Salish Kootenai College Art Exhibit Launches Outreach Program

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Karen Peterson

PABLO – Artist Tim Neilson sees a lawn of uncut grass when he looks at a blank canvas because in his mind each section needs work until it’s finished, although his work isn’t anything like a square of lawn.

Jon Athon, chair of the media design department at Salish Kootenai College, describes Neilson’s work as fine art, and he invited Neilson to display his paintings “Icons for the Post Revolution” in the Three Woodcocks Building, located on the north side of the SKC campus.

“We are planning to bring in more artists as part of community outreach,” he said. “We want the community to feel involved here with different artists and events.”

Anyone is welcome to visit the display until it closes, about the second week of March. The doors are open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Neilson’s show opened on Friday, Feb. 17. About 30 of his paintings are on the walls of the arts department building.

John Warner looked closely at the paintings during the exhibit and said it was like looking at a “history lesson.” He explained that the paintings were the portraits of icons in history, with the artist’s interpretation.

He pointed out Lewis and Clark depicted as clowns. Kurt Vonnegut looking like the serious writer. Malcolm X wearing his iconic glasses.

Warner stopped naming out the icons and looked at a few paintings with a puzzled expression.

“What are the missing limbs about?”

Warner is Neilson’s father-in-law so he didn’t hesitate to ask about the limbs during Neilson’s opening speech.

Neilson said the paintings depicting people with artificial arms are symbolic of what those people have gone through. “It tells the story of their sacrifice,” he said.

Neilson has taught high school art in Missoula for 22 years. He grew up in Havre, Mont. When he was a kid, his family became friends with Joe McDonald, SKC founder.

McDonald once coached sports in Havre, which is how the two families met, and how Neilsen eventually became acquainted with SKC. Neilson enjoys painting people who have interesting lives, usually focused on a political movement, and most of them are not alive. He questioned his authority as a painter of people who struggled with human rights issues as he’s never experienced it himself.

“I might not be the person to paint a picture of Malcolm X,” he said to audience members.

Corwin Clairmont, a member of the audience and artist who has painted many watercolor pictures including the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s pipeline protest, disagreed.

“As far as appreciation of the human spirit, it doesn’t take a certain color (of person),” he said. “We need to understand things from all ethnic persuasions.”

Clairmont also said he liked the way Neilson treated the surface of his work. “You’ve used an incredible amount of brushstrokes,” he said.

Neilson said he was honored to be able to display his work at SKC.


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