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New exhibits at Paris Gibson Square explore different ideas of home

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Pieces on display at the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art's latest exhibit from Julia Galloway
Pieces on display at the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art’s latest exhibit from Julia Galloway

Part of the fun whenever a new exhibit opens at Paris Gibson Square, for me, is meeting the artists, viewing their works and making connections between them.

Because while on the surface the three new exhibits opening at the Square on Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., are incredibly different, an astute viewer can find similarities and connect the dots, if only in his or her own head.

I think the overarching theme starts with the idea of home and what that means, as it’s the most obvious thing people may feel upon entering the Square.

As I got to thinking about the three exhibits, the idea of visiting home again for the holidays kept coming up. Sometimes, the visit can be peaceful and joyous. Other times it can be sad, dark or melancholy, and even other times it can be something you could never expect, except maybe that it’s something that can leave you obsessing in private over what might have been or what could be if only one thing was different.

I found each of these aspects represented in this show, which I’ll get into a bit below.

“The Place It Is That We Call Home” by Julia Galloway 

Galloway, who’s installation was designed specifically for the Square, said her exhibit starts with a broad definition of home, North America, then starts narrowing the more you start to walk into her exhibit.

“As you get closer to here (the back of the main hall), it gets more intimate with the types of things set up,” Galloway said.

Because her pottery pieces are all utilitarian, meaning they serve a dual purpose of not only being artful, but also useful, Galloway said that in itself creates more lasting meaning to the people who see them or end up using them.

“I make useful pots because I love the connection it makes with the viewer,” she said. “When you use it, it becomes intertwined with the story of your life, and when it breaks, that becomes part of the story too. Often when it breaks it’s a memorable moment and I often hear from people when they break a cup.”

Galloway added that while the pieces have been specifically placed in certain places in the show, she said that isn’t meant to take away from the fact that every single piece was created to be taken home by someone.

Julia Galloway's cloud plates, which will be hung at the Paris Gibson Square through March
Julia Galloway’s cloud plates, which will be hung at the Paris Gibson Square through March

“By hanging these up in weird ways, I’m not trying to deny the use of them, just trying to help you understand the idea,” she said.

That idea is one of home and the intimacy of it. The outer wall has 150 different cups with birds sketched on them that all are found in North America. As you walk up to several of them, that bird’s chirp will  sound off. Galloway added that the design on all of the cups inspired the design of the wall behind the shelving in which they sit.

In one of the smaller rooms, Galloway has cloud shaped plates hanging from the ceiling. She said she sees this room as representing Montana and the idea that eating locally is a healthy way to nourish the soul.

“I like the idea of eating where you’re from, or getting nourishment where you’re from,” she said. “And this is actually equally about psychological nourishment as it is physical nourishment, too.”

People who attend Thursday’s opening will notice that the food will be served on several cloud-shaped plates, as well.

Finally, Galloway gets even more intimate in her last two parts of her installation. She has vases with her home sketched on them, and pots with things like scripts and binary code of a heartbeat on them.

“These all have my house on them, where I live at 28 Sherwood and you can see my room, the couch, the kitchen, all of it,” she said. “And, it’s messy in ways houses really are, too. There’s dirty socks, shoes, the dog lying there, plants wilting, and dishes in the sink, like a real home.”

The last section, a small corner at the back of the room, is meant to represent the domesticity of home and things like the conversation you have with your loved one before going to bed, or the time spent tying your shoes and getting ready for the day.

“You come home at night and have a quiet conversation, and it’s not private but it’s personal, and that’s what I’m trying to evoke with these, personalness and the quietness of language, but also things that celebrate the domestic space,” she said. “I don’t think it’s often that domesticity is honored for being as important as it is. We all know it’s important here (points to her chest) but we don’t always talk about how important it is. I mean, we all want to go home at some point.”

“All Things Left Unsaid” by Colleen Fuhringer

The exhibit from Fuhringer, who finished her graduate studies at MSU recently, by contrast, is maybe even more personal than Galloway’s, if only because it displays a vulnerable feeling that many people can relate with.

