A person with wispy white hair wearing a black suit and tie slowly walks down the gallery wall, looking through tinted aviator sunglasses to examine each piece closely.
At first glance, one would assume it was the photograph's toughest critic: the actual photographer, Andy Warhol. Instead, it was one of a handful of Warhol look-alikes at the debut of a 159-photo collection at Northcutt Steele Gallery at Montana State University Billings on Friday evening.
The photographs were donated to the gallery through the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program. The program donates a portion of Warhol's collection to colleges across the country.
Lynell Jones of Billings was donning the wispy white wig — a prop she found long lost in her closet at home. The piece was the inspiration to her whole outfit when she decided to attend the event as an elderly Warhol.
“I thought, 'Oh this is perfect, I shall be Andy,' “ Jones said. Her look worked out well, winning her second place in the costume contest and $25.
Candace Briggs and Tami Trottier, both MSUB art students, came dressed as a younger version of Andy and a factory girl, respectively.
“I'm Andy's factory girl,” said Trottier, who was wearing thigh-high boots, sunglasses, a gray-and-black checkered jacket and a fuzzy blue scarf. “I am hoping to be in one of his films.”
Briggs is president and Trottier is vice president of the Billings Art Students' League that helped vote for the frames used for the Warhol artwork and came Friday to support its debut.
“It's pretty exciting,” Briggs said from behind dark sunglasses. She was wearing a black leather jacket and had an Olympus camera hanging around her neck in a brown leather case. “We've been waiting almost a year to see this get up. ... We don't have anything like this at the school or any big names in our collection. This is huge for us.”
The duo won first place in the costume contest. They were given a $50 check, along with a larger fake $100 bill that said “Love Andy.”
Grace Frankforter, director of Northcutt Steele Gallery, was pleased by Friday's turnout, between 30 and 40 people.
“We are the only institution in the state of Montana to receive this grant,” Frankforter said.
The collection of black-and-whites and Polaroids now belongs to the university's art department. The full exhibit will be up through Dec. 10. Then the photos go into a vault and be brought out periodically for future showings.
Frankforter said the grant stipulates that the pieces must be shown at certain times. Future shows will consist of smaller segments of the whole collection.
The collection could one day even travel to other universities and events, but Frankforter said that would be further down the road.
“I'm pleased, it's an excellent selection,” Frankforter said.