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MSUB gallery features faculty artwork, multiple media

December 14, 2016 GMT

A variety of art disciplines is on display at the Montana State University Billings faculty art exhibition.

The two-month showing began Dec. 8 and is open to public viewers through Feb. 9 at the Northcutt Steele Gallery, which is on the first floor of the university’s liberal arts building.

Included in the show is the intricate work of Jodi Lightner, who is in her fourth year as assistant professor in the art department.

Her collection at the gallery, dubbed “Invisible Cities,” depicts whimsical, layered structures of acrylic and ink on hand-cut mylar pieces. She named the series from a book with the same title, written by Italo Calvino, which inspired the art.

Lightner said the pieces, which mimic the increasingly crowded architectural work in well-populated areas, allude to the relationship between the buildings and the builders.

“A lot of my work I’m interested in — human-built structures — are either too logical and suppressing,” she said,“or whether they are almost a mirroring of how they interact with other people.”

One of the pieces of work, “Trope,” shows the rising columns and ladders of the upward-building scheme — how ad-hoc additions spring out of one another.

The exhibition also debuts the work of two new professors in the MSUB art department. Mara Pierce is one of them. She previously worked in the Southwest, where she earned a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.

One of her pieces, “New Leaf,” involves color prints woven into each other, creating a vertical flow from one depiction of nature to another.

Randi O’Brien, a ceramic artist, is another new professor featured at the gallery. She earned her Master of Fine Arts and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Montana.

Her work includes two sculptures titled “Overwintering,” for which O’Brien crafted two detailed ducks inlaid into clear, icy blocks.

“The sculptural characters do not act out the full story line of a fable,” she said of the pieces. “Rather, they are frozen in reflection, searching for the moral of their story.”

The exhibition features the work of 10 past and current faculty members. In addition to O’Brien, Pierce and Lightner, there is work from Renee Audette, Mark Earnhart, J.J. Higgins, Neil Jussila, John Pollock, Marcia Selsor and Ben Steele.

“The breadth of display just shows how interesting and strong the art faculty are in their own disciplines,” Lightner said. “They’re great to work with.”

The faculty exhibition will end with a closing reception on Feb. 9. It will run from 5-7 p.m. and is open to the public.

The Northcutt Steele Gallery is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will be closed for the holidays from Dec. 26 to Dec. 30.