By ZACH DUNDAS
The museum’s year ends with a sneak preview of a new special collection of contemporary art by Native American artists, including Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Corwin Clairmont. On campus, the Paxson Gallery is soon to turn into the Henry Meloy Gallery, renamed in honor of a huge collection of that late artists’ work donated to UM by his family.
A Montana native, Meloy was in the midst of making his move in the New York art world when he passed away in 1951, leaving behind a vast body of painting, drawing and ceramic work. “Meloy was ahead of Jackson Pollock in terms of action painting,” says gallery director Margaret Mudd.
“Some of his work is very academic, but by the end of his career he’d moved into very vibrant, abstract forms. That work is grounded in all that solid training.”
The small portion of the 6,000 Meloy pieces in UM’s possession on display bears out Mudd’s enthusiasm. Ranging from dead-on figure studies to explosive, colorful abstract canvasses, the breadth of Meloy’s output is impressive. The exhibit, now open, will be officially dedicated October 2.
In the private gallery world, SuttonWest boasts arguably the biggest name of the fall: legendary landscape painter Russell Chatham. The Livingston-based painter, who’s become almost as famous for his hard-living ways as he is for his sensitive landscapes and lithographs, will hit town for a show at Geoff Sutton’s shop opening October 2.
“He’s painting really well,” Sutton enthuses. After years representing Chatham, Sutton says the work put together for this show is among the painter’s best.
“He seems to have recovered from some of his personal problems and to be really excited about what he’s doing. From what I’ve seen, it’s excellent work.”
Shows featuring local artists Kendahl Jan Jubb, Nancy Erickson, June Stratton and Linda Tibbets, along with a current selection of sculpture by students at Helena’s Archie Bray Foundation, fill out SuttonWest’s fall.
Right next door at the photo-centric Dana Gallery, Dudley Dana promises a fall to match those of galleries featuring more “traditional” media. “I’ve had people come through the door, take a look around at the photography on the walls, and say, ‘Do you have any real art?’” he says.
“It used to piss me off. Now, I just laugh. What we’re trying to do here is do a mix of work, from black and white to Polaroid transfers to painted-on photos, to show people what’s happening in photography, where it’s come from and where it’s going, as best we can.”
Dana points to an art-photo renaissance happening in Europe and new respect and new technological potential realized on these shores as evidence that photography is more than holding its own. It’s his hope, he says, that his downtown space can capture a little of that energy.
To that end, Dana headed to Houston, Texas’ FotoFest, an annual gathering of hundreds of photogs and their patrons. “Everyone’s there, from us to the Met,” he says, name-checking the world famous New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. “I booked an Alaskan there, someone from San Francisco. It’s a great opportunity to meet artists I’d ordinarily never see.”
This fall Dana brings enormous prints by Seth Dickerman—up to 40 by 55 inches—that explore motion in a blur of color and light. Santa Fe photographer Barbara Van Cleeve and the addition of more sculpture and pottery—an effort to give the gallery another dimension, Dana says—also highlight the season.
Beyond these four galleries, it’ll be up to gallery crawlers themselves to make the scene around town when GAGA’s big night rolls around in October. With plenty of other places, from stand-bys like the University Center Gallery to dark horses like Birnbaum’s Broadway Frame, sticking art on the walls, there’s plenty of walking to do. So go easy on the Chardonnay.
By ANDY SMETANKA
The diffuse light is as practical as it is beautiful. “I obsessed on the architectural lighting of the building,” confesses Caron. “When a show is over, your eyes are tired. And I was looking for something that wasn’t just a spot of hot white light.”
Caron predicts that the first thing most people will notice about the new theater is the stage lighting: 192 dimmers in place of the former 24. The wide array of lights allows for more subtleties of lighting and a welcome change from stark, full-frontal lighting. “The actors will just look better,” he grins.
Marketing Director Terri Elander points out that, with a mere 45 feet separating the lip of the stage from the hindmost seating, there’s not a bad seat in the house. “On this stage, the actors can get as far as 46 feet apart, which means they can be closer to the back row than they are to each other.”
Caron notes that building onto or over an existing structure comes with its own set of problems, and he is willing to share a few of the more unusual obstacles which stood in the way of progress: “While we were digging out the parking lot, we came across the top of a keg or barrel of some kind. We figured it was a fifty-gallon drum and that it was probably going to take us half a day and maybe a backhoe to get it out of there.
“So we started digging—and digging. Thousands of dollars later, it was literally the size of a boxcar, filled with old fuel oil.”
On another occasion, a concrete slab unearthed during excavation touched off a round of anxious speculation: “The workers cleared it away, and at first we came to the conclusion that it was probably the floor of some kind of powerhouse in the old building. Then it dawned on us that we might not be looking at a floor.
“We might be looking at a ceiling! For awhile we thought we had Al Capone’s vault, the burial place of Chief Joseph or who knows what.”
Pressed for the dirt on some possible hauntings—perhaps a mysterious lady in black silk, or the 1971 cast of A Christmas Carol—Caron shrugs. He says he stumbled across a story about a ghost in the MCT building while browsing in a Boston bookstore. “I’d never heard of it, so I guess the real ghost is how the story got even got in the book.”
