EBS Staff

BIG SKY – On Thursday, March 22 the Arts Council of Big Sky will hold its largest fundraising event of the year at Moonlight Basin Lodge. The 2018 Auction for the Arts will feature more than 60 works of art, including pieces by some of the West’s best-known artists. Between 50 and 100 percent of proceeds from each work sold will benefit the many programs, initiatives and events the nonprofit brings to Big Sky each year.

The event begins at 6 p.m. with a reception during which attendees can browse a juried silent auction, and watch the invited artists “quick-finish” the piece that will be featured in the live auction to follow. During the main event, spectators can bid on sought-after pieces by Tom Gilleon, Kevin Red Star, Carol Hagan, and many others.

In addition to the many regional artists who have become annual participants in the auction, the Arts Council has invited three new artists whose work ranges from traditional Western motifs to contemporary, abstract pieces.

Non-representational painter Pamela Caughey of Hamilton, Montana, works in many media, with a focus on beeswax-based encaustic, acrylic mixed media, and cold wax and oil.

Caughey’s paintings are not based on the outside world, but rather, originate within. “I let things happen and unfold inside of me,” she said, adding that her work is predominantly autobiographical.

In 2016, when Caughey lost her family’s home, a beloved cat, and her studio to a forest fire, she was working on the final, large-scale pieces for a solo exhibit at the Holter Museum of Art in Helena.

Scrambling, Caughey ordered a few supplies, and made her own waxes and colors. She ended up incorporating ashes from her house, resulting in works that were dark and monochromatic, a departure from her usual colorful palette.

“It lent amazing content to the show and made it so much more meaningful,” she said. “People want authenticity in your work—emotional investment.”

One of three new artists featured in the Auction for the Arts on March 22, Joe Kronenberg is known for creating historically accurate paintings done in the style of classical realism.

Joe Kronenberg left art school after one year, disappointed that he hadn’t learned to paint like the old masters. When he later re-entered the world of art it was as a wildlife artist, inspired by the beauty of his surroundings in Spirit Lake, Idaho.

Today Kronenberg’s work is predominantly figurative, often focusing on Native Americans. Known for instilling classical realism in historically accurate paintings, Kronenberg stages photo shoots to use as reference for his paintings.

“We try to be as authentic as possible,” he said. “If I want to do a Crow scene, the models dress in full Crow regalia.”

In 2017, Kronenberg was inducted into the Russell Skull Society of Artists, an exclusive group of Western artists whose work upholds the tradition of Charles M. Russell.

When asked about participating in Big Sky’s Auction for the Arts for the first time, Kronenberg said, “As my calendar fills up, I’ve become more selective. I look for events that have art and artists of a certain caliber, like this one.”

Missoula artist Barb Schwarz Karst paints in styles that range from representational to abstract. For the Auction for the Arts, she has submitted a piece from her Rust Belt series, which explores the region’s dying industries.

Barb Schwarz Karst of Missoula is best known for her colorful and diverse original paintings.

She credits her years of teaching art for the wide range of her work. “As a teacher, I had to demonstrate a lot of styles, so my work can be extremely realistic and tightly controlled, or it can be big, loose, and abstract.”

All of her work relates to Montana, such as her Rust Belt series, which explores the region’s dying industries. Karst donated a piece from this series to the Auction for the Arts.

“It’s a close-up of a combine,” she explained. “I shot it at a tractor graveyard north of [Missoula]. I did a small mock-up of it a couple years ago and loved the colors, the diagonal angles, the nuts and bolts, all the detail. It’s not completely abstract—it’s anchored in touches of realism—but it’s out of the ordinary and pretty splashy in terms of color.”

“The Arts Council is lucky to have added such talented and diverse artists to the Auction for the Arts,” said ACBS Executive Director Brian Hurlbut, adding that there are more silent auction artists as well.

VIP ticket holders are also invited to a reception for artist Carol Hagan from 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 21 at Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty, and an artist luncheon at noon on Thursday, March 22 at Buck’s T-4 Lodge.

Visit bigskyarts.org for tickets and to bid on silent auction items.