4th Grade Artists
Kevin Red Star was born in 1943. He grew up on the Crow Reservation in Southern Montana. In the early 1960s, he was chosen to be in the first group of students at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe. After graduating, Kevin Red Star continued his studies at the San Francisco Art Institute before returning to Montana in 1967. In 1974, IAIA invited him back as their first Artist-in-Residence. Throughout his career as an artist, Kevin Red Star has had over 100 large scale exhibitions and participated in shows across the globe, including Paris, Tokyo, China, New York, Washington DC, California and Montana. Kevin currently has a studio in Roberts, Montana, where he continues to paint and create artwork.
Dennis Voss was born in 1948 and was raised on a ranch in western Nebraska. He studied ceramic sculpture at Chadron State College, Murray State University, and the University of Kentucky before becoming a professor at Montana State University. Voss is known as a great draftsman, sculptor, and for his performance art pieces. His art mainly focused on isolation, distance and survival in western ranch culture. After teaching and making art throughout Montana in the seventies and eighties, Dennis Voss became a full time rancher in 1986. He currently lives and works with his wife on Horse Butte Ranch in Two Dot, Montana.
Ken Blackbird grew up on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in North-Central Montana. He spent time as a welder in Texas and a forest ranger and fire fighter in Yellowstone before graduating from the University of Montana with a degree in journalism. It was working for a newspaper that eventually led him to photography. Ken Blackbird is Assiniboine/Gros Ventre and an enrolled member of the Fort Belknap Indian Community of Montana. He has been a photojournalist and freelance photographer for over 30 years. In his photography, he focuses on light, layers and the people themselves. He strives to capture people as they truly are: the way they should be. Ken Blackbird currently lives and works as a photographer in Cody, Wyoming.
Jessie Wilber was one of Montana’s most notable artists during the better part of the 20th century. She was a beloved educator as well as an exceptional painter, collage artist, and printmaker. Jessie was born in 1912 in Wisconsin. She received her master’s degree from Colorado State College of Education in 1938 and began teaching at Montana State University Bozeman in 1941. Jessie taught in the Art Department until her retirement in 1973. Jessie Wilber was very active in the Montana art scene and was a founding member of the Montana Institute of the Arts. Her art was featured in many exhibitions. She also received awards from across the country for her painting and printmaking (lithography, woodblock, and silkscreen). Jessie Wilber died in October 1989. Magpies in the Snowstorm was the last print that she completed.
Isabelle Johnson was the first significant Modernist painter in Montana. She had a career in art that spanned over sixty years. Born in Absarokee in 1901, Isabelle’s rich Montana heritage enhanced her artwork throughout her career. After studying art on both sides of the country, she returned to the Stillwater in 1961 to continue painting and to ranch. She painted not only what she saw in the land but also how the land made her feel. Although Isabelle Johnson painted for herself and never for the market, she saw success as an artist. Her art is in the collections of many museums throughout Montana. Isabelle Johnson died in May 1992. Her family’s ranch is now part of the Tippet Rise Arts Center. It continues to be a cultural destination, just as it was during her lifetime, for both visual art and music.
Sheila Miles was born in the early 1950’s in Indianapolis into a family of six children. At an early age she decided to become an artist and when she was nine her mother gave her a book on the artist Gauguin. She then decided she wanted to be “that kind of an artist”. Sheila Miles believes a strong work of art transports the viewer into that world and it is like traveling to another country. Her goal when making art is to make a discovery about the world and/or herself. She says that the painting “When the Queen Goes Out, I like to Soak My Feet” is a metaphor for “whatever happens in your life try to keep a sense of humor.” Sheila Miles has lived and worked as an artist in Montana. She is currently located in Oracle, Arizona.
3rd Grade Artists
Neal Ambrose Smith
Neal Ambrose Smith was born in 1966. He is a descendant of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation of Montana. Neal’s work spans a large variety of mediums including painting, sculpting, printmaking, jewelry, photography, graphic design, and music, but the majority of his works are paintings, sculptures, or prints. He is currently the chair of Studio Arts at the Institute of American Indian Arts and Alaska Native Culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Neal’s work utilizes elements of pop culture from his youth and frequently explores Native identity. He is the son of prolific contemporary Native Artist (and fellow Online Art Suitcase artist) Jaune Quick-To-See Smith.
Jaune Quick-To-See Smith was born on the Flathead Indian Reservation and is an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation. She has an Associate of Arts degree from Olympic College, a Bachelor’s in Art Education from Framingham State College, and a Masters of Fine Art from the University of New Mexico. Her work was first displayed in a museum within the Indian Art Now exhibition at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in 1978. Since then, her work has been displayed nationally and internationally in museums including The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Walker Art Museum, and more. She has had over eighty solo exhibitions throughout her 30-year career. She also has participated in several public art works, including creating a floor design in the Great Hall of the Denver Airport, a sculpture in Yerba Buena Park, and a sidewalk history tour in West Seattle. Her work was the first by a Native painter to be purchased by the National Gallery of Art.
Ernie Pepion was born on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in 1943 in Browning, Montana. He has spoken frequently of the discrimination he experienced growing up on a reservation border town and attending a predominantly non-Indian school. He was a Vietnam Veteran, and returned to the United States in the 1970’s. After being in a car accident in 1971, Pepion became a quadriplegic. Despite this, he got his Bachelor’s, and later his Master’s of Fine Art, both from Montana State University, Bozeman. A MSU mechanical engineering class built an automatic easel to aid Pepion in his painting. He held his brush in one hand with a brace, and the easel would turn 180 degrees to allow him to reach all parts of his canvas. His work is largely autobiographical, using symbolism in many of his paintings to convey his unique experience of the world.
Molly Murphy Adams
Born in 1977, a mixed-blood descendant of the Oglala Lakota tribe, Murphy-Adams is an artist from western Montana who specializes in beadwork and printmaking. She started learning beadwork as a child and was skilled enough by age 13 to bead her own powwow regalia. She studied ceramics, painting, and sculpture at the University of Montana, where she received her Bachelor’s in Fine Arts. Her art balances the traditional beadwork techniques she learned as a young girl with the skills she learned while studying art at the University of Montana.
Neil Parsons was born in 1938 on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Montana. He is a member of the Southern Pikuni. He earned his BA and MFA from Montana State University Bozeman and became a founding member of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. Parsons returned to Montana in the ’70s to lead the Art Department at the Blackfeet Community School, now known as the Blackfeet Community College.