Monte Dolack

USA: Art exhibition about climate change, coal and superfunds

This post comes to you from Culture|Futures

In the new exhibition ‘Altered State’, which runs at the Holter Museum in Helena, Montana, until 13 April 2014, the popular American painter Monte Dolack takes a look at controversial topics such as climate change, coal, superfund sites, and the effects of extractive companies moving into Montana’s wild spaces.


Monte Dolack is a well-known and popular artist in Montana, and with this new exhibition, he still tries to speak to a wider audience, he told Darby Minow Smith from Grist magazine, though he is touching on a much more controversial topic than anything else he has produced over the 40 years he has been working as a visual artist.

“Some artists might fill a room with coal. It might be really cool but a lot of people might miss the message. You have to be pretty well informed about art to understand that vocabulary,” he told Minow Smith. The following is an excerpt of Darby Minow Smith’s review of the exhibition in Montana:

“Unlike the broad whimsy found in some of Dolack’s past work, most of the pieces in Altered State are simple and subtle. An antelope watches a coal train zip along the plains. In ‘Oil and Water’, a family of geese swims through the reflection of a refinery.

In a less subtle move, Dolack incorporated the fruits of Montana’s extractive industries into the collection. He used copper as a canvas; the frames are rubbed with coal. One frame of bright, jagged coal pieces nearly overwhelms the painting inside: a meandering Smith River. ‘Marriage of Convenience’ is a sculpture of a man and a woman made out of coal — Dolack’s commentary on our dependance on the dirty fuel.”

Darby Minow Smith in Grist, 3 Feb 2014


Dolack plans to continue to touch on coal and climate change in future works, but he wants to incorporate more animals and explore an international angle.

“This work was about my own history, family, and culture,” he said. “But [regional and global issues] touch each other.” The coal on those trains is heading from Montana to China, after all.

» Monte Dolack’s home page and online gallery:

Grist – 3 February 2014:
The full Monte: Beloved Montana artist makes bold statement on climate and coal
By Darby Minow Smith

The photo on top of this article is a poster reproduced from an acrylic painting portraying downtown Missoula, Montana as if Glacial Lake Missoula had returned in the present day. It can be purchased at Monte Dolack Gallery:


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