Jessie Wilber, Frances Senska, Gennie DeWeese, and Isabelle Johnson grounded their creative practices in connections. Each taught formally for part of their careers and, informally, throughout their lives. They were not the first Montana artists to embrace Modernist art and values, but they were among the most influential. They, along with their students and other creatives working in the arts, sciences, and humanities, constructed an alternative to the nostalgic cowboy culture of mid-Century Montana.
These four influential women absorbed and passed along the philosophies and practices of their teachers. And, in turn, they taught their students to look and see. They mentored generations of artists and overcame intellectual and cultural isolation by creating community. Their students and peers are featured in this companion exhibition to Matriarchs of Modernism.
The educational lineage of the Montana matriarchs merged the Bauhaus philosophy and aesthetics of Maholy Nagy, Edith Heath, and Marguerite Wildenhain with the teachings of abstractionists Hans Hofmann and Wasilly Kandinsky, and regionalist Otis Dozier. Each of the artists learned from Cezanne’s example to depict perspective with color and to emphasize the flat surface of the picture plane.
Isabelle modeled the role of rancher-artist, mirrored by her friend Bill Stockton and students Edith Freeman, Ted Waddell, and Patrick Zentz. Frances’ interest in local clay encouraged Rudy Autio and Peter Voulkos to transform the Archie Bray brickyard into a ceramics residency. Gennie turned her home into a place for artists and intellectuals to interact, exchange ideas, and find mutual support. Jessie’s gentle force carved out new channels for creative possibilities in Montana.
The following students and peers of the Matriarchs of Modernism are featured in the exhibition. Rudy Autio, Pete Voulkos, Lyndon Pomeroy, Josh DeWeese, Jerry Rankin, James Reineking, Bill Stockton, Edith Freeman, Theodore Waddell, Donna Loos, Patrick Zentz
Generous support for the video and virtual tour provided by Art Bridges.
Adopt a Work from the exhibition to support conservation and research for some of the core works in the YAM’s Montana Collection.
The Carolyn K. Ennis Family Living Trust
Mert & Sue Musser
Special thanks to donors who adopted specific works in the exhibition:
David Orser and Ossie Abrams
Dr. William & Suzanne Smoot