To me, the pieces together seem to visualize what it’s like when you’re lying in bed at night thinking about something over and over and over again as the hours tick away and 2 a.m. turns into 3:30, turns into 5 a.m.

Fuhringer said to make this exhibit she used installation foam, which after she sprayed it, did it’s own thing and created the feeling of chaos.

A piece from Colleen Furhinger's exhibit "All Things Left Unsaid" on display at the Paris Gibson Square
A piece from Colleen Fuhringer’s exhibit “All Things Left Unsaid” on display at the Paris Gibson Square

Fuhringer said she searched for quite a while for the perfect furniture to use for this piece, finally finding it at a thrift store, which let her take the old mattress along with the bed set and dressers.

” I’ve worked in old furniture since I was in grad  school (at MSU-Bozeman) so for this one, I wanted to go to a more intimate place,” she said. “So, this is definitely a more self-reflective piece. I’ve worked with dining room sets, living rooms, kind of more communal spaces but for this one I wanted a more solitary space which was more of a reflection of my own thing.”

Fuhringer said a big part of that was how when you’re alone sometimes things have a way of building and building in your mind without any signs of stopping.

“The whole idea behind this is that you’re in your bedroom and all these thoughts and feelings are things you take to bed with you each night,” she said. “So it’s somewhat dreamlike but more in that obsessing and re-living and how it just grows and grows and grows.”

Fuhringer said in making this piece she used cases of installation foam, which she said was a great release for her personally.

“When I filled all these I just sprayed and sprayed can after can and even after it was done, I’d go look at it and the next day throw some more on and then it drips and does all that fun stuff, it’s just happiness for me,” she said.

Fuhringer said when people ask her where she gets the ideas for these pieces, she said it’s a hard question because she can’t imagine not having those ideas.

“Maybe I’m sort of an extremist and I obsess and I’m always visualizing and like, I think ‘Oh that’d be a great idea,’ and then I love being able to take concepts and take these items and put it all together and visually represent that feeling as an artist. That’s what makes it worthwhile.”

“Legends are History” by MaryAnn Bonjorni

Finally, we get to Bonjorni’s exhibit, which is the only one not to be a specific installation for the Square.

Bonjorni’s exhibit may be the least home-like of the three, but it’s still representative of the west and Montana.

Putting it in terms of visiting home, you can find similarities in that sometimes a person might have an idealistic vision of what home is or was, but in reality it’s much different than that. The pieces in this exhibit go toward showing that side of the west and the landscapes we all live around in Montana.

MaryAnn Bonjorni's "Count of Three" from her exhibit "Legends Are Hostry" at the Paris Gibson Square
MaryAnn Bonjorni’s “Count of Three” from her exhibit “Legends Are History” at the Paris Gibson Square

Kristi Scott, Paris Gibson Square curator, said this exhibit’s downtrodden look is done on purpose to show that very idea.

“When MaryAnn put this in we talked about fixing this frame, but she said ‘don’t worry about it, I’ll come and bring some nails and bring epoxy and I have this western attitude in that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and maybe it’s not even that broken.’ A lot of her work is like that in that some of it is a bit dishevelled, and there might be pieces of broken frame, unravelling wire and yet there’s a lot of gold, which can signify optimism,” Scott said.

The pieces are unique in that they’re three-dimensional pictures that seemingly come out of picture frames.

One of the pictures shows a wooden representation of a wolf with a claw type object grabbing it, which may represent our society’s attempt to control the wolf population.

Scott said the piece’s main gusto is that while we have a romantic view of our landscapes, we really should recognize it for what it is and that it can quickly turn deadly if you’re not careful.

“There’s nothing wrong with looking at a romantic landscape and enjoying it for what it is, but also recognizing that it can change in a moment’s notice and the minute you turn your head nature will take your lunch and there you are.”

All three exhibits going up on Thursday will be viewable at the Square through March. For more information, visit the Square’s website at www.the-square.org.

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