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Bob Durden

Bob Durden is shown in his new gallery in the Carlin Hotel building at 2501 Montana Avenue, Suite 4.

After working professionally in art museums for 22 years, Bob Durden is opening his own space on the second floor of the Carlin Hotel at 2501 Montana Ave., Ste 4.

Durden Gallery is something the artist and former curator at the Yellowstone Art Museum had thought about often, and after leaving his position as senior curator at the YAM last October, Durden decided “it was now or never."

“Billings is rife with potential,” he said. “There are really good galleries in town that have grown in the last couple years. Billings ought to be ready for a bigger art pie.”

Within the past several years, galleries that have opened include Terakedis Fine Art and Jewelry and the Stapleton Gallery on North Broadway and Montana Gallery on Second Avenue North.

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Ted Waddell at Durden Gallery

Bob Durden has known artist Theodore Waddell since graduate school in the late 1980s. “There is a direct connection between the way I think about the world and the way that Ted represents the world,” said Durden. Both were born in Billings, and Waddell, who travels between Montana and Idaho, maintains a connection to his Montana roots through his art, such as this oil painting of Waddell's "Mountain Drawing #1."

“Like any business, to succeed you do what you do, but you also count on an expanded market to bring more people into the fold. Not any one gallery can suit everybody’s tastes or needs,” he said. 

Similarly, Durden sees the growing number of galleries a good sign for artists.

“There’s a general sensibility that if one gallery is doing well, then all galleries are doing well. I’ve always thought that way about artists too. If an artist is selling their work, that’s good for everybody. That means people are paying attention,” he said.

Durden grew up in Billings and began drawing at a young age.

“I didn’t even know you could be an artist,” he said.

In junior high, an art teacher expanded his thinking, and he began to understand that he could make a living in the art world. Some of Durden’s artwork harkens back to that playfulness of childhood expression. He works in oils but has also taken up encaustic painting, which uses hot wax and pigments. 

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"Garden of Delights" at Durden Gallery

Bob Durden has been drawing since age 8. His most recent interest is encaustic painting, which utilizes hot wax and pigment to create scenes, such as this one, titled "Garden of Delights." Durden's work, as well as the art of several others, are on display in Billings newest gallery, Durden Gallery, which opens on Saturday, Durden's 57th birthday. 

Durden will open the gallery on his 57th birthday.

“I’ve never liked the fuss of birthdays, but I decided that this occasion would be something that I could celebrate." Durden is using his connections with artists he's worked with for years and will maintain a small roster of featured artists, and guest artists will also be invited to exhibit works.

Durden looked for storefront space around town, but only found large spaces outside his price range.

“I just decided I’m going to have to work very hard to market where I’m at and the artists that I am representing,” he said. 

The Carlin building has housed artists in the past, and is currently space to various businesses as well as artist Connie Dillan’s Gallery Nine. He will hold regular business hours, and if the gallery is well-received, he plans to expand into an additional space adjacent to the current gallery. 

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Nick Lamb at Bob Durden Gallery

"Saw-whet Owl," a carving by Nick Lamb of Riverside, California, is one of many works of art on display at Durden Gallery, opened by artist Bob Durden on the second floor of the Carlin Hotel, 2501 Montana Ave., Ste 4.

It’s a small space, so Durden can’t represent as many artists as he’d like. He is showing his own work, which includes encaustic and oil paintings and graphite drawings, but he said he's excited about representing artists that he respects and admires. Currently Durden represents Catherine Courtenaye of Bozeman; Nick Lamb of Riverside, California; Randi O’Brien of Livingston; Theodore Waddell of Sheridan, Montana and Hailey, Idaho and his daughter Arin Waddell of Sheridan, Wyo.

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Catherine Courtenaye at Durden Gallery

Catherine Courtenaye of Bozeman is one of several artists represented by Durden Gallery, Billings newest fine art establishment, opening Saturday in the Carlin building on Montana Avenue. This oil on canvas is titled "Shenandoah," representing the mathematical and dream-like worlds of Courtenaye's mind. 

Durden has invited artists that he respects and cares about to join the gallery.

“All the artists that I represent have a high level of craftsmanship,” Durden said.

Using his background in curation, Durden has brought together artists that use quality materials, know their process and have a deft hand in applying their media.

“To me, integrity and honesty is really important in the art world. And that’s a common denominator in all these artists.”

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Arts and Entertainment Reporter

Arts & Entertainment Reporter at The Billings Gazette.