Sponsored by S.L.A.M.
TOUR SCHEDULE: 2023 – 2024
1. Bob & Gennie DeWeese Gallery, Bozeman High School, Bozeman, MT – October 9 – November 24, 2023
2. Schoolhouse History & Art Center, Colstrip, MT – April 15 – May 31, 2024
3. Hockaday Museum of Art, Kalispell, MT – September 2 – November 29, 2024
Big Sky Country: there may have never been a more proper moniker for the Montana landscape that we all love and adore. The Montana landscape is one of the most commonly depicted subjects in the state. However, unlike so many other artists of this genre, Osman focuses her gaze solely on the heavens above. Osman captures the tempestuous movements, grandeur, and calm transience of the open sky, condensing its power and breadth into awe-inspiring paintings for a gallery setting.
In Silver Linings: Clouds by Michelle Osman, Osman depicts the extraordinary clouds of the Montana skyscape in multiple styles, from photorealism to abstraction. Silver Linings provides an environment for the mutual appreciation of the outdoors that all Montanans share through a meditative collection of works. For Osman, depicting clouds is an all-consuming enterprise and means of escape: I am obsessed with painting clouds. They are an ongoing and epic concert that lifts my consciousness. The turbulent sky is an arena for distraction, meditation, and reprieve from the day to day, while the land and our small existence on it pull me back to the stories hinted at in a pair of headlights in the waning light. My initial attraction to the storms is how they enter my life. Gusts of wind, lightning, and changing weather insist on a certain degree of attention that blue skies do not.
Inherent in intimate paintings like East Main (16″ x 20″), Osman’s photorealism, intricate detail, and high contrast compositions offer private moments for personal reflection. Large-scale pieces, like Winter Waves (90″ x 60″), inspire a communal reverence for the open sky. They convey Osman’s passion for massive puffs of cumulonimbus and wisps of altostratus. These significant works occupy the viewer’s whole field of vision. They necessitate a complete turn of the head to see, just like the neck arching required to look from one horizon to another in Big Sky Country.
In representational pieces such as Rain Clouds, Osman portrays clouds about to burst into a downpour at any moment. Emulating the processes of other artists, Osman renders clouds in minute detail. She states, “I work from photo references taped together in the style of David Hockney’s collages which capture the evolution of the cloud as it moves, morphs, builds, and dissipates. The grandeur of Thomas Moran’s paintings inspires me to maintain a sense of power and drama in the image. I combine this energy with delicate oil glazes, building up highly realized surfaces using the techniques of Titian and Vermeer until the paintings are almost hyperreal.”
However, Osman’s investigation of clouds goes beyond representation. In works such as Windows I and II, Osman breaks the fourth wall by superimposing geometric shapes over sunset skies, like the reflections of objects that could exist behind the viewer. Lines I and II are reminiscent of torrential rainstorms, whereas Stratus I and II use screenprinting to examine the relationship between clouds, architecture, and other gridded urban elements.
In Silver Linings, Osman uses different approaches to appreciate the complexity of clouds and their influence on our lives. She reminds the viewer to be mindful and present while looking at the altocumulus, nimbostratus, and cirrus that dot the atmosphere. She states: Specificity of the cloud formations in my work alludes to a particular moment in time and place and the transience of that moment in our lives. It is this dichotomy that makes the clouds singular and evocative. Watching a particular cloud formation or a dramatic storm, I am fully present in the moment. Much like the ocean, I am submerged in the abstraction of light and color, in the negative ions of water.
CURATORIAL AND EXHIBITION NOTES:
If space is a concern, eight paintings can be paired (such as Windows I and II) and hung in columns that will be conceptually and aesthetically pleasing. The final painting, Edges, is not included in the exhibition, but is on the PowerPoint for reference. If a host institution is interested in also hanging that piece, this will need to be negotiated and organized between Michelle Osman and the host institution.
Michelle Osman was born in Wyoming, but grew up in Costa Rica, where the ocean “[…] felt like an extension of my body. It was an ever-changing palette of color and texture.” Eventually, she moved to Montana, where the vastness of the Big Sky seemed to match that of the Atlantic Ocean.
In 2005, she received her BFA from Montana State University. Later adventures (such as living in San Francisco and a 400-mile rafting trip down the Colorado River) provoked Osman’s understanding of space and perspective to mature. Thus, when she broke her shoulder during a snowboarding accident and had to return to Bozeman, Osman found she had a new appreciation for the grandeur of the Big Sky Country. “Being back here after all those travels and my time in California gave me a deeper appreciation of Bozeman as a calm, stunning place with Nevada, Wyoming, and the Dakotas as buffers between it and the rest of the world. I started staring at, and then painting, the sky.“In 2016, she received her MFA from Montana State University. Osman has shown nationally and internationally. She is represented by Old Main Gallery in Bozeman, MT, and CK Contemporary in San Francisco, CA. In 2018, she was featured in Western Art & Architecture Magazine. Osman is married with two children, balancing work, family, and career like so many of her female contemporaries. Despite this, she still finds time to wander and take photos of cloudy skies, assuring there will be plenty of Michelle