October 2 – November 6, 2014


Reception and Artist Talk: Thursday, October 16, 5:00pm–7:00pm; Talk Begins at 6:00pm
(Free and Open to the Public)


Lives Between the Lines: Apsáalooke and Hidatsa Indian Ledger Drawings, 1879-1888

Selections from the Charles H. Barstow Collection, Montana State University Billings Library


Bently Spang image
Bently Spang’s exhibition On Fire opens on October 2 and remains on view through November 6 at the Northcutt Steele Gallery in the Liberal Arts Building on the MSUB campus. On Fire is part of an ongoing series of works that tell the story of the 2012 Ash Creek wildfire, a fire that devastated Spang’s family ranch located on their ancestral homeland on the Northern Cheyenne reservation in Montana. 


In this series, the artist seeks out the story of the fire from the perspective of the trees with which he grew up.  Spang visualizes the trees’ voices through video-documented, performative ‘rubbings’ on paper of the now charred trees.  The resulting exhibition juxtaposes a performance video alongside the gestural ‘rubbings,’ recreating a dialogue Spang’s people have always sought with the natural world in the quest to maintain a crucial balance between human and nature. Given the environmental challenges posed by climate change, the artist posits that such a conversation is now more urgent than ever.


Bently Spang is an alumnus of MSUB (1991) and is a multi-disciplinary artist, curator, educator, and writer working in mixed-media, sculpture, video, performance, and installation.  He is an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation in Montana, the home of the Tsistsistas/Suhtaio people. 


Spang’s artwork is held by museum and private collections across the US and Europe, including the Denver Art Museum, National Museum of the American Indian, and the Montclair Art Museum. He has exhibited widely in the US, Europe, Mexico, Canada, and South America and his work is included in the group exhibition The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky, which will travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2015. Spang works as an independent artist and maintains a studio in Billings, Montana. Currently he is the artist-in-residence at the Visible Vault, Yellowstone Art Museum.


A reception for the artist will be held at the Northcutt Steele Gallery on Thursday, October 16 beginning at 5pm. Spang will present a gallery talk at 6pm.


In conjunction with Spang’s exhibition, a selection of 14 Crow and Gros Ventre Indian ledger drawings from the Barstow Collection, Special Collections, MSUB library will be on view in the adjacent gallery.


From 1879 through 1897, Apsáalooke and Hidatsa Native peoples who had been confined at the Crow Agency received drawing materials from Bureau of Indian Affairs clerks, teachers, agents, and army officers and created drawings—often on ledger papers—documenting the histories and experiences of their tribes. Charles H. Barstow, chief clerk for the Bureau, was one of the individuals who supported the efforts of the Native Peoples to record their stories and he collected many of these drawings. In 1930, sixty-six drawings from Barstow’s collection were discovered in a trunk in Roundup, Montana. Through the efforts of Ruthann Wilbur Hines, these drawing came to Eastern Montana College (now MSUB). 


Lives Between the Lines presents a selection of drawings from the Barstow Collection that offer a poignant visual history of the Apsáalooke and Hidatsa during the last decades of the nineteenth century and a glimpse of an artistic legacy of vast cultural significance.


The Northcutt Steele Gallery is located on the first floor of the Liberal Arts on the Montana State University Billings campus. The gallery is open Monday – Friday from 8:00am – 4:00 pm, and by appointment. For more information visit Our Facebook page.


For media inquiries and additional images contactLeanne Gilbertson, Director of Northcutt Steele Gallery, leanne.gilbertson@msubillings.edu; (406) 657-2903.



Friday, Oct. 17 & Friday, Oct. 24
1p.m. - 4 p.m.
Liberal Arts Building Drawing Room, Room 116

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Spang Tree Study


Bently Spang, Tree Study #1, tree-rubbed charcoal on paper, 10” x 14 1/8”, 2013.



On Fire photo study


Bently Spang, On Fire: Photo Study #2, pigment ink digital image, 24” x 36”, 2013.



Crow Hot Dancers


Above, Crow. Crow Hot Dancers, pencil, colored pencil, and commercial pigment on lined paper, 17.5 cm x 32 cm, 1882.