Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mankanye Washi: Graphic Novelette

Be sure and check out my mini-graphic novelette, "Mankanye Washi (Medicine Dance Origin)", a true legend of the Ioway people!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

St. Louis Block Mural Proposal in Helena: "Palimpsest"

I have decided to try and do some public art projects, starting with a proposal for a public art project here in Helena at the Boston Block downtown. It's my first attempt at such a proposal. The project requires a one million dollar insurance policy for some reason, which I don't have (not being a big professional design firm) nor do I currently have the money for, being a local starving artist ;-)...but if I were selected, I would have money for the policy! :-) Anyways, I thought it would be worth a try, and I am posting my idea and images here so you can see what my idea is.

“Palimpsest.” St. Louis Block Public Art Project Proposal
Lance M. Foster, Aug. 2009

[Note, Oct. 11, 2011: The building is not the Boston Block, which is south one building, but the St. Louis Block, named for the St. Louis Hotel which was connected at the rear of the building when it was first built.]

1. Letter of interest. The letter is limited to one page in length and should explain the artist’s interest in the project.

I am sure you have many outstanding and excellent proposals from professional teams and experienced muralists to sort through and select from. As a lifelong Helenan and kid who learned how to do art in Helena's schools, I am only happy to have been allowed to submit my own ideas for the project. I remember very well downtown Helena just before, and then during, Urban Renewal. I remember going to see “Fantasia” at the Marlow Theater and eating fried shrimp from Yat-Son’s Chinese Restaurant. When I was 6, we were trying to find a new place to live, and Mom called “Dorothy’s Rooms,” on the chance it had rooms for rent. Dorothy herself answered the phone, replying “Oh honey, this isn’t the kind of place you want to have your family live.” Places are palimpsests, layers of time and sometimes only a fragment remaining to show what was there originally. But there is nothing left of either the Marlow or Yat-Son’s, and while Dorothy’s and the House of Wong still stand as buildings, their functions have changed and many do not even know of their former iconic status. The erasing of former history, especially those groups considered “less desirable,” in this case the Chinese and the prostitutes, was a value embedded in Urban Renewal. My interest in the project is very much a part of my personal history and memory of Helena and the importance of remembering EVERYTHING.

2. Current resume. If submitted as a team, a current resume should be submitted for each team member.

Adjunct professor, Fine Arts, UM-Helena College of Technology
Graduate, University of Montana and Iowa State University
Artist-In-Residence, Lewis and Clark County Historical Society

3. Project description accompanied by visual representation (drawings, maquette, photographs, and/or computer presentation, materials list and timeline.

Materials list given in 4b below. Timeline: Initiate project on announcement of selection (August 2009), completion in one month’s time, end of September 2009.


Arch 1, west surface (Ceramic; Chinese characters for “Helena”)

Arch 1, east surface (Dorothy’s Rooms)

Arch 2, west surface (Chinese takeout carton)

Arch 2, east surface (Feng Shui gate)

Arch 3, west surface (Urban Renewal)

4. Materials and installation: Describe the anticipated materials and installation process. Include information that will help facilitate the artistic integrity of your work:

a. Describe your design concept.

Site-specific to within a stone’s throw of the site- even more site specific than “Helena” or “downtown.” In my project, I propose to restore a part of the palimpsest of community memory, symbolized by the Chinese and Dorothy’s Rooms. The interaction of the Chinese and Brothels in Helena, and their image in popular culture: urban renewal, Chinese feng shui gate as a guardian to the inner world of the Chinese and redlight communities, Chinese takeout carton as both popular stereotype and community memory (House of Wong across street and Yat Son next door), the infamous round bed and article about Big Dorothy—all behind a fa├žade of dragon and phoenix representing Yin and Yang, matching the color scheme of the immediate environs. The casual observer sees only what the community wants to be seen. The arched doorways symbolize entrance into the past through stereotyped images: the Chinese takeout carton, ceramic vessel (dragon and phoenix), and feng shui gate, in the case of Helena’s Chinese population, and the famous round bed and newspaper clipping, in the case of Dorothy’s Rooms. The huge missing sections of images represent the fact that though we think we know the facts, the truth, we never really do, not unless we ourselves were part of the hidden community ourselves. We believe we enter the past, but there is always the greater part the remains unknown. The iconic image of the garage and car during Urban Renewal reminds us of that process that still reverberates to today.

b. Describe the materials to be used in your project.

