Creighton Block Gallery presents spectacle of art July 28

By Sarah Gianelli EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – Colin Mathews wanted to host an art auction in conjunction with the Big Sky PBR for years. His desire comes to fruition this year in a free, public event showcasing 30-40 works of art by as many as 20 acclaimed multimedia artists, most of whom are represented by Mathews’ Creighton Block Gallery.

“Auctions are a natural adjunct to a fine art gallery business,” Mathews said, “and a great way to increase the gallery’s and artists’ exposure to collectors.”

“Aztec Rock,” by Oleg Stavrowsky. 24x20

“Aztec Rock,” by Oleg Stavrowsky. 24×20

For the past few years Mathews has been sponsoring a small art auction that benefits the Arts Council of Big Sky. Last year, Outlaw Partners CEO Eric Ladd (publisher of EBS) attended the event at Lone Mountain Ranch and started brainstorming with Mathews about co-presenting an auction during Big Sky PBR, one of the community’s biggest summer weekends.

On July 28, Big Sky PBR will sponsor the free Thursday night Music in the Mountains performance by Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, and host the Big Sky Art Auction beforehand under the Golden Buckle Tent at the neighboring PBR venue.

Mathews conducted a survey on the Creighton Block Gallery website to garner community feedback about the kind of art potential attendees are most interested in, and has tailored the entries accordingly.

“People want landscapes, Native American art, and Montana historical-themed work,” Mathews said. “Some people have also expressed an interest in abstract expressionist or other contemporary genre work.”

In putting together the catalog, Mathews has drawn from an extensive cadre of artists that speak directly to these artistic interests. R. Tom Gilleon, one of the most highly acclaimed artists that Mathews represents, falls into several of the sought-after categories. Known for his paintings of teepees and Native Americans, Gilleon will have two colorful oil portraits available in the auction.

Kevin Red Star, a Crow Indian whose work is on display in the Smithsonian Institution and who is generally regarded as one of the most influential Native American painters in the last half century, will also be represented.

Landscapes and historical scene-scapes by Tom English, Randy Van Beek, Frank Hagel, and Todd Connor—all members of the elite group of artists recognized by the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls—will be up for auction, as well as powerful sculptures by Greg Woodard and Vic Payne.

Painter Robert Ransom, who depicts Western imagery in a contemporary pop aesthetic, has entered his painting “Go,” and Carol Hagan will auction an oil portrait of a bear called “Big Softie.” A portion of the proceeds from both works will benefit area animal shelters.

Another allocation of event proceeds will benefit the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation and Moonlight Community Foundation.

“It fits with the culture of Big Sky,” Mathews said. “Those foundations are set up as good neighbor organizations. They give money to [organizations that] build softball fields, trails, and toward projects and programs that benefit the greater community.”

Whether you’re a serious collector or just appreciate the arts, the Big Sky Art Auction will appeal to anyone with a zeal for the dramatic. And Mathews says price ranges will appeal to all in attendance.

“We will have pieces in the auction that will sell from around $1,500 on up,” he said.

Mathews is bringing in a world champion auctioneer, Cary Aasness from Minnesota, to be the master of ceremonies.

“Auctions are huge personality events that hinge on how entertaining and engaging the auctioneer and his team are,” Mathews explained. “There will be three spotters parading the art … with loud staccato clapping to generate excitement. It’s a very interesting, entertaining, dynamic and theatrical art form in and of itself.”

The Big Sky Art Auction will be held from 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, July 28, under the Golden Buckle tent at the PBR venue in Town Center. In addition to the live auction, United Country Aasness Auctioneers will provide an online bidding platform for those unable to attend in person.

Visit to preview a sampling of the auction catalog and for more information.