Native Proclamations, Blood Splatters, and Commandeering the 406
April 3rd : Project MTF: Moving Talent Forward
Pulling into the parking lot of the Hilton Garden Inn, half a dozen Telsa electric vehicle charging spaces slide past on my right; a reminder that we’re living in a strange period of time, a time when the old and new share the same space. We’re on the verge of what’s to come, and yet, we’re still anchored to what was. It reminds me of black and white photos I’ve seen of the First World War, images of plumed-hatted cavalrymen on horseback with swords propped right up against seemingly modern tanks and machine-guns. Stark depictions of a culture in transition are stunning in their raw beauty and melancholic to the modern observer aware of their very soon-to-be demise. To some, this could be a metaphor for the present dilemma of Native Americans. This show I’m about to walk into could be seen to those same people as an illustration of the beautiful decay of the slow decline of the original American race, and I think some in attendance at the annual Powwow happening concurrently tonight on campus, particularly the white descendants of Europeans, may be there to bear witness to the end of a species with a morbid fascination, thinking one day they’ll be able to sit with their other white friends around a dinner table and proudly proclaim, “I was there when…” but, in my opinion, Gina and Louis Still Smoking are proving the assumption wrong. Proving the native population is more relevant now than perhaps they have ever been in the context of the New-America culture and that this fashion/variety show is a part of something greater; a mass reclamation of sorts telling those smug enough to think otherwise to kiss their asses.
As I make my way in, the show is already underway, I’m late, as usual, and I run into Mario Miner Jr., singer/songwriter/guitar-mad-doctor of As The Crow Flies, smoking at the door.
“You missed us,” he tells me between drags off his cigarette.
“Shit, sorry man.”
“Ah no big deal, stick around until after the show, we’ll be playing the after party,” he says.
“Well, there’s consolation,” I tell him.
The show is taking place inside one of the convention halls and as I walk through the door there is a parade of beautiful people dressed glamorously in colorful geometric patterns filing past me to a steady droning hip hop beat as I take a seat in the back. I find myself staring at the models themselves. Beautiful. You could probably throw whatever clothes you want on them and they’d still be attractive. Apparently the designer is from somewhere near Denver and, as the event unfolds, I find people from all over the country have descended upon Bozeman to be a part of this thanks to the passion and dedication of Gina Still Smoking. She’s a force, pulling this together year after year as well as managing Still Smoking Designs, her husband’s (the incredible artist, Louis Still Smoking) design company, as well as being a mother of four. In between designers, she’s brought in impressive talent from various media, including a comedian, a dancer, and a few musicians.
I’m a big fan of Louis Still Smoking’s work, (I’ve been practically begging him to curate a show at the Cottonwood Club for longer than I’d like to admit.) and when it’s time for his designs to be showcased, I’m at full attention. Being an artist who uses imagery myself, I have to say, where I think his work shines is through his use of images. He’ll take an image that has had all it’s meaning played out, a bull skull for example, and like some sort of divine resurrectionist, he’ll twist it in such a way that it rises from the dead to speak it’s original truth once more. He’s got this one design of a Chief in full headdress emboldened by the simple word: Defy. There’s a gravity here not usually found in fashion, a reflection of this idea of reclamation, a proclamation nothing short of revolution. His stuff is good. I mean, really good. Check him out.
After the models file out, I walk to the bar and take a seat. I need a refresher. And to my surprise I find a friend of mine, Amanda Heath, is tending bar. I bullshit with her for a while and then seat myself alongside my boys from As The Crow Flies. I drink a few more than I expected too, and by the time I make it back to the show, the after party is underway, where As The Crow Flies proceeds to rip the place apart note by note.
Moving Talent Forward is more than a showcase of talent, I think it’s fair to say, it’s more of a declaration. To me it says, “We’re here. We’ve always been here. We’re growing stronger with each passing day.”
I urge you to go check out Moving Talent Forward on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/projectMTF. Also find Louis Still Smoking and Still Smoking Designs on there. Just search for it. You’ll find it.
April 4th : The Cottonwood Club’s Bring Your Own Art Show
There’s blood splattered on the whitewashed concrete floor in a sort of Pollackesque non-pattern, the visceral aftermath of another successful BYOA at the Cottonwood, as apparently one of the guests was running barefoot around the parking lot and stepped on glass shards. She then walks around the gallery as a kind of improvised performance piece, and no one says a word against it. That’s just how things work here.
