A Washington State University Press book, Montana Modernists: Shifting Perceptions of Western Art by Michele Corriel, was one of three honor books chosen by the 2022 Montana Book Award Committee. The annual award recognizes literary and/or artistic excellence in a book written or illustrated by someone who lives in Montana, is set in Montana, or deals with Montana themes or issues. Presentations and a reception for the four winning authors will take place on April 12, during the Montana Library Association Conference in Billings, Montana. Other winners include On a Benediction of Wind: Poems and Photographs, which won the main award, as well as Lucky Turtle, and The River You Touch: Making a Life on Moving Water, the other two honor titles.
The first book fully devoted to the topic, Montana Modernists presents stunning artwork and illuminates a little-known avant-garde movement—Montana Modernism—that began in twentieth-century postwar Montana. Its pioneers—ranchers, teachers, and professors Jessie Wilber, Frances Senska, Bill Stockton, Isabelle Johnson, Robert DeWeese, and Gennie DeWeese—created a community and pedagogy where, in stark contrast to stereotypical romanticized western art and frontier history themes, modernist ideas and art flourished, expanding traditional definitions of Western art. Divided into three parts, Corriel’s exploration concentrates on place, teaching/artistic lineage, and community.
From artist, writer, and Montana Governor’s Arts Award recipient Gordon McConnell’s viewpoint, “This book is singular, a milestone. It illuminates a precinct of western American art history that has been neglected by scholars up until now.” According to former curator of Art and Photography at the Museum of the Rockies Steven Jackson, “Montana Modernists presents important biographical histories of six Montana artists for the first time in one book, and provides valuable context for understanding how modernism evolved in Montana from the influences of artists like Cezanne to the movements of Dada, cubism, abstract expressionism, and the Bauhaus.”
Author Michele Corriel holds a Master’s in Art History and a PhD in American Studies/American Art from Montana State University, Bozeman. She has been an art writer for the last 17 years and is on the National Advisory Board for the Bozeman Art Museum.
Montana Modernists is full color, paperback, 10″ x 8″, 208 pages, and lists for $32.95. It is available through bookstores nationwide, direct from WSU Press online at https://wsupress.wsu.edu/product/montana-modernists/ or by phone at 800-354-7360. A nonprofit academic publisher associated with Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, WSU Press concentrates on telling unique, focused stories of the Northwest.