The Thing Itself: installation shot

Collections Highlights: The Thing Itself

June 15, 2019 - June 28, 2020

Installation image

The Thing Itself, installation

“The artistic image is not intended to represent the thing itself, but, rather, the reality of the force the thing contains.” – James Baldwin

Art holds a mirror up to the world. Art may also represent the realities beneath the world’s illusions. This exhibition highlights art made directly from the things of the world. Showcasing works made from found materials in the YAM’s collection, it also debuts Butte artist Steve Wellman’s “Useless Objects.”

Steve Wellman, Worthless Objects, 1990s – 2019; Mixed media; Dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist

Best known as a painter, Steve Wellman channels humor and Dada sensibilities through found object sculpture and layered musical compositions. He transforms once-functional objects by shifting perspective, assemblage, and repetition. The titles are both humorous and poignant, evoking lost ways of working and being in the world. 

Recent gifts to the YAM’s collection by Missoula Artist Terry Karson (1950–2017) are prominently featured. Karson served as curator of the Yellowstone Art Museum from 1988–1993. His compositions bridge two and three dimensions, conceptual art, fine craft and architecture. Made from commercial packaging and other detritus that he collected, arranged, and transformed, the work is curated as much as it is constructed. Sheer scale and repetition allude to the power and ubiquity of corporate branding and commerce.

The Thing Itself Installation

Also on exhibit are sculptures, collages, and mixed media works based on found materials by Deborah Butterfield, Tom Foolery, Robert Harrison, Jennifer Hawke, Kate Hunt, Tracy Linder, Sara Mast, Jon Lodge, Neltje, Robert Rauschenberg, Arin Waddell, and Robert DeWeese.