Fittingly, Caron will also be one of the first actors to step into the spotlight, when Fiddler on the Roof—the first production in the new facility —opens on October 23. For someone poised to finally reap the rewards of a lot of hard work, Caron remains professionally cool.
“A lot of hands-on stuff went into the creation of this building,” Caron says, “and hopefully now it all pays off.”
Five Rivers Festival of Film
By NICK DAVIS
Hearts and Minds, a 1974 Vietnam war film, earned a Best Documentary Oscar for producer and director Peter Davis. On Friday, following the screening of Hearts and Minds, audience members will get the chance to pick Davis' mind in a question-and-answer session.
One thing you probably won't find in his mind is a lot of pretense. "I'm very eager to hear what the audience has to say about the movie," Davis says, "what moves them, what they wish they could see more of. That just doesn't happen in most festivals."
Asked if he was worried about revealing too many tricks of the trade or dispelling the magic of a completed film, Davis laughs. "You know, the more people know about the craftsmanship of how movies are made, the better," he says. "I've been through the whole process, and believe me, it's even more mysterious to me now how it ever gets done."
Davis will be accompanied by Richard Pearce, the director of photography and associate producer of Hearts and Minds. In addition to shooting three other Academy Award-winning documentaries, Pearce directed the 1980 pioneer-era epic Heartland, which won the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Heartland was shot in the Judith Basin of central Montana, with local author and the co-producer of Robert Redford's A River Runs Through It Annick Smith at the helm.
The festival is something of a reunion for the Heartland crew, with six members attending the Saturday screening. Besides Pearce and Smith, producer Michael Hausman (Nobody's Fool, The People vs. Larry Flynt), sound technician Maryte Kavaliauskas, director of photography Fred Murphy and production designer Patrizia Von Brandenstein (who earned an Oscar for her work on Amadeus) will be there.
Another award-winning documentary in the festival is Something Within Me, a 1992 film chronicling an experimental Catholic school in the impoverished South Bronx. Every student in the school studied music theory and at least one instrument, and the resulting increase of the kids' self-confidence, self-worth and powers of concentration was remarkable. Something Within Me achieved a triple crown of sorts at the 1993 Sundance Festival in Utah, a gathering of industry insiders and independent filmmakers, earning the Audience Award, the Filmmakers' Award and a Special Jury Award for documentaries.
The real reward for making Something Within Me, though, was "being able to watch these kids realize that other people really wanted to see what they had to offer," says producer Jerret Engle, who will attend the festival. The movie's impact, Engle reports, has gone beyond artistic appreciation, keeping the idea of a music-centered curriculum alive.
Other highlights of the festival include the presence of writer-director Roger Hedden (Bodies, Rest and Motion), whose new movie Hi-Life will have its world premiere in the Garden City. Missoula is a fitting location for the premiere; Hedden put the finishing touches on the script two years ago while participating in the Missoula Colony, a workshop for screen and playwrights held each spring.
Designer Jeffrey Townsend will provide insight into his job for the lounge flick extraordinaire The Fabulous Baker Boys.
The seminal Aquarian-Age cinematic revolution Hair will be attended by both Hausman (first assistant director) and writer Michael Weller.
The background and production of Living in Oblivion, an uproarious behind-the-scenes look at the travails of independent filmmaking-according to Shaara, this movie is a principal inspiration for the festival itself-will be illuminated by producer Michael Griffith.
Meanwhile, Bozeman resident Pam Roberts presents Ishi, the Last Yahi, an Emmy-nominated documentary about the last remaining member of the Yahi Indian tribe who wandered out into the northern California civilization in 1911. The movie, co-produced and co-directed by Roberts, tracks the relationship between the endearing Ishi and an opportunistic anthropologist named Alfred Kroeber.
"All the dramatic elements were there," Roberts says of the movie. "It's a poignant story about a beautiful man. We drew upon letters, diary accounts and official reports from Kroeber in an effort to create a personal portrait of Ishi."
Foreign-film lovers will get their share at the festival as well, with a triple-header of French language films.
Director Sarah Maldoror, who was born in the French West Indies and created the first black theater in Paris, will be screening her much-lauded movie Sambizanga, a treatment of the black resistance movement in Africa set just before the 1961 uprising against the Portuguese.
Aloise, a study into the universal language of madness based on the true story of Switzerland's famous primitive painter, gets a showing at the hands of director Liliane de Kermadec.
And Missoula will be the site of the U.S. premiere of On Va Nulle Part... et C'est Tres Bien, a movie about the disappearance of industrial society and one man's effort to fill that hole. Put a literal translation on this one ("One Goes Nowhere... and That's Fine"), and producer an director Jean Claude Jean could be talking about our own little burg.
Says festival co-director Cinda Holt, who was the managing director of Sundance for six years. "This is truly a labor of love." If you're a movie fan in this often-remote cinematic outpost, you'd be well advised to savor every sweet drop from the fruit of that labor.
For a full schedule of the Five Rivers Film Festival check this week's A&E listings or Movie Shorts.