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Montana Museum of Art and Culture acquires ‘significant’ Western collection

It has been announced that the Montana Museum of Art and Culture has acquired a new collection that director Rafael Chacón, a professor of art history and criticism, believes has impacted people’s perceptions of the West and provides visitors with an opportunity to reassess its mythology.

Considering that it is “such a significant aspect of the national landscape,” Chacón added, “it behooves us to reinvestigate what is genuine and what is a creation.” “Can you explain what an idealization of the West is? As a result, the visual arts provide us with a chance to explore these issues.”

UM, alumni Stan Goodbar of Wyoming and his late wife Donna Goodbar of Montana announced last week that the MMAC had acquired a significant collection of more than 125 works from their estate. The exhibit “Imagining the West: Selections from the Stan and Donna Goodbar Collection of Western Art” will be displayed from February 4 to March 26. Chacón said that the purchase occurred at an opportune moment for the museum and would address gaps in the institution’s Western art collection.

As of now, the museum, which houses the state’s most significant public art collection, is housed in a few galleries in the PAR-TV Center on campus, and there is a limited amount of room. The timing is ideal since the museum will shortly construct a new building on the north end of campus, which is expected to cost $8 million. The museum’s new facility, which was paid for entirely via private donations, will expand its collections.

“When this collection from the Goodbars came up for consideration, it was a chance for us to enhance our Western art collection,” Chacón said.

He said that the Goodbars concentrated on artists from the 20th century who were not already represented in the MMAC’s collection, such as illustrators Nick Eggenhofer and Will James, among others. According to the University of Montana, other Montana artists featured, including John Clarke, Joe De Yong, Elizabeth Lochrie, Ace Powell, and O.C. Seltzer. He said that they continued on the traditions of Charlie Russell and Frederick Remington while also expanding the illustrative practices into the realm of popular culture.

“That’s truly how people learned about the West, and that’s really how they comprehended the West,” Chacón said. “And they did it by looking at pulp literature, magazine covers, and Hollywood movies,” explains the author.

Rafael Chacon is the director of the Montana Museum of Art and Culture in Missoula, Montana. (Photo courtesy of Renata Birkenbuel/Missoula) (Photo taken from the current file)
According to him, the artists pushed a vision of what the West is like and a romanticized image of Westerners at times. As a result, he believes that the show will allow people to reassess Western art, including its philosophy, imagery, preconceptions, and cliches. The public might inquire as to whether or not what they see is an accurate picture of the people who first inhabited the West and Indigenous people in the West.

“This show provides us with an excellent chance to reconsider the whole history of Western art, and specifically how the participants are portrayed,” Chacón said.

According to Chacón, one of the pieces on exhibit will be a carved bear by Blackfeet artist John Clarke, who resided in East Glacier and was known for creating animals in the wood. Clarke was a Blackfeet artist who lived in East Glacier and had a reputation for sculpting animals in the wood. A lot of Clarke’s work was sold to visitors visiting Glacier National Park, as Western artists reacted to the yearning mentioned above for the American West. According to Chacón, tourism has prompted Indigenous artists to alter their creative traditions in certain respects while also embracing the preferences of the dominant culture more generally.

I believe it’s a fascinating aspect of the tale because he worked as a Native artist who created works of art for visitors, and it’s a story that has to be shared,” he added.

According to the University of Michigan, the collection also contains works by California painters Edward Borein and Olaf Wieghorst and modernists Frances Senska and Peter Voulkos, among others.

Chacón said that fundraising efforts for the new facility are continuing. It will be some time before the permanent collection is on display. Still, he said that they want to begin building this spring on the location opposite the recreation annex of the Adams Center, near an expansion of Memorial Row, where the temporary collection is now on display.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Chacón acknowledged.