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UM’s College of Visual and Performing Arts is proud to honor George Gogas—artist, teacher, and School of Art alumnus—during its sixteenth annual scholarship event, Odyssey of the Stars—A Celebration of Artistic Journeys.
The 2016 performance begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 5, in the George and Jane Dennison Theatre. Odyssey of the Stars pays tribute to UM performing and visual arts alumni and tells the story of their artistic journeys. While honoring Gogas, the event also showcases UM students and faculty members from the Schools of Art, Media Arts, Music, and Theatre & Dance.
Gogas is known as a thinker. He’s thoughtful about local politics, or how the elk herd is faring this winter, or whether a particular horse is worth its salt. He’ll offer his opinion on just about any subject in a polite way that reflects his gentlemanly conduct. But he also is the kind of thinker whose opinion is formed through dedicated and sustained examination. He and his wife, Lynn, have been staples of the local arts community for decades, rarely missing an exhibition reception or lecture. Always generous, Gogas is quick to offer encouragement to young artists or mild criticism to those who need it.
Gogas was educated in Missoula public schools and holds a bachelor’s degree in art from UM and an M.F.A. from the University of Washington. It wasn’t until he was an art student at UM that he discovered new ways of seeing and creating. Gogas went on to teach in public schools for thirty years as an art teacher, having a profound effect on his students. Some of his students have become artists in their own right, such as Doug Turman, a painter and owner of the Turman Larison Gallery in Helena, a dedicated space for contemporary art. Gogas retired in 1985 to pursue artmaking full time. He is a passionate supporter of art of all kinds, consistently exhibits his work, and always has a good story to tell.
As an artist, Gogas is equally enamored with and influenced by western art and modernism. He manages to not only be tolerated, but celebrated in both circles. Although he doesn’t subscribe to later aesthetic developments such as conceptualism or new media, he does admire them. He’s the rare artist that can talk horses and describe abstract principles in the same breath.
Gogas is the well-loved creator of a series of imagined encounters between Charles M. Russell and Pablo Picasso called Judith Basin Encounters. This exceptional series takes the two leaders of these seemingly irreconcilable styles, who were contemporary with one another but never met, and depicts their fantastical exploits with tongue-in-cheek aplomb.
Gogas also creates almost completely abstract paintings, such as his Rubens Revisited or Gold Band series, which he describes as “just paint on a canvas.” Rubens Revisited uses the stylistic meanderings of abstract expressionism to reinterpret the Old Master’s compositions. These works are formal, meaning that they deal with the basic elements of art such as line, color, value, shape, form, space, and texture. Gogas is quick to point out that the paintings have “no narrative, no symbolism, no social message," but instead reflect a series of relationships between visual elements.
Odyssey of the Stars supports the College of Visual and Performing Arts Scholarship Fund. Since its inception, the production has funded scholarships for 600 students. For more information visit www.umt.edu/umarts/odyssey.
—Brandon Reintjes, senior curator, Missoula Art Museum