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March 03 - December 31, 2020

Bartow, Rick
Loos, Donna
Pitt, Lillian
Smith, Jaune Quick-to-See
Love Letters to the Collection

Lynda M. Frost Contemporary American Indian Art Gallery // On view throughout 2020

MAM believes that if a single artwork can depict the ideas of an individual artist, then a collection of art can embody the character of a community. The MAM Collection has the power to tell us about our distinctive regional and indigenous communities. But in 1998, the collection was not that inclusive—it didn’t represent the work of indigenous artists in an accurate or vital way. In response, MAM created the Contemporary American Indian Art Collection. Over the next two decades, this collection grew to one of the largest of its kind in the region. MAM also expanded the presence of indigenous artists programmatically so that now Native voices and tribal partnerships are integral to exhibits and education.

Love Letters to the Collection continues this commitment to amplify diverse voices and honor the richness of indigenous cultures. The exhibit is distinguished with an “active” approach. This bold philosophical commitment rouses acquisitions from long-term storage and ensures they support museum-wide engagement goals. Love Letters is designed to use the MAM Collection to stimulate and share previously unheard stories that make up the living narrative of art history.

The exhibit opens with artworks from MAM’s Contemporary American Indian Art Collection selected by guest curators. The exhibit will grow each week for the next 10 months, as different curators—artists, writers, poets, community members, local and tribal leaders, activists, scholars, students, and others—select new works to add to the installation, share their thoughts about the artworks and suggest other curators.

Every viewer is invited to write a ‘love letter’ to the artworks on view. Viewers can also send emails, share ideas through open inquiry at the Art Cart, or create social media hashtags. MAM anticipates these many responses will reveal a dynamic web of interpretations. MAM will include postcards in the exhibit and add stories, keywords, and other associations to collection records, allowing researchers and any curious user of MAM’s searchable online database to find unexpected connections and more significant meanings.

Love Letters takes a gentle but decidedly non-neutral position in MAM’s ongoing journey toward inclusiveness. MAM acknowledges that the very idea of museums and presumptions of authority are rooted in colonial traditions of conquest and capital. When MAM welcomes more diverse voices, it destabilizes long-unquestioned power structures, such as the academic hierarchy of descriptive museum language. Listening to audiences helps MAM remove some of the obstacles inherent in museum practices.

Related content:

  • In March, the education team at MAM launched Love Letters On Demand - a free curriculum that features information on the artists, artworks and more!
  • In May, Aja Mujinga Sherrard, professor of art history at the University of Montana, Western, gave a webinar about the history and importance of the movement to decolonize museums. Watch the recording here.

Current selections:

February 19, 2020: Celebrate 40,000 Years of American Art by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Salish-Kootenai, Métis-Cree, Shoshone-Bannock) was selected by curator Carolyn Kastner. Read her love letter here. Write to this piece: [email protected]. [image: Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Salish-Kootenai, Métis-Cree, Shoshone-Bannock), Celebrate 40,000 Years of American Art, collagraph, 1995, 71.5 x 47.5”. MAM Contemporary American Indian Art Collection, donated by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, 2006.16.03.]

March 6, 2020: Gorge Spirits Floating 2 by Lillian Pitt (Wasco, Yakama, Warm Springs) was selected by UM student Martin Leibinger. Read his love letter here. Write to this piece: [email protected]. [image: Lillian Pitt (Wasco, Yakama, Warm Springs), Gorge Spirits Floating 2, monotype, 2019, 22 x 30”. MAM Contemporary American Indian Art Collection, gift of MATRIX Press, 2019.16.01.]

March 11, 2020: Family Watch by Donna Loos (Little Shell, 1931-2018) was selected by author Chris La Tray. Read his love letter here. Write to the piece: [email protected]. [image: Donna Loos (Little Shell, 1931-2018), Family Watch, acrylic on canvas, 2001, 43.75 x 63.5.” MAM Contemporary American Indian Art Collection, donated by Donna Loos, 2018.14.]

April 13, 2020: Merry Christmas Missoula Art Museum by Rick Bartow (Mad River Wiyot) was selected by a group of MAM docents. Read their letter, and learn more about the artwork, here. Write to this piece: [email protected]. [image: Rick Bartow (Mad River Wiyot, 1946-2016), Merry Christmas Missoula Art Museum, charcoal and pastel on paper, 2011, 40 x 26 1⁄2”. MAM Contemporary American Indian Art Collection, donated by Rick Bartow, 2012.01, copyright the Estate of Rick Bartow.]

April 15, 2020: Crow Indian Girl by Kevin Red Star (Crow) was selected by Lynda M. Frost. Write to this piece: CrowIndianGirl@missoulaartmuseum.org. [image: Kevin Red Star (Crow), Crow Indian Girl, acrylic on canvas, 2009, 16 x 20”. MAM Contemporary American Indian Art Collection, Gift of Mason Miller in memory of Merida Red Star-Miller, 2010.09.]

Read her love letter below:

April 27, 2020: Flatlander: Red Cloud Rd. by John Hitchcock (Comanche, Kiowa, German/Dutch) was selected by Cory Walsh. Read his love letter here. Write to this piece: [email protected]. [image: John Hitchcock (Comanche, Kiowa, German/Dutch), Flatlander: Red Cloud Rd., Screenprint with handwork, 2017, 30 x 22”. MAM Contemporary American Indian Art Collection, gift of MATRIX Press, 2017.20.07., copyright the artist, image courtesy of MATRIX Press.]

May 5, 2020: Split War Shield by Corwin Clairmont (Salish Kootenai) was selected by Cameron Decker. Read his love letter here. Write to this piece: shield@missoulaartmuseum.org. [image: Corwin Clairmont (Salish Kootenai), Split War Shield, cast, handmade paper, lithographs, and mixed media, 2001, 83¼ x 50¾ x 3¼ inches. MAM Contemporary American Indian Art Collection, Purchase and partial gift of Corwin Clairmont, 2007.01.]

May 13, 2020: Epicenters and Impact by Molly Murphy Adams (Oglala, Lakota) was selected by Melissa Kwasny and Mandy Smoker Broaddus, the Montana state poet laureates. Read their poems here. Write to this piece: Epicenters@missoulaartmuseum.org. [image: Molly Murphy Adams (Oglala, Lakota), Epicenters and Impact, beadwork on vintage map, 2018, 42.5 x 44”, MAM Contemporary American Indian Art Collection, promised gift of the artist.]

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