Friday, November 5, 2010

Perfectly Small, Perfect Fit: "Montana (erased)" by Buddy Bunting

The Weekly Volcano recommends Montana (erased) by Buddy Bunting:

by the Volcano Staff on November 3rd, 2010

When the Telephone Room in North Tacoma says it's the world's second smallest art gallery, it's not lying. The space is small ... perfectly small, clocking in at an economical 12 and a half square feet. The cozy confines of the Telephone Room Gallery should be the perfect fit for Buddy Bunting's Montana (erased), which will open there Friday with an all-are-welcome open house. Inspired by a random answering machine message, Montana (erased) features paintings and found objects that explore the western landscape.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nostalgic Road-Trip: "Montana (erased)" by Buddy Bunting

Rosemary Ponnekanti reviews Montana (erased) by Buddy Bunting in the Tacoma News Tribune:

Buddy Bunting’s nostalgic road-trip art at the Telephone Room
By Rosemary Ponnekanti on November 2, 2010
Tacoma News Tribune

Most of us, on receiving a wrong-number telephone message, would erase it and forget it. Seattle artist Buddy Bunting turned it into art, and the obvious place for it was Tacoma’s tiny Telephone Room Gallery. Opening this Friday at the Telephone Room, a closet-sized gallery in a private North End house, is Bunting’s “Montana (erased),” an installation of paintings, photographs and objects that combines nostalgia and sociology with the erroneous voicemail at its center.

Pick up Bunting’s own handset inside the room, and you can hear the message, left on his phone while he was on a Montana road trip. (Bunting tried to reroute the message through the Telephone Room’s own rotary-dial phone, unsuccessfully. That would have been cool.) The message, ironically, details another Montana camping trip, this one by an unknown woman who’s remembering a long-ago time where she and her travel partner felt insecure as the only hippies in town, not to mention the only African-Americans. It’s a dreamy message, more vision than communication and filled with both memory and a sharp sense of not belonging.

Bunting explores both these components in his surrounding installation, which fits the tiny room like a glove. Exquisitely jewel-like oils and watercolors – the wistful, washed-out style that got him entry into TAM’s last Biennial – describe mountains, grass, four-square country buildings in the middle of nowhere. A gas station, lit up against an endless black night, is otherworldly; a pale brown RV floats like a thought. Stacked on shelves are rock collections, piles of old National Geographics, dried poppy stems. Only the baby pictures don’t really work – this is about Montana as a state of mind, not a personal scrapbook. It transforms the Room into a memory, with vaguely regretful feel, of both a place and a sense that whoever lives here is on the very edge of community.

Buddy Bunting’s “Montana (erased)” opens 6-9 p.m. Friday at the Telephone Room Gallery, 3710 N. 7th St., Tacoma, and is on view by appointment through Nov. 30.

Inspired Art: "Montana (erased)" by Buddy Bunting

Dawn Quinn reviews Montana (erased) by Buddy Bunting in the current Tacoma Weekly:

Inspired Art by Dawn Quinn
Published on Wed, October 27, 2010

Buddy Bunting depicts ‘Montana (erased)’ at the Telephone Room.

Seattle artist Buddy Bunting takes a lot of road trips. In traveling the country, he returns home inspired to work on pieces that encapsulate what he has seen. The Telephone Room Gallery’s newest show, “Montana (erased),” highlights pieces and items he has made and found on a trip to the “Treasure State.”

One element of the exhibit that ties in with the Telephone Room Gallery is a voicemail that Bunting had received while he was away that prompted and inspired the works. According to the gallery’s press release on the show, “an erroneously left answering machine message detailing a stranger’s travels through Montana form the basis for Buddy Bunting’s ‘Montana (erased)’ – continuing the artist’s exploration of the western landscape, its mythology of transcendence, openness and expansion.”

The message was a coincidence, and Bunting kept it on his phone for quite some time. Fellow Washington artist Nicholas Nyland told Bunting about the Telephone Room Gallery and he deemed it the perfect place for his newest show. In the message, the woman relays a past trip during the 1960s in which she and her boyfriend visited and were not met with the warmest reception, which led to them driving through the state and not staying.

On the left wall of the space, eight oil-based pieces don the walls on paper, cardboard and other materials. A bird, train, rocks piled high in the middle of an idyllic valley, sunrise over the horizon, a vintage van, a lone, tall, aging building in the middle of nowhere, trees and a double payphone at night, as seen at a gas station all combine to form images that Bunting likely came across often in his travels, and that together form a personal story.

Straight ahead into the gallery, shelves house more pieces, found and formed by Bunting. A detailed rocky canyon and an ink and pencil depiction of a motor home with “Creation or Bust” and “Honk 4 Jesus” donning the sides frame a hexagonal vase filled with brown flowers. Below, more prints, this time colorful, rocks likely picked up on the road, a landscape photo filled with trees, Book of Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness pamphlets, a National Geographic issue from July 1971 and a phone armed with the infamous voice message fill up the rest of the shelves.

To the right, 10 pieces fill up the expanse of the sea foam green wall. An oil colored piece of canyons tops the left side, with simple color for the sky and brown landscape. Below, five pieces of paper that look as if torn from a Moleskine notebook are all placed in succession after the other with each utilizing only one color and each highlight a store sign or a car seen along the road.

The middle and right side of the wall feature three acrylic paintings, each varying greatly in content. The first has two children’s heads and below, another scenery shot of Montana’s mountain ranges fill the piece with jagged rocks jutting up, green moss covering them and a pale blue sky peeking through with clouds interspersed. To the right, a vivid interpretation of an empty gas station at night shows the brightness of the pumps and the lights of the shop, multi-colored tints that reflect from the ground and the ceiling and all together create an entrancing shot. A print of St. Francis in the dessert that Bunting possibly pulled out of a catalog rounds up the pieces on the wall.

Visitors to Bunting’s show should try to listen to the voicemail message before checking out the other elements, as it is what created the framework for every piece included. Upon playing, listeners will hear a story of a woman being in a remote area and a completely different world than she is used to. Much of Bunting’s works are about Western spaces and feelings of isolation, so the message appearing on his machine when it did was a fateful reminder of his intents and visit. The show fully utilizes the Telephone Room Gallery’s minimalist space and is an opportunity to take in new works from a renowned Northwest artist.

“Montana (erased)” will be on view at the Telephone Room Gallery starting on the night of the show’s opening, Nov. 5, which takes place from 6-10 p.m. and will show through Nov. 30. The pieces are viewable by appointment almost anytime, just e-mail at to schedule a time/day. For more information, visit or “like” the Telephone Room Gallery on Facebook (