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'Remember Our History': Artists Paint MT National Monuments

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Wednesday, August 24, 2022   

Artists in Montana have recently immortalized the state's national monuments on canvas.

At "Pint Night" events put on by the Montana Conservation Voters, two artists finished live paintings of the Upper Missouri River Breaks and Pompeys Pillar, two of the state's three national monuments that were both designated in 2001.

Terri Porta in Billings painted a landscape of Pompeys Pillar, a rock formation that was significant to Native Americans and also the Lewis and Clark journey west. Porta said it's important to keep all aspects of history in mind - both good and bad.

"We have to remember our history," she said. "We need to take better care of our land, and these kind of places that become a national monument - that helps to contain it, to bring it into a place where everybody's accessing these memories too, and we won't forget what happened."

Since the Antiquities Act of 1906, presidents have had the power to designate national monuments - and presidents from both parties have wielded that power to preserve culturally significant landscapes. Montana also is home to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

Stella Nall, an artist who "live-painted" the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Missoula, said her work, which incorporates beadwork, is designed to challenge stereotypes about indigenous art. Her painted landscape was positioned in the belly of an imaginary animal with three legs.

"My intention with this piece is to hopefully draw more viewers into the landscape who might not necessarily automatically connect with landscape art," she said. "So, that's why I incorporated this imagined creature."

National monument protections are popular with the public. According to a recent poll, nearly 80% of Montanans support a president's power to protect existing public lands as national monuments. Paintings of all three national monuments in Montana will be featured at the Montana Conservation Voters' annual gala in October.

Disclosure: Montana Conservation Voters & Education Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Environment. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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