Triennial Triumph


This tri-annual tradition, exclusively for Idaho artists, begins November 16 at the Boise Art Museum.

By Laura Wolstenholme
Photography by Copper Chadwick
Artwork courtesy of the Boise Art Museum

Art aficionados, shelve whatever plans you’ve made for Saturday, November 16, and set your sites on the Boise Art Museum’s opening of the Idaho Triennial Exhibit’s opening reception. The Triennial, a juried art exhibit just for Idaho artists is held every three years, and promises a must-have experience for Idaho’s art lovers.

The opening reception, which kicks off at 5:30 p.m., November 16, guarantees to be doubly rich. Not only can guests enjoy the exhibit of finalists’ work, but also meet the artists who have been invited to the installation and hear the announcement of the Triennial awards. Additionally, guest juror Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson, will speak to guests and artists during the reception.

Triennial participation was robust this competition: 222 artists submitted entries for the exhibit, according to Sandy Harthorn, Curator of Art at the BAM. That’s up from 152 artists that applied in 2010, an improvement that likely reflects the stronger economy in 2013, says Harthorn. Of the 222 artists, 40 finalists have been asked to exhibit their work for the Triennial. The exhibit will run from November 16, 2013 to April 27, 2014.

As guest juror, Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson’s task has been to review the entries (in digital form) of each artist (six allowed per-artist), and select standout pieces that communicate individually, and also contribute to the exhibit as a whole. Laing-Malcolmson is currently the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art at the Portland Art Museum, and organized the Portland Art Museum’s most recent biennial Contemporary Northwest Art awards. “She has a broad range of understanding of Northwest art . . . we don’t suggest a specific direction. Bonnie has complete freedom in the selection of artwork,” says Harthorn. She further explains that Laing-Malcolmson’s choice of pieces is somewhat limited by the size of the museum, and that she develops the overall look of the exhibit. Laing-Malcolmson has chosen 65 pieces for the exhibit.

The pieces are of a variety of forms and styles; including sculpture, photographs, oil, watercolor, ceramics, video, and mixed media in both realistic and abstract styles. Seasoned and emerging artists of all ages have contributed, along with students and faculty from Idaho’s universities. In an area of such gorgeous and wild, physical beauty, landscapes are, naturally, present in the exhibit, “but so are pieces that deal with personal and social issues,” says Harthorn. “It’s an ideal exhibit to get a sense of northwest aesthetics, and the focus and quality of Idaho art.”

This year technology makes a very helpful contribution at the Triennial, as well. Thanks to an app, guests can dial a number next to each piece on their cell phones and listen to recorded information by the artist. And it’s been helpful to artists all across Idaho—they’ve been able to use their phones instead of coming to Boise to do a recording, says Melanie Fales, the museum’s Executive Director and CEO.

Harthorn notes that because the exhibit brings together a different juror, artists, and pieces, each Triennial expresses a fresh spirit and perspective. “The competition really is a level playing field,” says Harthorn. A novice can make a splash, and a seasoned artist can amaze with new work. She concludes, “There really are very talented people here.”

“Alaska Gold: Snowshoe Hare (Lepus Americanus)”, 2011
Kirsten Furlong
Metal leaf, colored pencil, graphite, mixed media
72” x 84”
Courtesy of the artist

Chris Binion
Mare Blocker
Matt Bodett
Stacie Chappell
Eli Craven
Erin Cunningham
Dennis Day
Eric Demattos
Pamela DeTuncq
Pablo Dodez
Joe Casey Doyle
Caroline Earley
Chad Erpelding
Maria Essig
Scott E. Evans
Goran Fazil
Thomas Finnegan
Tricia Florence
Kirsten Furlong
H. Lynne Haagensen
Erika Harvey
Stacy Isenbarger
Warren Lassen
Karl LeClair
William Lewis
Marilyn Lysohir
John McMahon
Kerry Moosman
Sharron O’Neil
Nancy Panganiban
Troy Passey
Lisa Pisano
Milica Popovic
Cassandra Schiffler
Katherine Sexsmith
Patt Turner
Randy Van Dyck
Amy Westover
Wendel Wirth