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City Desk

Butte artist showing at two locations in city


Artist Shawn Crowe, photo by Jim Larson

Shawn Crowe, one of Butte’s own artists will be showcasing his work at Venus Rising Espresso House at 113 North Hamilton Street in Uptown Butte.


His work can also be seen at Staggering Ox at 549 South Main Street in Butte, where he will have an Artist Reception on Saturday, September 7, from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm.


Diane Larson of met up with Crowe at the Venus Rising Espresso House on Friday, August 30, to discuss his art, his background and himself.


Editor’s Note: The interview has been gently edited for continuity and clarity.


Diane: Hi Shawn, can we begin with your background, maybe a little biography on Shawn Crowe.

Shawn: I was born in Anaconda, but grew up in Butte. I graduated from Butte High and went to college in Missoula where I studied art. I have been painting or drawing, you know, pretty much ever since I was a little kid, as long as I can remember.

I didn’t finish my degree in Missoula. I quit school, I drank myself out of college and, uh, I kinda quit making art for some years. I went to Illinois and spent a little time in North Carolina.

High school was not an enjoyable experience for me. When I was about 15 or 16 I started a series of prisoners (themed art), very dark. I wrote a series of plays and songs I was really into the whole prisoner thing for a long time. This started in high school and went through my college time and for a while after that.

Diane: Can you explain what you mean by a prisoner theme?

Shawn: Certainly, Dark colors, dark themes, very gaunt figures. I was inspired by Picasso’s blue period and the darkness of my own life. But it was this feeling of loneliness and detachment that I had as a person. The pictures were actually literally were like single prisoners in cells by themselves naked and freezing to death.

Then this sort of synthetic period happened in betwixt there, as a matter of fact it was in the end of my college career.

But in 1997 I had heard an art movement was kind of growing here. So, I came back. I figured that I would be here six months to a year, and, uh, it didn’t work out that way. Here I am, and yeah, I’ve gotten really comfortable here, you know, and a few years ago to went back to school. I received my degree in Liberal Studies at Montana Tech.

Diane: You mentioned that you were interested in art at a young age, can you tell us how young you were when you first realized you had a passion for art.

Shawn: At about age 11 or 12 I really was like, art was what I needed to do, I had to do it. I was good at it, I was, you know, one of the better students in my grade school. When you sit and draw, I just happened to be better at it than a lot of other kids.

I wanted to be drawing all the time. I wasn’t like some of my friends that would be drawing instead of doing work. It made me want to get my school work done even faster so I could draw. So, then, in junior high I decided I wanted to try to make money doing it. I would make posters, I was really into heavy medal at the time, Iron Maiden was one of my favorite bands and I would make posters of Eddie the Head, the Iron Maiden guy and sell them to my friends for $5.00. But then my mom pointed out to me that I was using more in materials then I was earning.

Diane: Let’s talk about your show at Venus, can you tell us about your paintings you have here?

Shawn: Sure, this is actually kind of a mix of stuff. A few of the paintings here at Venus are ones that are on view for the first time. They have never been anywhere but in my studio, they are recent pieces. A lot of my work is themed around mythology, Greek mythology in particular. But I’ve been dabbling in other things.

I’ve always wanted to create, to kind of reinterpret myths from all over the world, and have played with that here and there. So there is a little bit of that in here (Venus).

I’m also working on the astrological signs so I have a couple, at least one or two pieces in here. What is here is really a sampling of what I’m doing right now.

About 2 or 3 years ago I discovered an artist by the name of Tamara de Lempicka, an art deco artists from the 1920s. She did these beautiful feminine figures, and most of my work is the feminine figure. There is at least one piece here that I could say is inspired by her style and of her elongated figures.

What is here is really a mix of many things, I usually have a theme when I do a show, but this one is really ‘Selected Works’.

Diane: On September 7, which is a Saturday you have an artist reception at the Staggering Ox. Can you tell us about the part that will be there?

Shawn: There are about 15 or 16 pieces of art, they are some of my larger pieces and much more in the mythology vein. There are Greek mythology pieces there. There is some the stuff that was inspired by the Tamara de Lempicka style, I have just started to play with her stuff and this new idea.

