Client: University of Montana
Location: Missoula, MT, United States
Completion date: 2006
Artwork budget: $75,000
University of Montana
Public Art Agent
Montana Arts Council
This public artwork, entitled The Business of the Trade, consists of 2 panels, each 9'x 12', that are installed on opposite walls on the second floor of the University of Montana School of Business in Missoula Montana. It was a collaboration between the University of Montana and the Montana Arts Council % for Art Program.
The University's School of Business is built in the valley at the edge of the Hell Gate Canyon, near the first recorded business transaction that occurred in 1805-6 between Lewis and Clark and the Native Salish Indians. It was important for me and the designers to honor the site and integrate that theme of bartering and trading goods for services, with the contemporary educational teaching model at the business school. To emphasis that connection, I chose to design two textile works that integrated didactic historical content with my contemporary vision. I chose to have them hang on the left and right side of the door entrance creating an encompassing unity for the viewer in the rotunda like space.
It was fortunate for me to be awarded the commission during the building's initial design phase. I was able to work with the University architect to create special niches for the installation of the two artworks. Because the area has high traffic and students would be passing by the art throughout the day, we chose to recess these textile works, both for safety and to give them a special framework surround. The depth of the niches, the lighting elements and the artworks specific size was determined by both the architect and me as the building was being designed and because of this, the works truly are integrated into the overall building.
While designing the artworks, I found it important to emphasis the horse as a major element. It was the bartering and trading of the horses for guns and supplies that brought Lewis and Clark to meet with the Tribe as they traversed the canyon. Using textile paint, fabric, hand and machine sewing, the horse images become fluid, painterly and somewhat abstract, prancing in a circular motion from left to right. As part of the overall piece, I have integrated sections of text from the original Lewis and Clark journals that are cogent to this theme.