Acrylic paints

c. Describe the installation process.

Grid on arches
Transfer designs within grid, use of step ladders

d. Describe any special equipment needed and maintenance required.

Ladders, rollers
Maintenance: Annual spraying/washing off salts from paint surfaces

5. Preliminary budget (typed, one page maximum): Include a cost estimate for all facets, including but not limited to artist fees, insurance, travel expenses, materials and supplies costs, fabrication and installation costs.

Materials and supplies - $3000 ($1000 of materials donated by artist)
Insurance - $200
Travel – Helena resident

6. Up to five images of previous work (slides or jpeg files on CD-ROM), accompanied by a descriptive list.

IMAGE 1: “The Guardian.” Acrylic on canvas. Many cultures believe that powerful, even frightening, images of angels and deities serve as protectors and guardians of holy places. On one side, there is an approaching summer thunderstorm (protection of the sacred) with the eagle, and on the other is the night sky of winter (purification).
[Media: Acrylic on canvas]

IMAGE 2: "Ishjinki Vincent Itaro Waduje wok’un ke (Trickster gave his friend Vincent an ear of corn)." Acrylic on canvas. In western society, the artist is thought of as a marginal figure, and in the worst cases, prone to eccentricity and even madness. In traditional societies, the artist is an integral part of social life, expressing the inherent values of the society. The Trickster is an ambivalent figure, but one of the good things that he does is cure madness. In this painting, we see what might have happened if the quintessential “mad artist” Vincent Van Gogh would have had the friendship of Trickster. After Vincent cuts off his own ear, Trickster offers him the replacement ear…of corn. And a happy and healed Vincent teases him back, with the rabbit ear sign behind his head and tsk-tsking him for the joke. And in the background, the crows of madness fly away to the sunflower/sun under the framework of the world.

IMAGE 3: “Tilth.” Media: Wood and panel board; metal toy; acrylic. Tilth is the structure of the soil, seen in the stratigraphy of the earth beneath our feet, like layers of a cake. We start reading from the oldest layer, which is buried deepest, at the bottom, and then work our way up. In this example, the oldest layer is "Nuxe" (NOO-khay: ice), laid down by the glaciers, and then "Ni" (NEE: water, the melting glaciers and erosion), then "Maya" (MAH-yah: the earth built up by the sunlight and decay of plants). Finally, the last layer includes the bodies of those ancestors, "Washige s’age" (WAH-shee-gay S-AH-gay) who have gone before. On top, as we grow our crops and make our city, do we remember the tilth of the soil, made by ages and the bodies of those who have gone on before us? The toy tractor emphasizes how transient and small we are in the scheme of things.

7. Proof of liability insurance ($1,000,000).

Forthcoming if selected

8. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope with accurate postage to ensure return of your application materials or make other arrangements to have your proposal returned to you.

Will pick them up after selection process is over.

9. Optional. Include up to three selections of support materials such as reviews, news articles, catalogues and other related information.

Article from Helena Independent Record


Lance M. Foster
320 E. Broadway #4
Helena, Montana 59601

Friday, July 24, 2009

"Artistic Visions" (Helena Independent Record newspaper article)

"Artistic visions", By EVE BYRON - Independent Record - 07/24/09

Clare Becker Independent Record - Lance Foster poses in his studio space off of Last Chance Gulch in front of some recent pieces. Foster's work often examines the role of the artist in society, both as outsider and as a transcendent force. Regarding the choice of bright colors in his paintings, Foster says ‘I just do what's in me to do.’