It’s nice to have the two shows going. I have art stacked in my house and I’m glad to have it hung in a couple places. Diane: When you talk about your art and reinterpreting mythology can you explain that, or walk us through the process?

Shawn: The creative process is, sometimes if I’m working on a sketch in my book and I’m working on a line, which becomes a figure, which begins to grow on that, then I begin to think of, you know, mythologically, this person or that person. That first sketch might just be shapes and a couple ideas that I want and then by that point I’m kind of thinking in that mythological line and then I read about them, that particular myth or that particular figure. Then I add to fit that idea or change it to fit that story or person.

Sometimes I am working on drawings for years until I get something that I really want, the idea I really want. The piece that is featured here, (at Venus) it’s a newer piece ‘The Death of Adonis.’ I had done the birth of Adonis quite a few years ago, and that piece has been sold. But I was meaning to do the birth and death of Adonis. The death of Adonis image took a lot longer to get to where I wanted it to actually spend time painting it.

Death of Adonis, Shawn Crowe

I had a series of muses that I did, all the nine muses, a piece of which I have represented here. I specifically, for about two years was drawing on that theme and painting on that theme. It took me a couple years to get that show to where I wanted it to be.


The astrology theme I am doing now, I have a lot of drawings and symbols drew out in my sketch book with a lot of notes. I do a lot of researching as I’m developing the idea. But it comes down to what I feel like painting at the time.

Diane: Can you paint or make art whether the mood strikes you or not?

Shawn: That goes in phases. When I had a studio that was directly my studio when I was there that was art time. I worked it like a job. I’d show up at 9:00 a.m. and work until lunch, break for about an hour and a half and then work until 6:00 pm or 7:00 pm. But now my studio is in my home so there might be days where I work 15 hours because I’m into it. Depends a lot on how I wake up, my attitude in the morning. Really to be honest if I’m in a depressed state there’s not a lot of work that gets created. Then, all it takes is getting in front of the canvas and putting my brush to it and then that’s all I want to do.

Diane: Who are your influences? What do you like?

Shawn: Picasso was probably the first artist who really, really inspired me, the first modern artist. That particular period is really interesting to me. I love Matisse as well, the color of Matisse is what blows my mind. Marc Chagall is another one. I’m more into those older artists from that period for some reason. As I said earlier Tamara de Lempicka is a discovery really just a few years ago and she happens to be from that same period. These all worked into the sixties, or most of them.

I love Van Gogh. I think Van Gogh was the first artist who I could see take something that seemed mundane and make it other, its expressionism. He took this mundane thin and made it expressive.

A lot of my friends have commented that I have that kind of Van Gogh color, the loudness of Van Gogh. So he has inspired me more than I realize.

Diane: What’s next?

Shawn: I am working on a piece now that is a little different, I hope to have that done by the end of the week. For several years not, I’ve been trying to accurately or effectively depict the three Fates, going back to Greek mythology. I am really close to having the drawing that I want for that. When you came in I was making some sketches on that. I just haven’t had the chance to take it on yet.

Have the books now, which is where I start and I want to get into Hindu mythology, there is so much there to work on and play with. Also, Egyptian theme which is challenging just because the Egyptian has so many rules and by period like what colors you could use to be respectful of that culture of ancient Egypt, and yet put a modern flair to it.

Diane: Shawn what would you like to add to our conversation?

Shawn: I would just encourage folks to get out there and look at the art in Butte. We don’t have a lot of places where you can see it, but we really do have some exceptional artists considering how small this town is. There’s a guy particularly who is showing right now that I think everyone should go check out, and that’s Shawn Crowe, (he said, unabashedly, with a big smile).

I encourage people to go out and see the art and buy the art. Art is something that you will have forever, it’s yours and there is only one like it anywhere. It can really make a room, I believe that.

When you go to shows, galleries, or Artwalk, engage with the artist. Artists love to discuss their work. If you have questions, ask them. Don’t let the fact that you may not have studied art keep you from having that dialogue with the artist.


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