In 1991, the year after my dad died, the process of helping my mother take care of the work left behind.. began by transferring all of their work from the two truck trailers that they'd acquired sometime in the 70's for storing their art. The trailers had worked pretty well, and Dad was really quite proud of the shelving he'd cobbled together to hold and organize primarily paintings that they'd accumulated over 40 some years, some of which was their collection of friends work, some was their own. Some they'd hauled with them from Lubbuck Texas to Bozeman, Montana to start their new life as faculty and family of the MSC Art Department in 1949. My mother used to like to tell the story that Daddy's friend Louis Pennfield obviously wrote a better letter of recommendation for Bob than Bob had for Louis, because Dad got the job (that he was applying for) and Louis did not!
The new studio, a 32 x 48 pole building, was the new beginning for my mother and became the focus of her intention from then until the day she died in her bed in her home in that studio in 2007. For the first 12 years from when the building was built, the walk from the house to the studio happened in all seasons with Yak Trax in the winter, Birkies in the summer. It was her mission from day to day. She added onto the initial structure incrementally, pouring a concrete floor ½ at a time as she could afford the cost of radiant heat, insulation and paint (a job I really didn't enjoy...painting the styrofoam insulation walls and ceiling from scaffolding...with a BRUSH!). Eventually she added a kitchen and a bathroom (initially with a composting toilet...another job I didn't like much...) and finally a loft... all through trades and many good graces of friends who helped the space evolve over the years....creating a magnificent studio in which she lived for the last 4 years of her life. It was her Soho/Cottonwood Canyon retreat, sadly never shared by Dad, but the work that was produced in those years is testimonial to the liberation she felt by having the space to unleash her muse. Her long desire to live in her studio manifest on Mother's Day, 2004, when the folks who lived in the yurt on our land lent their hand and youth to transferring her home from her house of 40 years to her new studio. We'd tried with humor to dissuade her for some years, reminding her that it would become not only her studio but she'd have all her dirty dishes, her laundry, her TV and computer… we'd tease her at times and tell her she could live there but she could only take with her her one bowl and one spoon...
But as she nested into this space, for 12 years as her studio and finally as her studio and her home, there were essential additional contributions that made it workable, livable and beautiful. Divided in half with a makeshift wall of demarkation, she worked on one side, lived in the other. Tim, my partner at the time, built her a massive 8 ft square table on wheels, primarily for backing finished paintings with felt and mounting them onto dowels to make scrolls. Tim was meticulous with the scrolls, and together we assisted her for 10 years with this task. A hanging system was mounted on the 12 foot high trusses of the loft, to hang and roll numbers of scrolls across a track. With surgical precision, friend Kim Reineking tweeked and caressed these rollers to slide like butter above her head, a system that allowed both show and storage of the last 20 years of her paintings. The east and west walls of the studio were prepared as painting walls and the others became her gallery of the collection of work that had accumulated over 60 years of trades and friendships with students and colleagues. The “kitchen wall” from the house transferred to another in her studio, plastered with postcards and announcements of shows from students, friends and colleagues.
Once settled into her new home, the finishing touches of pure esthetic pleasure were a window and a deck. Besides the sliding glass door and the skylights, there were only three small widows at the south end of her studio. Tom, my partner at this time, installed a large picture window from which she could see the landscape that she'd painted for so many years. And he built her a deck. It was magnificent, creating an access to be present in the glorious matrix of her paintings.
THANKS ALL GOOD FRIENDS WHO HELPED WITH THIS TRANSITION:
Chris Autio helped with painting all that insulation!
Joop Demeij built the loft and wonderful wall that became her gallery of collected works for many years. He also installed the magnificent painting wall that inspired some of Gennie's finest paintings...she had ample SPACE to work for the first time in her life!
Eric Overlie plumbed in the kitchen and bath. A luxurious deep bathtub with jets was handsomely tiled to transform her previous funky space into a contemporary and esthetically fashionable designer bathroom. Eric also built her an elegant multicolored finely finished desk and entertainment center for her many years of devoted vigilance of keeping abreast with the news…and ritual pleasure of 9 O'clock with Charlie Rose!
Josh installed the handmade tile floor in this designer bathroom, a touch no other home will ever share as it is a one of a kind little beauty. It needs to be said as well that Josh brought to the studio a spirit of the 'joy of life' whenever he was home to visit...for many a dinner and many a Mother's Day...mysteriously and intentionally always a 'surprise' to her...he would bring stories of his navigational career through the arts that his dad was never privileged to know. From his 15 year role as Director of the Archie Bray Foundation to his MSU Professorship in the Art department of MSU...she was so proud of his enlivened and energetic embrace of the life that they knew so well in this greater community of contemporary arts in Montana.
