The common medium of the Northwest Art Center's two galleries at Minot State University this month is photography. Thereafter, the differences are more evident than the similarities.
In the Hartnett Hall Gallery, the artist is Laton Alton Huffman, 1854-1931, known as the "Photographer of the Wild West." In the Gordon B. Olson Library Gallery, the artist is graduating senior Briana Schwan.
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - Laton Alton Huffman’s “Cheyenne Chief Two Moons on Custer Hill on the 25th Anniversary of the Battle” is one of the pieces in his collection on display in the Northwest Art Center’s Hartnett Hall Gallery.
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - “Più Mosso” by Briana Schwan.
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - “Unison” by Briana Schwan.
Huffman took advantage of his being post photographer at Fort Keogh, established only a few years after the Custer incident, to record the rapidly changing times in Montana.
"This is something different for us," said Avis Veikley, executive director of the Northwest Art Center. "Usually we have contemporary artists, where this is very historic."
The touring collection comes courtesy of the Custer County Arts and Heritage Center of Miles City, curated by Mark Browning.
"You can see all aspects of photography from the period," she said. "Historic processes like collotype and hand-tinting. For some of the portraits he even split up groups (of people) and refinished the backgrounds so there would be individuals in the photo.
"Some of the originals weren't taken by him, either," she noted. "The copyright laws have been very changeable through the years."
When Huffman established a studio in Miles City, he took the opportunity not only to hunt buffalo, but to photograph the remaining vast herds wandering the plains. A number of his photographs were discovered by his daughter many years after his death, when his son-in-law W.R. Felton wrote a book about the period with Mark H. Brown titled "Before Barbed Wire."
Huffman's North Dakota subjects include the Badlands around Medora, Jamestown (which he noted as "Jimtown") and the Mandan villages. His native subjects were often posed, such as "Sits Down Spotted, a Crow Hunter in Winter Dress," which shows the pompadour hairstyle popular in 1880.
The sepia tone is seen throughout the display, which causes the few hand-tinted pictures to pop. These were colored by hand in either oils or watercolor, and the photographs could have the treatment at any stage of developing.
An example of the technique is "Sioux Chief Spotted Eagle's Hostile Village Valley, MT, 1879." Huffman approached his work with the eye of an artist and the perspective of an historian, as shown in "Cheyenne Chief Two Moons on Custer Hill on the 25th Anniversary of the Battle," staged by Huffman with the Custer cemetery in the background, and Two Moons gesturing toward it.
Besides being a graduating senior at Minot State University, Briana Schwan is a piano teacher and accompanist for the Voices of Note women's chorus. Her senior exhibit at the Northwest Arts Center's Gordon Olson Library Gallery at MSU reflects her double major in piano performance and art with a concentration in photography.
The Surrey native has titled it "Synesthesia," a term used for individuals whose senses are, in a sense, mixed.
"There are people who hear color, for example," Schwan said. "This is photographic representation of musical concepts, so you can 'see' music."
Schwan has 20 pieces on display, and describes it as quite a colorful show.
"They are all abstracts, and with photography, that requires many different effects to achieve," she said. "There are a lot of extreme close-ups among other techniques."
The music is mixed in not simply in the titles and descriptions of the pieces, but with an audio tour.
"Stop at the library desk to pick up an iPod," Schwan said. "I recorded the piano track, with some help when I needed things like vibrato. That's hard to demonstrate on a piano," she added with a grin.
Three of her favorites are "Rhapsody," "Canon" and "Pi Mosso." The latter translates to "more movement or quicker," while a canon is a piece of music where one voice repeats the part of another throughout the whole piece. A rhapsody is an enthusiastic, usually instrumental, composition of ir- regular form that often incorporates improvisation.
The exhibits will be up through Dec. 30 and are free and open to the public.