Arts & Entertainment

The Legacy of Glacier’s Women Artists

Hockaday’s ‘Timeless Legacy’ exhibit to open on May 28

The Hockaday Museum of Art’s mission statement is “To enrich the cultural life of our community and region, and preserve the artistic legacy of Montana and Glacier National Park.”

Already, the museum has a permanent display showcasing and honoring a nice collection of the art inspired by Glacier, and frequently adds new facets to its dedication to its mission.

And now, with the Hockaday’s upcoming exhibit, “A Timeless Legacy – Women Artists of Glacier National Park,” the museum will be able to tell a more complete story about the artistic legacy of the Crown of the Continent. The exhibit opens May 28, with a free opening reception for the public from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“A Timeless Legacy” explores and highlights the contributions of women artists who visited and created their art in Glacier in the early decades of the 1900s. The artists’ work is juxtaposed with that of contemporary artists Carole Cooke, Linda Tippetts, Rachel Warner, and Kathryn Stats.

Early 20th century work includes pieces from Nellie Knopf, Leah Dewey Lebo, Kathryn Leighton, Elizabeth Lochrie, Lucille Van Slyck, Elsa Jemne and Merle Olson.

The exhibit also includes a limited-edition book and a documentary DVD

The idea for the exhibit was born during a cocktail party in 2013. Tabby Ivy, a Bigfork-based artist who has been involved with the Hockaday’s board and helped curate this exhibit, was chatting with her neighbor’s sister, who discussed collecting Knopf’s work for more than 30 years.

Knopf came out to Montana in the 1920s to paint Glacier’s scenery.

“I said, ‘Oh my gosh, she must have been some kind of woman to come out here in the ‘20s!’” Ivy said.

As an artist herself, Ivy said she was inspired to think about an exhibit for Knopf’s work at the Hockaday, and then thought about Warner’s current work as well. Perhaps a two-woman show could work, she thought, but when she mentioned it to Denny Kellogg, vice president of the Hockaday’s board, he suggested adding more artists to such a project.

“He suggested we bring in Linda Tippets, and it grew from there,” Ivy said.

The exhibit seeks to put the limelight on the women artists who came to the park even when such activities were generally considered men’s vocations. Most of the men who came to Glacier to paint were financially supported in some way for their endeavors, but the women were on their own.

Still, they braved the challenge, called by the siren song of Glacier’s peaks and valleys, its inimitable light and personality, and the desire to translate such experiences to the canvas.

By showcasing the work of early artists alongside that of their contemporary peers, the museum will not only give credit where it is due, Ivy said, but also bring to the public a more complete picture of the park’s artistic history and influence.

“The Hockaday Museum, part of its mission is on the art of Glacier National Park and preserving the legacy of the art in Glacier,” Ivy said. “In my opinion, this is just addressing that mission in a way that has never been before because no one has ever focused on the women artists of the park in this way.”

Ivy said she’s been thrilled watching the idea for the exhibition grow and evolve as more people got involved, and said it was a good decision to hold off on the project for a year in order to make sure it was comprehensive.

Still, there could have been many other artists to showcase, she said, but in the show couldn’t include all of them and maintain the storyline and detail it has now.

The hope is to ignite a fire about women artists in the park, she said, because there are women of every era doing important and incredible work.

“Just as today’s women are going to make their mark,” Ivy said.

“A Timeless Legacy – Women Artists of Glacier National Park” runs from May 28 to July 18 at the Hockaday Museum of Art in Kalispell. For more information, call 406-755-5268 or visit www.hockadaymuseum.org.

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