Tuesday, July 27, 2010

July 26, Missoula

July 26, Missoula

Quote of the day: Winners, I am convinced, imagine their dreams first. They want it with all their heart and expect it to come true. There is, I believe, no other way to live.

Pics: Gold duck by Trey hill; Cyclist by David Regan; boats in driveway next to Beth Lo’s house (not fast enough to get the old Rolls Royce on the other side of her) house; deer acting like pets in a backyard; Rudy Autio piece behind a Voulkos bronze, on the front porch; Autio piece maybe made in California (will it end up at Oakland Museum?); Missoula utility box art; our conveyance for the day; dinner spot; collector’s house, guest house, gallery and pics of another Turrell visit for DB and THB this year!

Up on the elliptical, after a slow start to the day. Doesn’t help, we’re late to breakfast and eat a rushed meal. I get the granola, yogurt and fruit concoction, approximately enough to feed a family of four.

First stop, local ceramicist and teacher Trey Hill’s house/studio. He’s a bit out of town, and since he is also a fly fisherman (like about 85% of the population here it seems), he’s only a quarter mile away from his fave spot. His studio is under construction, it’s got a gigantic hole at one end to allow him to wheel his big pieces right from the studio to a kiln he’s planning to construct. For now, he has to load his big pieces in a truck, carefully cart them to the university and then into a kiln there.

He has a few pieces on display, gives a very articulate explanation about his work. One of the tour buys a piece (these are bargains, great value for quality). Good news: Trey is coming with us the rest of the day as our local guide.

We pull up in a quiet residential neighborhood, walk down an alley, and crowd in at the door of David Regan’s studio. Well, his barely-one-car garage (with no car), which is his studio. He is a guy that works on one piece for a long time. He shows us the current piece in progress (since last October!), a trio of bicyclists (representing motion) and the pictures he is etching (really sgraffito, I think) into the surface, many meticulous episodes. He’s a mountain biker, so this is a combination of his exercise pastime and his work.

David also makes tiles, and as he is passing one around someone asks if he works by photography transfer. No. When the piece comes to me, I’d swear he has taken a high quality photograph and using a decal method, transferred it to the tile. He etches the surface at various depths, and the glaze creates the impression of sharpness in the foreground and blurriness in the background. What a shock, this guy is a genius working in what must be a very old-fashioned style. Very impressive! All in a very small garage. I chat him up near the end, he thinks Alberto should’ve waited for Andy.

Lunch is at Pearl’s cafĂ©: a nice gazpacho, good local bread, and a salad nicoise (heavily dressed and overdone tuna), and fruit sorbet in a thin cookie-cup. This is one of the better places in town, opened just to accommodate our group. During lunch, a William Clark impersonator gives an overview of the Lewis and Clark exploration. Mildly entertaining.

Trey is still with us, and off we go to one of his co-teachers at the U, Beth Lo. Beth is out of town at a funeral, so her husband (in midst of giving a guitar lesson) and Trey do their best to describe what we are seeing in the house/studio (maybe another converted garage, this one a two car version?). She works all the way from salt and pepper shakers to conceptual installation work. Without her there, we don’t get quite as much of the explanation that we get from other studio visits. Nevertheless, our group does its best to buy what’s on hand, her work is pretty well known to the group (we own a piece, and are now considering another). She’s born in Indiana to first generation Chinese, and there are numerous mah jongg references in her work!

Right down the street is the house and studio of Lela Autio, widow of Rudy Autio. Rudy was one of the early co-directors of the Bray along with Voulkos. Many of his sculptures are around the house and in the gallery out back. Lela is also an artist, and we get a visit to her studio (upstairs in a room sort of between the garage/studio and the house; the garage is a workshop for at least one their kids, who is also doing art). Note the picture where a large Voulkos bronze and a large piece by Rudy are on the front porch. What you don’t see is a 7 foot tall Jun Kaneko dongo, another very impressive piece. Quite a porch for you big-time ceramics fans. You can take this one in with a driveby and catch three superior museum-quality pieces.

Back to the hotel, another dip in the Clark Fork, and rest up for dinner. We’re eating quite a ways out of town at the Ekstrom’s Stage Station (a spot where the cross-country stage used to stop in the 1800s). Very good ribeye steak (DB has prime rib), Moose Drool beer, pickled watermelon rind (not bad!), and a coffee ice cream mud pie for dessert.

Through our connections with MAM, Laura the director has arranged a visit to a local collector. They own a valley (yes, the whole valley; money comes from mining and precious metals) just up from Ekstrom’s, and they have three similarly-designed unusual semi-circular structures on the property (and not close to each other). All have huge logs tilting up like they are leaning on the facades, with a trellis like covering on the upright beams (that I guess are hiding inside). The semi-circle optimizes multiple views out the front, and the back of the buildings are built up earthenworks (to help environmentally).

The only real difference in the buildings is the size: main house, guest house and baby bear (gallery). The main house is two stories, in a size that would fit four stories easily. Not a lot of art, most of it sizable and quite good (Warhol, Rauschenberg, Gehry, Ruscha).

Then we bus up to the guest house, a slow 10 minutes away. This is a about a quarter of the main house, also with impressive art and a bad smell (septic system problems?). Right outside and dug down into the hillside outside the front, is a Turrell skyspace (skyscape?) piece, similar to several we’ve seen (and not quite like those we encountered in Japan). The LED system is not working very strongly, so we don’t get the changing light effects we had in several spots in Japan. And the night sky is slowly slowly slowly fading to dark. Not fast enough to really get the darkness effect, and it is overcast so we aren’t getting any stars either. Still, another impressive installation, the site is spectacular.

Then we bus down to the gallery, one large space filled with LeWitt wall piece, another Rauschenberg, and several other large pieces including one by an artist we did a studio visit with when we were on the NY-Long Island Oakland Museum trip a year and half ago.

Okay, time to go, finessing the gravel road back to the main highway. Six miles, or 30 minutes…now it’s plenty dark. Another half hour to the hotel, and in bed after midnight. A long and fascinating day chasing art.

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