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Jessie Wilber: A Pioneering Montana Modernist


Jessie Wilber (1912-1989) was the first Modernist art professor at Montana State College, taking a position in very small art department in 1941. Wilber was the first modern artist in Montana. Her work as an art professor at Montana State College, beginning in 1941, allowed Modernism to take hold. She was instrumental in expanding a very small art department, initially part of the Home Economics Department and housed in the "women's" building.

Wilber was joined by fellow art professors Frances Senska in 1946 and Robert DeWeese in 1949. Together with Gennie DeWeese, Isabella Johnson, Bill Stockton, and Helen McAuslan they created an art community that would flourish.

Wilber’s unique voice comes through in this collection of her woodblock prints and is as recognizable as the caws of the magpies, loud, clear and distinguishable from any other sound. Her work is as indigenous to the Montana landscape as the huns in her yard. The strength of her work relies on her personal world, told through a lifetime of Montana Modernist aesthetics.

This collection is small gathering of prints that are part of Montana State University's School of Art archives. Included in the collection are the actual wood block carvings Wilber used in many of these prints.

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