The Artist and the Plan
Art is a funny thing. You do it with a purpose, but often the meaning remains a mystery.
Terry Karson, 1998
Esteemed Montana artist, Terry Karson was born in Kansas City to James Calvert Karson and Evelyne Moore Karson on April 24, 1950. Karson, age 66, died of cancer at his home in Ennis, Montana, on January 27, 2017
Terry discovered art at the age of 17 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Terry wrote in his journal: “Going to the Nelson Atkins Museum for the first time. My eyes popped open. From a listless, untrained high school kid to obsessed with art in a single visit to the museum.” He graduated from Rockhurst High School in 1968.
He was “disassembled then re-formed in the psychedelic Vietnam War era” of the Kansas City Art Institute, where he earned a B.F.A. For many years he worked at the Morgan Art Gallery in Kansas City. In 1986, he moved to Bozeman, where he earned a Masters of Fine Arts degree at Montana State University. He later worked five years as a curator at the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings.
In 1994, he married Sara Mast. They collaborated as artists and life partners until 2009 when they separated. Even at the end of his life, she was there for him and continues to work diligently to preserve the legacy of Terry's life's work.
Terry wrote in an email to his close friend, John McEniry, “I have never lived a life like most folks I know. In no way am I suggesting that this is either admirable or special, it just is the way it is. I’ve known since I was a child that I was somehow different—not better—just different. When I mentor young artists now and they question me about this way of life, the most important thing I can tell them is they have to be not only flexible, but tough and resilient. It is not an easy life to follow your passion in the arts.”
In the final days of his very brief battle with cancer, Terry came up with a plan to transmute the hardship that often comes with a life devoted to art into something lasting and beautiful, just as he transformed our consumer culture debris into exquisite art.. His hope and goal was not only to have his own works permanently installed in the art museums of Montana, but through the sale of his remaining work and collection, create an acquisition fund for the two major contemporary art museums in the state. In the last weeks of his life, he was still trying to find a way for struggling artists like himself to be recognized and appreciated for the work that is their passion. These funds will give the Missoula Art Museum and Yellowstone Art Museum the ability to purchase contemporary work for their permanent collections, thus expanding attention and recognition for contemporary artists living and working in the State of Montana.
Terry’s major works have been donated to the Yellowstone Art Museum and the Missoula Art Museum. The acquisition funds have been established in Terry’s name at these museums as well. You can add to these by designating your donations to the Terry Karson Fund.
Terry once wrote, “I make art. I like art that is enigmatic. I like art that makes me wonder. I like art that makes me wander.”
Thank you for your interest in his life's work. Thank you for loving him as a friend, a colleague and as an artist.
The Karson Family