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Gallatin River Gallery displays “Expansive Skies”

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Pierce’s “At the Break of Dawn,” oil on canvas, 60-by-72. PHOTO COURTESY OF GALLATIN RIVER GALLERY

BY TIMOTHY BEHUNIAK EBS ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR

BIG SKY – It’s almost too fitting that a Montana gallery is showcasing a collection of paintings titled “Expansive Skies.”

The Gallatin River Gallery in Big Sky is currently hosting the Bay-area based artist Carole Pierce’s work through April. Pierce creates landscapes that focus not necessarily on concrete vistas and subjects, but rather on the feeling of space and time.

“The root of my work has to do with memory and has a dream quality,” said Pierce. “It’s never been about a particular place. People assign a place to my painting, wherever it is that speaks to them. I don’t want to insist that my paintings be or mean something for someone else.”

Pierce grew up in Texas, where she spent countless hours in a plane with her dad, a flight instructor and pilot for the United States Air Force during the Korean war. While in the air, Pierce experienced a unique view of the landscape, sky and weather that has since shaped her paintings and perception of the world.

“As a pilot, my dad was always talking about the weather and we spent a lot of time together painting for fun during my early years,” said Pierce. “That shaped the way I perceive the atmosphere and environment and create my own paintings today.” 

Pierce’s work is impressionistic and abstract. Although she worked from concrete subjects while studying in art school, Pierce’s source of inspiration kept returning to childhood memories of Texas’ vast spaciousness. “I did a little series on the sky and its formation in college,” said Pierce. “I don’t think I’ve ever painted a traditional landscape since then.”

Since graduating from the California College of Arts & Crafts with an MFA in printmaking as well as a BFA in painting from Southern Methodist University, Pierce’s work has been showcased in creative hubs such as New York City, San Francisco and London, among others.

Her work has also been featured in the Goldman Sachs International Collection, Harvard University and the United States Embassy Residence in Nairobi, Kenya, among other prestigious locales. Now, the Gallatin River Gallery, a 20-year feature of the Big Sky community, has been showcasing Pierce’s work since February and will continue to do so through the ski season.

“I knew about Carol from working at a previous gallery in California,” said Julie Gustafson, Gallatin River Gallery’s owner. “Her work is timeless and has sustained over time, which not all work does. Her work is alluring to a lot of different people.”

Gustafson is no stranger to the art world—she is also an artist, and has worked in and owned various galleries throughout the country. With all of her experience viewing and curating countless artists’ work, she is a trustworthy source when speaking highly of Pierce’s paintings.

“People really respond to the quiet of her work and her respect for nature,” said Gustafson. “I think people also greatly enjoy the beauty and simplicity of her work.”

Pierce insists that, now more than ever, we as a society need the calm and solitude of an empty space. “I think we are getting more and more congested in this world we live in, and that even our wild spaces are being invaded,” said Pierce. “I just want everyone to be aware that we do have spaces we can escape to and be in. All you have to do is look up.”

To view Pierce’s current showing, visit the Gallatin River Gallery at 114 Ousel Falls Road.

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