Danny Voulkos did allot of fine finish work in the kitchen and bath, became “Plumber Dan" for many years of tweeking the water flow. He was also my partner for photographing the collection of Gennie’s work as well as the DeWeese collection of 60 years accumulation of friends students and colleagues work. He was our personal Macintosh techie of the early years of excruciating transition for both Gennie and myself...to bring us into the 21st century of email and file making.
Katrin Voulkos, Danny's wife, and Danny assisted the cataloging of the entire inventory of Gennie's work after she was gone. They both helped with the process of preparing the catalogs of this work for appraisal and for the transition of this work to be gifted to the Holter Museum and to the Missoula Art Museum after the 2008 Gennie DeWeese Solstice Celebration and Auction that was held in the Buck Butterfield Arena. Much of this work was done in the studio.
Tim Simmons was the “Scroll Master” for many years of backing Gennie’s paintings with black felt and mounting them onto wood dowels, the scrolls her trademark for about 20 years! Tim also built the big utility/work table on rollers, and he and I installed the scroll hanging system in the rafters of the studio.
Kim Reineking came with his black bag of precision tools to tweek the rollers on the hanging system to slide sometimes as many as 40 paintings as smooth as butter!
Dean Adams built Gennie a table on wheels that allowed her to roll across a 35 ' canvas while lying on her belly...to paint a commissioned piece from the Billings deaconess Hospital she titled, The Joy of Life. This was a necessary tool for her as she had recently broken her hip and was not adequately mobile to do this painting without it!
Tom Thornton added the final esthetically critical elements to the studio by installing a 5 x 5 picture window where she spent most of her time sitting by the round table in her living room. And he built a deck which allowed her and friends and family to immerse into the Cottonwood landscape, "creating an access to be present in the glorious matrix of her paintings".
Nolan and Jessie Salix helped for periods with mounting the paintings on scrolls. Nolan was a graduate student earning his MFA at MSU, Jessie a graduate student in Biology at the time. They lived for 5 years in a yurt on our land, were wonderful friends and became an integral part of our lives. They were the energy behind the move on Mother's Day to help schlep 40 years of Mom's life from the old house to the studio!
Mark Amundson, Tom's brother-in-law helped Tom with the installation of the large picture window.
Trevor Lowell, another dear friend and neighbor, helped with the finish construction on three large windows installed through a major renovation in 2010. The studio was renovated and freshened up for future renters after Mom was gone.
Terry Karson, friend of both Bob and Gennie since the 80's, was involved in many aspects of their lives as artists. Curator for the Yellowstone Art Center for many years, Terry was influential in identifying Bob and Gennie's historical influence as pioneers of the movement of contemporary art in Montana. In 1992 he curated a major retrospective for Dad's work at the Yellowstone. In 1995, he curated a major retrospective for Mom's work at the Missoula Art Museum. 2006, he curated a major exhibition of Bob's work that had been gifted to the Holter Museum in Helena. He also helped with many aspects of the Solstice Celebration/Memorial for Gennie in 2008. Much of this curatorial work took place in Mom's studio, as did many visits over the years with his wife Sara. Terry and Sara were close friends of the DeWeese clan and have shared many stories through interwoven eras of our lives. After she passed away, Terry lived as tenant in her studio for three years where he made his own work.
Cayleb Taylor was a graduate student who became Gennie's official assistant for the last few months of her life. Caleb assisted us both with this process of organizing her slides into categorical files which have evolved into her GALLERIES on this website. He helped carry on the work that was ongoing from early decades of her file keeping. He also took over the task of making scrolls and was part of the team of preparators for the Solstice Celebration.
Tom Ferris became Mom's photographer for the last several years of her life. Because her paintings were generally quite large, my professional skills and equipment were not up to the task and his work lended a necessary professional quality to her evolving reputation!
Mary Ann Kelly Schlotzhauer, Kathy Schmidt and Phoebe Toland all spent uncharted hours preparing hundreds of Bob's prints for exhibition in three major galleries in Bozeman at the same time as his Retrospective exhibition at the Yellowstone Art center in 1991. This work was all done in the studio.
Wally (Chester) Hansen, friend and architect, was part of the original inspiration for Gennie's studio. He drew magnificent architectural drawings for a fantasy building that Mom was never able to afford to build, but which inspired her to imagine the most practical alternative that was eventually possible within her budget. This venture was a mutual exploration into "what if's" that can only be shared among friends...
And I was there for all of it!