Monte Dolack | The Artist’s Nature

Exhibit extended as beloved Montana artist reflects on life during a pandemic

Art Beat

Monte Dolack’s exhibit, “The Artist’s Nature,” has been extended through Aug. 29 at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture in Missoula, in hopes that one of these days, people will return to museums and galleries again. The exhibit, which opened in January, marks the artist’s 70th year, and the museum’s 125th.

The inaugural exhibition of the MMAC’s sesquicentennial season brings together many of Dolack’s original oil paintings, sketches, lithographs and posters – many of which will also appear in a new book, slated for publication in late August or early September.

Monte Dolack makes use of the slowdown to paint and work on other projects, including a new book.
Monte Dolack makes use of the slowdown to paint and work on other projects, including a new book.

“Monte is perhaps Montana’s most beloved living artist because his work is accessible to all,” writes H. Rafael Chacón, director of MMAC and Professor of Art History and Criticism at the University of Montana. “With great empathy, insight, and often unabashed humor, Monte clearly demonstrates a deep understanding and intimate relationship with Montana, its culture and myths, and, above all, its majestic and fragile landscapes.”

Dolack received the Governor’s Arts Award for lifetime achievement in 2018, and the Distinguished Fine Arts Alumni Award from UM’s College of Visual and Performing Arts in 2009, along with his late wife, Mary Beth Percival. He was also selected by the Missoulian as one of the 100 most Influential Montanans of the 20th Century.

Lively Times reached out to this Montana treasure for a few insights on how he’s weathering an unprecedented time in our nation’s history.

LT: How is the slowdown affecting your life as an artist?

MD: My studio is at our house, which makes it easy for me

to paint everyday or work on several other projects my wife Mary and I are engaged in. One of those is a big one – a forthcoming book on my work with an essay by Todd Wilkinson and forward by Ted Turner that’s around 200 pages. Hopefully it will be done by late August or early September. It was due to come out sooner but the pandemic has changed everything.

LT: How are you navigating this new world of social distancing?

MD: Well, because many of us have communication devices we can check in with each other via email, texts and phone calls. Also television has never had as much programing available as now. I am glad spring is here and I can get out for a good walk or bike ride that gets me close to the natural world.

LT: Are there any resources that you find particularly helpful right now?

MD: Music. I am lucky enough to have a piano at our house, which I am now playing everyday. I also listen to Montana Public Radio as well as recorded books. Having the internet and YouTube has been a great source of information. My books are getting more use than normal. I have been collecting for many years and recently rediscovered some great art books.

LT: As someone who has long found inspiration in nature, how do you feel about the pandemic’s unexpected benefits to the natural world: cleaner air, more birds and birdsong, wild critters appearing in urban landscapes?

MD: It reminds me of the film, “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” It’s a wake up call in the middle of a pandemic that makes us more aware of human-caused damage of our planet’s air and water.

Until the museum reopens, visitors may take a virtual stroll through the world of Monte Dolack via YouTube.