By Manette Rene Bradford
Sponsored by MAGDA
TOUR SCHEDULE: 2024 – 2026
1. Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art Great Falls, MT – January 26 – March 27, 2024
2. Hockaday Museum of Art, Kalispell, MT – June 3 – August 30, 2024
3. Schoolhouse History & Art Center, Colstrip, MT – September 6 – November 29, 2024
4. MonDak Heritage Center, Sidney, MT – May 28 – August 3, 2025
5. Montana Museum of Art & Culture, U of M, Missoula, MT – December 15, 2025 – January 26, 2026
6. CM Russell Museum, Great Falls, MT – May 25 – August 21, 2026
Unsettled Lands is a body of work that engages with traditional themes in visual culture from the mythic American West; of both landscape as subject, and landscape in relationship with legendary Western themes of masculinity, heroism, mastery, and stewardship over the land. The works are a series of watercolor, paper, and acrylic collages on canvas, works on paper, and ceramic sculptures, primarily rendered in raw sepia. This pigment (though now synthesized, was originally derived from melanin in cuttlefish ink) references both the organic nature of the body and the early photography of the 19th century and the Old West. The monochromaticity of the work also eliminates the distinction between the matter of the body and that of the landscape. While the images may engage with a specific geographic location, they imagine an allegorical historical narrative for each terrain and exist outside of an historic chronology. In an effort to unearth the legacy that is left from the act of settlement and the impulse behind the act of possession, the work references a motif found in various creation mythologies of the immolation and dismemberment of a primordial figure to build a new cosmos, essentially reimagining a creation mythology for the American West. My monolithic male figures are nude, exposed, eroded, and vulnerable, in contrast with the iconic, hypermasculine figure of legend found in the heroic frontiersman, rancher, cowboy, or outlaw. Though the inflation of the figurative scale imitates the grandiosity of the determination of will to dominate, tame, and take possession of the land, the work offers a contradictory narrative and hints at a different motivation: a desire to meld, absorb, enmesh with the land.
Manette Rene was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, into a family of visual artists. This early exposure to art allowed her to witness the relationship between craftsmanship and creative process firsthand, and to develop her own practice and artistic voice. In 2001, she received a BFA in sculpture, with a minor in printmaking, from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has lived and worked in Chicago, the Bay Area, and Red Lodge here in Montana, and is currently living and working in Billings. Returning to the prairies and living with the dynamic energy of the mountains, integrated with her interest in the history and ecology of Montana, has provided an endless source of inspiration for her work.