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Guest Artist Inspired by Animal Symbolism

November 6, 2017

On October 26, 2017, guest artist Beth Huhtala visited the University of Montana Western campus to share her creative process with community members and students.

Beth Huhtala

Huhtala’s vibrantly colored mixed media pieces are rich with symbolism, which the artist was excited to share with the audience before the opening celebration of her exhibit in the University of Montana Western Fine Arts Gallery.

“In Wyoming, animals were more present than people,” she said. “To fill in the blank spaces, people created myths to add to the landscape itself. Looking back across history, animal characters were prevalently used to teach lessons in works including Aesop’s fables, fairytales and folklore.”

Growing up on a Wyoming farm provided exposure to both wild and domestic animals, and Huhtala’s art reflects her upbringing and research of animal iconography. The shapes feature interlinked chimeras of animals, including rabbits, deer, and birds. Her works also feature human representation in the forms of faces and hands. The various pieces reflect what the viewer feels to be represented by the animals, while at the same time allowing Huhtala to tell her own story.

The pieces also play with changing our expectations of how animals interact with each other; for instance, a seemingly unlikely pairing of predators and prey.

Beth Huhtala's Artwork

“We can experience more honest representations of how we interact with each other by exploring representations of what the symbolism of certain animals means to us,” Huhtala said.

Another unique aspect of Huhtala’s work is her experimentation with different media. Over the years, she has utilized charcoal, pastel, acrylic paint and various found materials to serve as her canvases. Frequently she paints over and rearranges sections of her work to reflect a change in her thoughts or memories and to explore new arrangements of her own pieces. Formats for her designs include paintings on paper and drywall, ceramic sculpture and even on utilitarian items.

Beth Huhtala's Artwork in Gallery

“I like the fact that a conversation inspired by art doesn’t have to happen only in a gallery,” she said.

For more information about the University of Montana Western Fine Arts Gallery, please contact Aja Mujinga Sherrard by email at [email protected], or call 406-683-7313.