If the bold colors used by painter Lance Foster don’t grab your attention, chances are the eyes of the “The Guardian” will.

It’s a life-size painting that Foster, the new artist-in-residence at the Lewis and Clark County Historical Society, created about 30 years ago while a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M. Foster said the dorm in which he lived was haunted; when he wasn’t in his room, students reported hearing someone getting out of bed, footsteps and the sound of a doorknob jiggling.

So he painted The Guardian, based on the Lakota warrior “Low Dog” or “He Dog,” who had fought against Gen. George Custer. Foster added power symbols, some obvious and some embedded in the painting, then hung it in the dorm room.

“The sounds were quieted,” he says with a smile.

He adds that renowned Helena painter Bob Morgan gave him a piece of advice early on that he apparently didn’t take to heart.

“He said my colors are so bright they’ll put people off. They want stuff to match their couch,” Foster recalled. “I said ‘Oh well, then no one will buy my stuff.’ I just like to paint what I like.”

Foster is as complex as his paintings, with both obvious and subtle traits that have brought him to the historical society’s space on the downtown Walking Mall. He’s a large man with a soft voice who grew up in Helena, the eldest son of Gary and Rita Foster. As a boy, he spent hours at Eddie Barbeau’s house, with its colorful teepees and painted garage, where traditional American Indian ceremonies were commonplace.

“That was a big influence on me,” said Foster, noting that his American Indian heritage includes Ioway, Yankton and Santee. “You know when you’re in school, and every class has the weird kid who’s the artist? That was me. I was always drawing pictures instead of doing school work.”

He earned a degree from the University of Montana in anthropology and Native American studies, then master’s degrees in anthropology and landscape architecture from Iowa State University. He combines those studies in his art, joking that the education allowed him to keep painting while eking out a living as a “shovel bum” (also known as an archaeologist).

“My art is all about a sense of place,” Foster said. “I’m trying to tell a story, to transform people’s ideas of place.”

Foster spent a few months in Africa doing environmental sanitation work, and a few years in Alaska with the National Park Service. He eventually landed in Hawaii, where his wife, Lisa, grew up, and Foster got a job as director of native rights, land and culture for the Office of Hawaiian affairs.

While some might wonder about a non-Hawaii native being the protector of their rights, Foster said it was a good fit because of his cultural and educational background. He grew the department from three to 13 people and they had made some significant progress in protecting artifacts and properties, but Foster said he grew tired of fighting.

“There was some heavy-duty psychic warfare going on, and my folks were getting older, so we decided to come home in 2006,” Foster said.

So these days he paints, gives historic walking tours of Helena, and is an adjunct instructor of art and archaeology at the University of Montana-Helena.

Clare Becker Independent Record - Lance Foster works on a small painting, ‘Timberline,’ in his studio on Last Chance Gulch. The large painting to his right is ‘Bohogoi,’ a work that examines the role of folklore, modern art and the four directions of the natural world. Foster says his style has similarities to stained glass.

Paul Putz, the county historic preservation officer, said it’s wonderful to have someone like Foster as an artist in residence.

“He’s an interesting addition to the scene downtown,” Putz said. “His work has a bold clarity; it’s very well rendered. His portraits are very compelling, and it’s excellent work.

“Like many artists, he has a broad view of society and its aspects, particularly in relation to aesthetics but also about the ideas.”

Foster is at the Historical Society from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, eager to do a little painting, and talk about his work, Helena history, or just about anything else. His stint is slated to run through July, but he might stick around a little longer.

“It depends on when school starts; I teach two classes — one about ghost hunting and paranormal investigations, and the other on cultural landscapes,” Foster said. “I’m still a starving artist, but I’ve got a lot to do.

