Julia Galloway would have you not only drink in Montana’s stunning skyscape, but also drink from it.
In her new show, “Searching for Skyline” opening Friday, Sept. 30, at the Turman Larison Contemporary gallery, she shares new ceramic works inspired by the Missoula Valley and its horizon.
An artist’s reception is from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30 followed by a gallery talk Saturday at 11 a.m.
“Since moving to Montana, I’ve been working on pots that deal with a sense of space,” she said in a phone interview from Missoula, where she is chair of the school of art and an art professor.
Clouds and arches, in luminous blues and white, recur on a wide array of mugs, tumblers, creamers and tea pots.
The imagery intertwines her impressions of living in the Missoula Valley surrounded by mountains, yet capturing an expansive feeling of both place and space.
It’s admittedly an ephemeral concept to capture on a cup or creamer — much more subtle than, say, a cowboy.
Galloway prefers her work have a theme and in the past few years completed a large body of work inspired by John James Audubon’s bird watercolors.
“I’m interested in pottery that is joyous,” she writes in her artist statement, “objects that weave into our daily lives through use.”
Mary Lee Larison, co-owner of Turman Larison Contemporary gallery, admits she was immediately charmed by Galloway’s work.
“I felt I couldn’t live without it,” she said of a cream and sugar set she purchased 10 years ago as a wedding present for herself and husband Doug Turman. “It’s one of the first ceramics I invested in.
“Julia imbues a sensuous, magical quality to her works,” said Larison, who also admires the ancient feel of the works – their Venetian quality, patina and color schemes.
“We’ve carried her works whenever we could,” said Larison. “For 10 years, we’ve been hoping this show would happen.”
When Galloway moved to Montana two years ago, the show began to fall into place.
All of the works in the show are porcelain. “It is very responsive to the touch,” Galloway said. “It’s such a dance partner. It’s so responsive it meets you halfway.”
But beyond its feel is its history.
“Porcelain is rooted in a wonderful tradition,” said Galloway, so are the colors blue and white so prevalent in her work.
“I think working with the blue-and-white color palette is a continuing thread in my work because it’s rooted in history. Everyone understands blue and white pots. It’s so rooted in the history of ceramics in European, Asian and Islamic cultures.
“It shows up over and over again. So, for me, it reinforces the democracy of ceramics. It’s interesting that nothing was as influential or moved across the globe as quickly – until the PC.”
Saturday morning, in her gallery talk, she’ll speak about the role of utilitarian pottery today. As the world goes more digital, the demand for handmade objects has increased dramatically. She calls it “a subconscious counterbalance.”
“I’ll talk about this sense of place,” she added. Through her art, she takes the concept of eating local one step further.
“I like this idea of eating out of where you are. Drinking from a cup that reflects your valley seems like a pretty good idea.”
She admires how Montanans not only “buy local” from farmers, but also ceramic artists. “Ceramics are so vibrant here.”
While some artists are drawn to solitary studio life, Galloway relishes her dual role as artist and teacher.
“Teaching is an easy profession to believe in,” she said. “It’s such a noble profession.
“I want to work with young minds. I’m really dedicated to the field growing. I would just encourage people to go into the arts if they have the passion for it.”
Her personal journey began in high school when she discovered she was good at art. “I never set out to be an artist. I just followed its thread. It’s been an incredibly fruitful, diverse and rich life.”
She particularly enjoys teaching at a public university, having given up a job at a private college, the School for American Crafts in Rochester, N.Y., to come to Montana. “I wanted to work at a large public school that anyone could afford to go to.”
A few years ago she was a visiting artist in Montana and was drawn to the Big Sky’s landscape.
Later, when she interviewed for the UM job, she walked into the university’s ceramics classroom — a former ice skating rink — and loved the feeling of the inner space.
“Anything could happen here,” she remembers thinking. “There’s a big feeling of potential here.”