Of Course, Of Course, a sort of neo-folk duo, squeezes as much emotion as they can from the crowd, and their sound is big for it being just the two of them, using several instruments to croon their hearts across the mics. Next, Timmy and the Tourettes Syndrome puts us through our paces with his one-man-band sonic barrage of screeching digitized loops, live drums, and a guitar made from two skateboards melded together with a Telecaster neck, a marriage of a couple of my favorite things. He’s fearless in his playing. Doesn’t give a fuck. I love it. The SloMoJoe Trio plays last, led by one of Bozeman’s most beloved guitarists and Music Villa mogul, Joe Knapp. There’s not much I can say about him that hasn’t been said already. He’s killer, and with the trio, he really is able to showcase his talent. As a guitar player of many years myself, I admit that I kind of have a crush on the guy. He’s one of those players that when you see him, makes you want to quit playing altogether, while at the same time, inspires you to push your craft. Check him out. He’s seems to play more often than not.
It’s the day before Easter. I’m nearly two thousand miles away from Memphis, my birth home, but my second family is here with me, and like being home for the holiday, we’re half-sloshed with Montucky beer, half-buzzed on whatever else we can find, all trying to get through the cold days, celebrating the few warm days we can claim as Montana’s spring, waiting out the cold, muddy weeks ahead the best we know how, but we’re all in this together, so the sting of the realization is numbed a bit, which is nice.
After the show, we roam in a swaying pack towards Pretty Rick, our friendly neighborhood bartender, and our familiar stools in front of the bar at Open Range, my wife and her friend spinning pirouettes up South Rouse while singing a warm Beach Boys song into the cool night air loud enough for passersby to take notice. We’re in good form as midnight falls, celebrating our Easter Sunday with smiling bouts of laughter, and I imagine Jesus is delighted.
Check out Of Course, Of Course at https://soundcloud.com/of-course-of-course. Find out about the next Cottonwood Club show on Facebook. Look up Tim Powers on the Face of Book. Check the events page in Bozeman Magazine to find out the next time Joe Knapp shows you what’s what.
April 16th: The Cottonwood Takes Over the 406 Brewery
The Cottonwood Club commandeered the 406 Brewery. For the month of April, the walls of the place are plastered with our work, and they actually allowed us to do it. Both new and older works from myself, Jay Schmidt (gray-haired iconography madman), Jesse Albrecht (Iraq Veteran Bic pen paper-pulling extraordinaire), Angela Yonke (official photographer of our mad adventures and queen of the Cottonwood), Jonathan Raney (post-classical future revivalist), Kathy Schmidt (apocalyptic soothsayer), and various rotating members of the Cottonwood Club Free Art School Collaborative Drawing Club is up for craft beer lovers from all over the valley to be offended/inspired by.
This exhibit showcases the works of the Cottonwood’s board members. Jay Schmidt’s black and white Free Art School manifesto paintings stare down at me while I drink, their individual truths radiating out from the small canvases like tiny wildfires, forcing me to think, to reach into innerspace, and to judge myself for what I am. To me, these pieces are reminiscent of the ancient Byzantinian allegorical paintings cranked out by those raving mad (some might say enlightened) Monks, hidden away in some basilica backroom, hunched over for years at a time, seeking to reach divinely out through the ages, though I’m sure he doesn’t see it himself. Jesse Albrecht’s paper prints, handmade from military uniforms, whisper for us to reflect on the truths hidden within our folklore, Jung-like in his depictions of our collective legends through well-known images of Big Foot and General Custer, those nearly archetypal beings we place outside ourselves in order to contemplate back onto ourselves. Angela Yonke’s use of opaque negative space interposed on top of her photos in her mixed media works forces the viewer to embrace the subjects of the compositions, subjects wholly imbibed by their dramatic, almost theatrical, gestures, leaving the viewer to question what it is that’s being shown. What does this guy on his knees, his hands spread to the heavens, his eyes closed, feel? Jonathan Raney and I have a collaborative mixed media piece depicting a statue of the Rev. Jim Jones gazing out over a garden where skyscrapers grow up from the ground. The sky is formed of ghosts. I’ll let the audience decide what it says to them. Finally, a couple dozen Free Art School collaborative drawings post up to the left of the bar, too full of metaphors and icons to go into here. Kathy Schmidt’s end-of-the-golden-days stark imagery of mankind, desolate and unattached, lonely and unresponsive, somewhere between Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, speak out their warnings of what could be in store for us, either physically, emotionally, or both, if we as a species continue down the self-destructive path we so excitingly march down. She’s the painter’s painter.
Honestly, I find the 406 to be one of the best gallery spaces in Bozeman. Matt and John Muth are a couple of the nicest, most generous guys around, the walls are nice and big with great lighting, the censorship is basically nil, and the beer is always worth the trip even if the art on the walls isn’t your thing. We’re all lucky to have it here, but especially the artists.
Check the 406 out at 101 East Oak in the Cannery District or like them on Facebook to keep up with their events and specials. To find out more about the artists, Google them; they all have websites.