Nancy Erickson: Artist Studio Sale Aug. 13

Sale offers unique opportunity to collect smaller works by late, much-loved Missoula artist

Art Beat

A one-day sale of the entire contents of the art studio of late Missoula artist Nancy Erickson offers a rare opportunity to collect unframed works by the renowned artist and quiltmaker, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at 3350 Pattee Canyon Drive.

Drawings by Nancy Erickson (and other artists whose works she collected) are part of the studio sale Aug. 13.
Drawings by Nancy Erickson (and other artists whose works she collected) are part of the studio sale Aug. 13.Photo © Leslie Van Stavern Millar III

Erickson, who died in February, worked in her home studio for more than 40 years, creating drawings, paintings and her signature art quilts, which were often cut out in figurative shapes and painted. Her artwork was exhibited and collected extensively by museums across Montana and internationally.

This unique event is organized by Leslie Van Stavern Millar – a close friend, fellow artist, and member of the Pattee Canyon Ladies Salon, a drawing group that has met regularly at Erickson’s studio since 1989.

“It’s been a way to process her death in a respectful way and honor her life,” said Millar recently of her efforts to organize the sale.

Millar first saw Erickson’s soft sculptures in the 1980s and was invited to join the Pattee Canyon Ladies Salon when the group first formed at Erickson’s studio in 1989. Their relationship “shifted from her being an artist whose work I was aware of to someone whose studio I went to twice a month.”

For nearly 33 years they drew together from live models, and discovered other common interests, including a shared sense of humor, political ideals, and love of tea, that strengthened their friendship.

Helping Ron sort through his wife’s astonishing creative legacy has taught Millar a few things about her friend. “I became even more aware of how productive she was and how willing to experiment – this fine-boned petite woman doing these gigantic drawings and quilts, this very bold expressive art,” she says. “She took risks. She did the difficult things.”

In cataloguing the studio’s contents, she and Ron also realized “how many drawings there are that need a home.” Laura Millin, director of the Missoula Art Museum, told them there was still a high demand in the community for Erickson’s work – especially at more affordable prices.

Saturday’s sale takes a very “democratic” approach to sharing Erickson’s art with the small drawings priced at $25-$30 apiece and the larger ones selling for $75-$100. In addition to a large selection of unframed artwork by Erickson and other artists whose work she collected, the sale offers high-quality fabrics, art and sewing supplies, art-making tools, photography equipment and an array of studio furniture.

The sale will be held inside the studio and outside of the Erickson house. Face coverings are required indoors. Parking is limited; carpooling is encouraged.

Revenues from the sale will be donated to the Missoula Art Museum (MAM), which holds a definitive collection of Erickson’s artworks, and the Montana Museum of Art and Culture (MMAC) at the University of Montana, her alma mater.

“The studio sale offers a beautiful array of art and art-making apparatus by a beloved artist and member of our community,” said Millin. “We are humbled that Nancy’s husband, Ron, has decided to devote the proceeds from the sale to MAM and MMAC, Missoula’s two art museums, both of which exhibited and collected Nancy’s work extensively.”

As to her beloved Pattee Canyon Ladies Salon, which has met more sporadically since the pandemic, the group plans to continue in some form. A group showcase of their work titled “Focus on the Figure” opens Oct. 14 at the Missoula Museum of Art and Culture, with Erickson’s work central to the exhibit. During the same period, Gallery 709 will host a sales show of her larger pieces.

“In mature, wise, and loving work Nancy Erickson invites us to embrace the color, light, physicality, and varieties of lived existence,” wrote Margaret Kingsland in 2010. “She calls on us to imagine the otherness and dignity of non-human beings. She invites us to embrace and fully inhabit our place in the long, long history of mammalian life on earth.”

Learn more about the artist and her work on her website.