BYOA, Pretty Rick Provocative, and the Maker’s Series
Dalton Brink | Wednesday Apr. 1st, 2015
The Cottonwood Club’s Welcome Back Bring Your Own Art Show.
A pair of Jewess nuns dance in unison behind a priest playing a black guitar alongside a tambourine-wielding slice of pepperoni pizza, while to the right of them, a middle-aged woman sits receiving a graffiti-inspired head shave as a crowd of pretties shakes, instilled in the spirits, on the improvised dance floor in front of the band. A kind of church service, where in leau of stained glass windows, they’re encircled by artwork by dozens of local artists - a typical Bring Your Own Art show at the Cottonwood Club: where museum quality work resides scrunched together with what looks like something an eight year old, overzealous with a crayon, made, which is very likely exactly what it is.
The one night event brings artists of all disciplines and experience together to show their work salon style. A sort of art-for-art-sake-holy-wine-doused-free-for-all celebrating the creative temperament, without reservation or pretentiousness, the BYOAs are more carnivals or spiritual revivals than art shows. The brethren spirit of it, more than the art itself, seems to be the point, the conversation between the artists and the audience, though the distinction between the two seems more gray and fuzzy here. Here’s sculpture, painting, jewelry, print, pottery, music, video, film, performance. Here is gay, straight, bi, trans. Here is retired gray haireds, collegiates, high school students, and kids. Here’s skulls and erotica and the abstract and street and iconography in critique of modern society. Here resides the flip side of the town we don’t see strolling Main Street. This is an incubator, the dark, the dirt it takes to grow the seeds that will eventually spread throughout the city and beyond. The Cottonwood has been, through sheer perseverance and luck, coaxing the best of the clandestine Bozeman art scene out from their hiding places. With each show, surprisingly, somehow better than the last.
As The Crow Flies, a killer blues/metal hybrid fronted by Mario Miner Jr., kills note by note on his homemade instruments. He pulls an electrified box with strings, pickups, and a neck, a guitar seemingly materialized by Dracula, from a rough, hand-hewn case in the form of a classically typified diamond-shaped coffin, and when he begins to play, the devils arouse, and with Nick Hamilton keeping an iron backbone on drums, the pair of them elevate the place someplace beyond an old basement in Montana. If Keith Martinez of Zenitram is our priest, then As The Crow Flies are our backwoods tent-revival half-crazed, full-tilt evangelists.
If I were to get into descriptions of the art itself, I would be writing much more than I’m allowed to in this rag. But to me, as well as many others, these shows at The Cottonwood Club feel like breaths of fresh air, like inhalations from a medicated inhaler, a prescription from the all-too conservative world of decorative or high concept art. What the show lacks in artistic quality it makes up for in the gestation of the emotion of what art is and why we do it.
The next BYOA show at the Cottonwood Club will take place April 4. Check out The Cottonwood Club on Facebook for more information. www.facebook.com/thecottonwoodclub
The Foundry’s Provocative Group Show.
My wife texts me as I sit abreast the bar at Open Range. “We’re over an hour late,” it reads. Shit. I’m two cocktails down thanks to the bartender, Pretty Rick, and I’ve let him lure me into a place where time dissipates.
I’ve got two pieces in the show, both representations of women in circus-clown make-up blissfully taking part in lewd acts as what looks like a city unconcernedly burns in the background. It’s the Foundry’s Provocative show. They asked for it. And they got it. I thank Rick and head the few blocks to the gallery/workspace/retail shop on S. Tracy.