“It would be fun to drive a nice car like a doctor or lawyer, but I think it’s better to be an artist, since you can get away with doing all the weird stuff.”

Clare Becker Independent Record - Foster designed a Helena T-shirt that he sells out of his studio in sizes ranging from baby to adult. Foster says his design was influenced by legendary comic artist, R. Crumb, and represents Helena in nine different landmarks including the Cathedral of St. Helena and Mount Helena.

If you go:

Lance Foster’s work is on display at the Lewis and Clark Historical Society, in the Power Block, 58 N. Last Chance Gulch.

The museum is open Monday to Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. Foster keeps office hours Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Reporter Eve Byron: or 447-4076

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Genius Loci: South", in progress

This is my "Genius Loci: South" painting in progress, as seen in the article from the Queen City News today; it is looking pretty conventional and acceptable, before it starts looking extreme...which is my goal!

History Center has artist-in-residence

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lance Foster is the new artist-in-residence at the Helena/Lewis & Clark County History Center, 58 N. Last Chance Gulch, on the downtown Walking Mall (the Power Block).

Foster is at work on his “Genius Loci” series of large canvasses, which explores the commonalities between Native American and mainstream systems of belief. He paints in the center on Fridays and Saturdays, 10 am - 2 pm, and welcomes visitors. His exclusive “Helena” T-shirts are being sold only at the center.
Foster is an adjunct instructor of art and archaeology at UM-Helena and is an alumni of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and Helena High School’s class of 1978.

From Queen City News, July 22, 2009:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I will be an Artist-in-Residence

I am actually both a writer and artist. I am going to be Artist-in-Residence at the Lewis and Clark County Historical Society (58 N. Last Chance Gulch, in downtown Helena, Montana), during the month of July. I'll be working on my Helena Genius Loci series of paintings. This is a look at my first painting in progress, based on Chief Washakie of the Shoshone, as the South, on a 3 by 4 feet canvas. The first phase will be four paintings as the basis for an installation piece.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Injekuhanda na Rothrinke

Two more recent works-

"Injekuhanda" - Charcoal

"Rothrinke - Watercolor

Thursday, March 26, 2009

New Monochromatic Work

I am currently limiting my palette these days to a monochromatic scheme...appropriate for late winter...even dabbling in nonrepresentational work as well...trying to see what new directions my art might take...the results are encouraging...

"Search and Rescue"

"Treeline and Boulder Field"

"Anima Loci #59601"


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Directions in My Art

It's been a year since I posted, so I thought you might enjoy an update on some of the new directions my art has been taking.

The Indians of Iowa

Currently, my priority is finishing up last bits for the "Indians of Iowa" book that will be published this year by the University of Iowa Press. It is a guide to the different tribes that lived in the state of Iowa, including their history, archaeology, and culture, as well as the contemporary situation. I also did the art for it. This is the piece I did for the cover.

The Lady in the Sand

My next project is completing the artwork (the story is done) for my experimental graphic story called "The Lady in the Sand," about a little boy and a beach burial in Hawai'i. Here are some images from that project.

Ioway Tribal Legends

Back in the 1980s (20 years ago!), I did a graphic treatment of an ancient Ioway story about the origins of one of my tribe's sacred societies, called Mankanye Washi (The Medicine Dance), which you can see here.

I started working recently again with a bilingual treatment of another of our traditional stories, called "The Sister and Brother." It was mainly aimed at helping tribal members preserve the language, which is almost extinct. It is a very grim, dark tale of a woman's unfaithfulness to her family with a bear, insanity, murder, cannibalism, and other not-very-nice-things. I am not sure how far I want to go with this story, but here is the first couple of pages.

Exploration of Sculpture and Assemblage

I have done a few sculptures in my time, small pieces, terra cotta and stone. But I haven't done anything really for too many years. I am interested in working in that direction again, and to get over the inertia, I have recently been playing with clay. This is the head of Taranis, a Celtic god of the Thunder (and me).