Twelve-year-old Lilly Hamper carefully paints the black tongue on her frog sculpture in the back studio at 1+1=1 Gallery.
She’s calling the work “Instead of Looking at Imperfections Find the Beauty.”
Hamper surprises you, not only with her provocative titles, but her painstaking focus on perfecting her art.
In fact, that’s one reason she’s been taking art classes with artist and gallery co-owner Maureen Shaughnessy.
Hamper wants to loosen up her art and explore new media, styles and ideas.
Her works, along with those of five other young artists will be unveiled at the gallery’s third annual Young Voices Exhibit, opening Friday, Feb. 2, 434 N. Last Chance Gulch.
The opening reception is 5 to 8 p.m., when viewers can meet the artists and hear their artist talks.
Hamper’s frog started out as a plaster-gauze mask of her own face and then morphed.
Nearby are a series of relief prints of foxes, one of Hamper’s favorite animals. They’ve also become somewhat of a signature work for her.
So much so, that a California surfer who makes custom surfboards is paying her for her design to use on his boards.
A few of her other works include “Tidal Waves of Flame,” a sculpture one would never guess is shaped from wire and a nylon stocking covered in numerous coats of brilliant orange and red paint.
And like the other young artists, she’s created an assemblage in the style of artist Louise Nevelson.
“One thing that’s still hard for me,” said Hamper, “is being creative. I like detail.” And left to her own devices, she admits she’d focus on drawing, which is her first and abiding love.
That’s the main reason she started classes at the gallery almost four years ago. Shaughnessy has thrown a lot of new things at her and other students taking the Kids Art Sesh.
Shaughnessy seeks to nudge them into a wider world of art.
And Hamper is liking it. Her dream is to someday do art professionally.
Also at work in the studio that afternoon is 15-year-old Rachel Kuntz, who is framing some of her watercolors.
Kuntz was one of a small group of students in the Teen Art Adventures class, who got to travel all over this part of Montana with Shaughnessy to do plein air painting, so they could paint from real life rather than photos.
One of Kuntz’s works is a watercolor pencil painting of Elkhorn Ghost Town as seen from an overlook.
“I named it ‘Childhood,’” she said.
Others focus on water and were painted at Canyon Ferry Lake, the Boulder River and Ten Mile Creek.
In the class Kuntz gained a new view.
“This opened me to what’s in front of me,” she said. “I know this was a great experience for me because I never did this type of art and it’s really fun.”
The other young exhibit artists are Ema Terry, Adia Terry, Silas Fruge and Scarlet Carpenter. The group ranges in age from 8 to 15.
“The intent behind the classes is to teach them how to get out of their comfort zones,” said Shaughnessy.
She’s noticed that when children get to be 8 years old or so, they start becoming conscious of what their peers are doing.
But that tends to make them feel bad about their own artwork -- if their horse doesn’t look exactly like a horse.
So she shakes up the routine and will have them paint what it feels like for the horse to run through a field in the rain.
She also has them try a variety of media -- from pastels and watercolor sticks to prints, sculpture and paints.
And they’ve painted while dancing to music.
But there’s more at work here than just the blossoming of creativity.
She has them help take down a gallery show and put up theirs.
They also write their own artist statements and prepare a one-minute gallery talk for opening night.
“This is a really important purpose of the Young Voices Exhibit,” she said, “to teach them life skills and give them confidence.”
And they donate money from their art sales to a local nonprofit. This year, the kids voted to give money to Montana Wild and the Angel Fund.
Altogether, between the gallery and the kids, they’ll donate 40 percent of the proceeds from the exhibit sales.
For more information, visit the gallery website at www.http://1plus1is1.com/events/ or call 431-9931.