the New Photography School. It was very affirming.
Phil Bell - photographer, Billings
Well, I’m 68 years old. I started out at 12 to get a Boy Scout merit badge; it goes back that far.
I’m one of those rare birds that got into digital photography right away. The big thing that turned the corner for me was when they came out with pigment ink printers with ink jet. And Photoshop. I really got into a lot of fine art printing.
CTA is my biggest client right now. Billings Fine Art Gallery downtown has my prints.
Jeanne Bowman - artist and illustrator, Billings
How long have I been doing art? Since I was little. Art was Illustration. I actually never got to go to an art museum until I moved here. There’s a fine line between art and illustration. I really like Jim Baken and Mark Moak. I love Edward Gorey. I have a copy of “The Ghastlycrumb Tinies” - his macabre alphabet.
I’m working on a portfolio for grad school and I’d like to attend Anthony Ryder’s atelier in New Mexico. It’s a really intense nine months. I’d also like to go to grad school at [the University of New Mexico] Santa Fe.
Christie American Horse - painter, Sheridan, Wyo.
My dad was an artist. When we were tiny, he would draw things for us to color. Then we had to draw our pictures to color. So I grew up drawing.
When I was in second grade, I was in my first Wyoming Art Symposium in Sheridan.
I got a few ribbons over the years. I got an art scholarship to Northwest Nazarene, but I ended up teaching preschoolers and also [English as a second language]. I studied for the ministry, too. I’ve also taken graphic design.
I love doing portraits, and lately it’s been realistic portraits on graphic backgrounds.
My husband is Northern Cheyenne. We have a ministry called MORE (Mahe’heo’o on the Rez Every Day). We want to be able to give scholarships to support native artists.