Time running out on “Montana Peepshow Stories” at the MAM

Leslie Van Stavern Millar, “Theodore Roosevelt, Higgins Avenue in Missoula, 1911,” gouache on wood panel, courtesy of the artist

Missoula Current

Leslie Van Stavern Millar’s current exhibition, “Montana Peepshow Stories,” will remain on display until late January, allowing viewers to absorb the “engaging and entertaining” display at the Missoula Art Museum a few more times.

Many are familiar with Millar’s art performance persona, “Science Woman,” who appears in parades across the state and lectures on scientific topics, such as how art improves quality of life and what makes living in Montana a unique experience.

More than 20 years ago, Science Woman presented the first “Montana Peepshow Stories,” depicting Queen Elizabeth I as a time-traveler visiting historic moments in Montana as part of the Caravan Project – a mobile art collective that visited rural communities throughout the state.

For the MAM exhibition, Millar has added five paintings to the original five in the series. The new works depict the queen and specific people and events in Missoula’s history, such as the Black Bicycle Corps of Fort Missoula, the Salish Pow Wow in Arlee, and President Theador Roosevelt when he spoke on Higgins Avenue in 1911.

The series of 10 paintings are housed in freestanding wooden boxes, calling to mind the peepshows of yesteryear. Visitors will find the peepshows featured in MAM’s Travel Montana Lobby and encounter the works throughout the museum’s three floors.

Millar’s peepshows have a long history of involving viewers in a sense of discovery. Using gouache pigments, Millar masterfully paints the narrative scenes in meticulous detail and luscious color. Her bold, matte colors and figures frozen in position evoke innocence and sincerity.

Repetition is also the key to Millar’s work. The detail of a brick wall or the pattern on a woman’s dress moves the viewer’s eye through the image. Rather than creating frenetic motion, these patterns create stability and offer a fresh and contemporary view of the repeating patterns of local history.