When Nancy Erickson died in February at the age of 86, she left decades of shelves and wallets filled with figure drawings and art materials, including fabrics, brushes, paints and more.
She and her husband, Ron Erickson, have lived in their Pattee Canyon home for 50 years, where she worked in a custom designed studio with windows overlooking the hills. She once spotted a mountain lion in the back.
On Saturday there will be a sale of her figure drawings, made during sessions with her longtime group, the Pattee Canyon Ladies Salon, as well as the materials she used for her large-scale animal paintings and fabric works. and figures that have been exhibited throughout Montana, the United States and overseas.
It’s a fascinating way to look at an artist’s legacy in the room he worked in, said Leslie Van Stavern Millar, a longtime close friend and salon member.
“This is what he has worked with and what he has accomplished,” Millar said.
Ron has gone through all the drawings collected from the years he has produced, with the help of Millar, over the months.
They picked around 50 to 70 thinking about Nancy, wondering if she would approve if she saw a particular work hanging in someone else’s living room. The larger designs will be priced at $ 75- $ 100, the smaller ones at $ 25- $ 35.
Looking at the works arranged on the wall, Ron said there is a visible texture over time.
“It’s hard, for example, to look at a piece and say, ‘Oh, that’s from 1970, and this here is from 2020,'” he said.
The sale will take place at 3250 Pattee Canyon Drive on Saturday 13th August from 10am to 4pm. The drawings will be set up in the studio and the materials outside. Face covers are needed inside. Parking is limited and people should carpool if they can.
Artists are “heavy material workers,” Millar said. The study shows it. It has shelves filled with fabrics of all the colors and patterns Nancy used in her fabric wall sculptures, plus thread, a sewing machine, and more. (As they examined the tissues, they unearthed other journals of her, which will be donated to Mansfield’s archives in hopes that a potential biographer can make use of them.)
There are study furniture and shelves. Nancy photographed her work with a camera that is now on sale: a 4 x 5-inch Calumet camera and a heavy-duty tripod. Ron said they are selling a selection of the many books they have collected over the years, including volumes on individual artists and museum catalogs.
The studio is where, since 1989, Erickson has met twice a month for figure drawing sessions with the Pattee Canyon Ladies Salon, a group that has met continuously for decades. She was the founder and “leader without a name”.
Millar said working regularly from the figure was central to Erickson’s practice, along with a sense of community and friendship. It never involved formal criticism or expectations that a piece might end up in a public show.
Drawing in this way is an opportunity to put aside any kind of photographic reference and “look at a human body in real time, with light and shadow” and a variety of body types depending on the model, he said.
Erickson was known for her drawings, paintings and quilted works, often of animals and humans, and often with a message of concern about the effects society has had on the environment. You have been working in the art of weaving since the 1970s, when it was less widely accepted. Over time, her work has not only been exhibited in museums, but has been celebrated in the world of quilting and textiles. She has participated in more than 500 shows during her career.
Among his innovations were cutouts of free-form figures that emerged from the traditional shape of the square. Looking at a selection of small drawings on the wall, Ron counted three that became large-scale cloth works.
Fans of his animal and textile works take note: this sale focuses on figure drawings, not major works. There are a small handful of bears in the room, including one showing the animal’s bone structure, reflecting its original field of study, zoology.
The proceeds will go to the Montana Museum of Art and Culture and the Missoula Art Museum: several years ago Nancy Erickson donated a selection of her works to the latter’s permanent collection.
Later this fall, there will be numerous events that will mark his legacy. MMAC will open an exhibition dedicated to the Ladies Salon on October 14th. They worked on a catalog and an accompanying symposium.
At the same time, his long-standing local exhibition space, Gallery 709 at Montana Art and Framing, will show a selection of his work.