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Powell: The Ace of Diamonds and Cowboy in the Rough

July 10 - October 13, 2007


Powell: The Ace of Diamonds and Cowboy in the Rough is a celebration of the legendary Montana artist, Ace Powell. The exhibition at the Hockaday Museum of Art runs July 10 - October 13, 2007 .

Ace Powell spent most of his life in Montana. He was raised in Apgar and spent summers working as a wrangler in Glacier National Park. There he watched Charlie Russell paint at Bull Head Lodge on Lake McDonald. Powell modeled Russell's styles in his own art career, painting and sculpting traditional images: cowboys, Indians, rugged western landscapes, horses and range animals. He was prolific, creating an estimated 12,000 - 15,000 paintings and sculptures during his lifetime. (right: Ace Powell (1912-1978), Indian in Snow)


Remembering the "Ace"

Kalispell artist Mark Ogle worked and studied under Ace Powell, beginning in the late sixties and until Ace's death in 1978. He grew up with Ace's son Dave Powell: "We went to art shows together, two kids trying to figure it out." Mark worked in the foundry Eddie Powell started back in 1968. "That was my introduction to the art world." There were no other foundries here then and Ace wanted a place to cast his bronzes, so he gave Eddie all of his work. Those were the days of the old investment casting method, before shell casting was introduced. "Incredible work"

Ogle said they didn't ever make much money in the early days, but they loved the work for its own sake. When Mark turned professional in 1977, the western art market was in decline. He rode out the lean years, painting and refining his technique. By the time the market turned upward in the late '80s, Ogle was well established in his studio gallery at the KM. "Western art rose to a crescendo during the '90s. It was a great time to be an artist in this area."

"My working studio-gallery idea came straight from Ace Powell. His studio was open all the time, collectors and dealers came through constantly. Everyone in the business told Ace he'd starve, but I thought of it as a grass roots approach to the local art market."

According to Ogle, the 1970's and 1980's were Golden Years for professional artists in the Flathead Valley, and Ace Powell had everything to do with that. "Ace's dream was to make Kalispell an art colony and it was he who brought in all of the area's early artists like Joe Abbrescia, Fred Fellows and Bud Helbig."

"Looking back on Ace's art advocacy in the Valley is like opening a time capsule of all the artists who came to Kalispell during the '70s and '80s. I would bet you there was not one artist in the '70s who wasn't helped by Ace Powell. He was a great guy, a great artist, truly a philosophical man."


Biography of Ace Powell from the Hockaday Museum of Art website

Born Asa Lynn Powell on April 3, 1912, in Tularosa, New Mexico. He spent his boyhood in Apgar Village, inside Glacier National Park. When 21 years old, Powell worked on the Bar-X6 Ranch on Duck Lake out of Babb, Montana. It was there, at the edge of the Great Plains, managing more than a 1000 head of horses for Glacier National Park concessions, that Powell's works began to leap forward. The Hockaday's collection of Ace Powell works includes the paintings "Three Wise Guys" and "Winner Take All," numerous etchings of western life, and several bronze and wood sculptures.
The Ace of Diamonds
A decidedly large influence in Powell development as a young artist was the Montana legend Charles Marion Russell, the cowboy artist who summered on the shores of Lake McDonald inside Glacier Park. At age ten Powell copied one of Russell's paintings down to the famous trademark signature, the buffalo skull. Joe De Yong, Russell's protégé saw the copy and was impressed, except that he suggested the young Powell have his own 'brand' -- Powell's Ace of Diamonds trademark signature was born. (right: Ace Powell's trademark signature, image courtesy Hockaday Museum of Art)


Books on Ace Powell

J.W. Moynahan has written several books on Powell. Following are quotes on two of them courtesy of Jan Koski's website soiled-doves.com.

Ace Powell on Art is an extension of an idea that began in the 1970s. The editor started collecting quotes by the artist and about the artist. These quote come from a variety of sources, including taped interviews, magazine articles, newspaper articles and books.
Ace Powell had a number of ups and downs during his career. He learned much from these experiences and as a result, he developed a useful and insightful philosophy on art, artists and life.
This book presents quotes by Powell on art and artists. The quotes present insights into the art world as seen by Ace, and thus shed light on his personality.
Accompanying his quotes are photographs of the artist and people he knew. The photographs are from the editor's collection as well as scrapbooks belonging to the artist's widow, Mrs. Thelma Powell. Many of these photographs are published here for the first time.
Speaking of Ace Powell is a book that was planned many years ago. The author began collecting material about Ace Powell (1912-1978) in the early 1970s. Included are newspaper articles, books, magazine articles, photographs, interviews and letters. There are numerous quotes in the collected items about this cowboy turned artist.
This book presents some of these quotes and observations. Each quote is accompanied by a picture of one of his bronze sculptures. Most of these are smaller pieces and several were cast from woodcarvings done by the artist in the 1930s.
There are several other items of interest. Powell's friend Senator Mike Mansfield had information placed into the Congressional Record in 1967. A copy of that entry and his kind words are reproduced in this book. After Powell died his mother-in-law, Bea Macomber wrote a letter to the local newspaper about Ace as she knew him. Her letter is included in the book.
Finally, a list of books written about Ace Powell and his art is included. The written material in this book falls under the category of what others had to say about the artist and is an important part of the Ace Powell legacy.


(above: Ace Powell (1912-1978), Scouting Buffalo)


(above: Ace Powell (1912-1978), Scouting Buffalo)



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