Jessie Wilber: A Pioneer of Modernism in Montana

jessie posterThe Helen E. Copeland Gallery (HECG) and the School of Art at Montana State University are pleased to announce the exhibition, Jessie Wilber: A Pioneer of Modernism in Montana at the HEC Gallery, located on the second floor of the School of Art in Haynes Hall, Bozeman, MT. The show will be on exhibit Monday, March 5th through Thursday, March 22nd, 2018.  A Closing Reception and Lecture will be Thursday, March 22nd 2018 from 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Starting at 6:00 p.m. there will be a short lecture in Cheever Hall 215 (adjacent to Haynes Hall) by  Guest Curator Michele Corriel. The reception will follow in the Helen E. Copeland Gallery. This free event is open to the public. Hors d’oeuvres will be served.


Jessie Wilber: A Pioneer of Modernism in Montana showcases many of Wilber’s woodblock reliefs and woodblock matrices. Funding to frame the collection of prints by Wilber, which are housed in the School of Art Archives, was provided by the Center for Western Lands and Peoples. Part of the 125th Birthday Celebration of MSU, this exhibition features the enduring art of one of the School of Art’s most legendary artists.

Born in 1912, Jessie Wilber has received praise and recognition for her contribution to introducing Modernism to the state of Montana along with contemporaries such as Robert and Gennie DeWeese, Peter Voulkos, Rudy and Lela Autio, George Conkey, and Frances Senska. Her contemporary approach of the time has lead her to be known best for her printmaking skills and subject matter which ranged from documentation of teepee patterns with Olga Ross Hannon, or her interpretation of musicians after her trip to Africa with Senska.  Within this exhibition, subject matter that has been pictured is from her home life here in Bozeman, depicting owls, cats, huns, and horses.

Wilber came to Montana State College in Bozeman after receiving her A.B. and M.A. at Colorado State Teaching College. She remained at Montana State as an art faculty from 1941 to 1972. Her artistry unfolded in Montana, working along her fellow peers like the DeWeese’s and Frances Senska as one of the earliest founders and teachers of the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, MT. By the 1950’s she became Director of the School of Art at Montana State University.

The legacy that Wilber left behind transcends her art and teachings, but her very impact on the community of Bozeman.  It is easy to find old friends and MSU students who tell stories of her graciousness, as well as a professor who cared profoundly for her students. 

Jessie Wilber left her mark on Montana as an artist who wanted to redefine, and allow for a modern interpretation of the western landscape, beyond the traditional representation of mountains and horses, but illustrating the world around her in the new and exciting aesthetic of the time.

In conjunction with the Celebration of the 125th, there will be a curator Lecture + Artwalk featuring Michele Corriel + John Brittingham on Thursday, March 22nd beginning at 6:00 pm in Cheever 215. Artwalk and receptions to follow include:

  • Jessie Wilber: A Pioneer of Modernism in Montana

Helen E. Copeland Gallery – Curated by Michele Corriel

  • Neutra in Montana:  the blurring of architecture + landscape

Cheever’s Main Gallery – Curated by John Brittingham

  • Bob + Gennie DeWeese:  Revisted

Dean’s Gallery (217 Cheever) – Curated by Josh + Tina DeWeese

Being exhibited concurrently with Jessie Wilber for the month of March, is a retrospective of the work of Robert and Gennie DeWeese in the Dean’s Gallery on the second floor of Cheever Hall, adjacent to Haynes Hall.

Finally, following Jessie Wilber: A Pioneer of Modernism in Montana is first of the three MFA candidates, Kelsie Rudolph who will be presenting her thesis exhibition Right Here, Over There from Monday, March 26th – Friday. March 30th, 2018.

Jessie Wilber will be on view from Monday, March 5th – Thursday, March 22nd, 2018 in the Helen E. Copeland Gallery. The HECG is located on the second floor of Haynes Hall, across from the Aasheim Gate off of 11th, with the Ski Swing out front. Please note that the parking passes are required for parking during the business day (6AM – 6PM). Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday, 9AM – 5PM/Closed on weekends.

For more information on this exhibition, Jessie Wilber: A Pioneer of Modernism in Montana, or on the Helen E. Copeland gallery in general, please visit or follow us on Facebook at