The third time was a charm for Belgrade artist Ben Pease, whose third showing in the Yellowstone Art Museum’s Quick Draw, as part of the annual auction, broke all recent records for the highest selling piece.
The acrylic, ink and vintage newsprint painting, “From the Power of Those Strong Ones,” depicts a young Crow woman from the 1930s. Pease, who is of Crow heritage, had a crowd gathered around him as he finished the piece, flipping paint mixed with 14-carat gold onto the canvas as a final embellishment. It sold for $5,750 Saturday night.
“Things haven’t slowed down for me since last year,” Pease said.
Pease epitomizes what the YAM auction is all about — promoting regional artists as it raises funds for programming and education at the contemporary art museum.
The price of Pease's works has risen steadily since his first year in the auction in 2013. Last year, his Quick Draw painting sold for $3,100.
Robyn Peterson, executive director of the YAM, said it takes almost 100 volunteers and her entire staff to put on the auction, which drew several hundred people to the downtown museum Saturday night. The museum hopes to raise as much as $200,000 at the auction.
“When you buy artwork, you enrich your life, but you also give fuel to the artists to create,” Peterson said.
Auction 49 included the work of 140 artists from throughout the country who donate 50 to 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of their work to the museum.
“The art auction isn’t just a fun event. The net proceeds support our diverse exhibitions and programs,” Peterson said.
Two of the youngest guests at the auction were sisters, Ireland and Lorelai Snyder, ages 9 and 6, respectively. The girls are students in the art program at the YAM and were asked to show their favorite piece of art and talk about why they enjoy creating.
“I like to make sketch art; usually I draw people,” Ireland Snyder said.
Marcia Selsor, a nationally known ceramic artist who recently moved back to Montana, said she was excited to be included in the auction. Her porcelain sculpture, “Curdled Blues,” sold for $600 in the silent auction. She uses salt with glazes and fires the piece at 1,400 degrees to create a mottled look.
“If I don’t like it, I do it again,” she said.
Helena artist Karen Luckey’s oil on canvas, “American Icon,” depicting a weathered barn, was a top seller in the silent auction, going for $1,750.
The live auction started off with the quick, high sale of Billings artist Mary Lee Darby’s acrylic on canvas, “Dispensation,” which sold for $4,000, above the $3,000 appraised value.
At press time, James Poulson's oil on linen painting, "November Sky," was the highest selling piece, going for $7,500, which was above its appraised value at $7,400. Theodore Waddell and Larry Pirnie's paintings each sold for $7,000.