I can tell where it is from the people milling around outside its windows. It’s a small space but they integrate it well. To my left are prints from James Weikert, curator of the show. They could potentially be working Homeland Security propaganda posters boasting of the increased security granted to our dear city by the addition of our police department’s militarized assault vehicle, as funny as they are relevant. In the corner, a television presents to us a young woman smearing what looks like food over her face and neck. It’s unsettling, the way the food continues falling off her skin and how the character keeps reapplying it, her face obscured by mush. It’s named But. Her. Face. and it’s Pretty Rick’s fault the artist’s name escapes me now. There’s an image by Melissa Livingston of a man with his legs spread while sitting, presenting an angle one doesn’t commonly see. In the middle of the room, suspended like a kind of sail from the ceiling, are reverse negative nude body impressions, which the crowd grows more comfortable with as the night rolls, touching and brushing against it. In the corner, a great veiny penis ejaculates the American Flag. Artist: Anonymous. I would admire it more, I think, if he’d proclaimed his name in acrylic. With the small size of the place, it’s interesting to note how quickly someone can get used to being pressed right up against an image like that. It’s telling of just how powerless it is without the attention of the observer lending it meaning.
What’s wonderfilled about this show is that it’s taking place at all. Planet Bronze held an erotic show back in September, which was great, but that wasn’t directly downtown. The Foundry is directly downtown, and the fact that it’s happening and that there is a good reception here, is a sign for those of us who are hopeful of what’s growing up from the cracks of Bozeman. That’s a positive for us all, as a community, and everyone seems to feel it. It’s exciting. Art is a radical expression, and I’m glad to see that there are budding pockets of us here who believe that to be true.
I’m buzzing pretty good by this point. People are asking questions. I’m giving them answers the best I can. I ask questions and try to remember what I asked a few moments later. My wife is tired and is heading home with our infant daughter. I should be going with her, making sure she makes it back alright, but I’m not, instead I have to round out the night at the premiere of the first of the Maker’s Film Series from The Handmade Movement being held in the Bozeman Spirits Distillery just a couple blocks to the west.
The Handmade Movement’s The Maker’s Film Series Premiere.
After waiting in line at the door, the lady gives me drink tickets and I step inside to a full house. The place is packed with people, but first I have to stop just inside the door to study the custom motorcycles displayed before the windows. The leather in the seats is the work of the featured film’s subject, leather worker Brian Esslinger, the saddle maker from Black Sheep Custom Leather on S. Wilson. I’m a big fan of motorcycles, particularly the British’s Triumphs, and right here, one the prettiest I’ve ever seen sits just inches from me, built by a guy introduced to me as Duncan. It’s a thing of beauty. When I finally pull myself away, the familiar ceramics of Ryan Mitchell, calm but playful in their soft colors and patterns, I see displayed along the far wall. Ryan and I speak for a bit about how he’s teaching pottery classes at the Emerson before heading to the bar to exchange our tickets for drinks before the start of the film, which is a feat with so many excited people crowding the place. It’s a nice room, somehow able to keep its warm atmosphere even with so many here.
Just after 8:30, at the far end of the room, Elliot Lindsey, the filmmaker, hops atop the bar, and as the crowd begins to realize where their attention should be, quieting down, he briefly introduces the film with a smile pulled taut across his face, then after a huge applause, the film begins. I won’t go into much detail here because I think you should watch it yourself.
Go to www.thehandmademovement.com, search the site, check it out; it’s impressive. The basic premise, The Handmade Movement’s goal, I’m taking the liberty of briefly explaining, is to simply highlight the remarkable talents of those who dedicate their lives to craft. In an age where too much of our existence is built atop a digital landscape, these people are celebrating the richness of the handmade, the tangible, the soul of the general creative aspirations of our race. The filmmaker and all those involved know how to evoke emotion from an audience. Their technique, shot setup, coloring, editing, subject matter is on point. Again, any attempt at giving a description to the film won’t do it justice. Watch it yourself.
The Maker’s Film Series is only just beginning so we’ve got much to look forward to. It deserves to be picked up by HBO or at least PBS, though I kind hope they don’t, for my own selfish reasons…I want to keep feeling special to preview them half-lit in a dim distillery.
By the time the film ends my drink tickets are goners. It’s time to head back to the Open Range for a final round with Pretty Rick, and as I make my way over, lighting a cigarette, a couple friends at my side, I find myself genuinely thankful for the contemporary art culture weeding its way into the heart of Bozeman, and I look forward to the future for what it’s yet to bring.