Current Exhibitions

Brad Bachmeier:
Conservation Through Clay

March 21, 2021


The North Dakota Museum of Art will open Conservation Through Clay by Fargo-based artist Brad Bachmeier on Sunday, March 21. There will be no opening reception, but the artist will record a talk which the Museum will upload to YouTube and post on social media. The Museum will open weekdays 9 – 5 pm, and Sundays 12 – 5 pm, starting March 15, 2021. If you would like to organize a group tour, please call the Museum at 701-777-4195. 


In 1916, the US Congress established the National Park Service, and in 1919 the National Park Foundation. Today the NPS has 423 physical holdings, of which 63 were designated national parks. With 28 years of ceramic research and production experience, Bachmeier set out to explore humankind’s ancient and universal partnership with clay. To do this, he applied, and was accepted, for five artist-in-residence programs in five different national parks. Brad described the residencies “as rare, intense and life-changing experiences where an artist can hyper-focus their time and energy without distraction while creating new authentic work”. In the struggle to reflect the unique character of each park with an authentic voice, four distinct themes emerged throughout the work. As a National Park Artist in Residence, Brad states that “one should feel the tremendous honor and historic responsibility of trying to meet the National Park Service’s AIR mission statement in joining the venerable canon and tradition of National Park Art.”


Over the course of 6 years, Bachmeier created more than 200 pots (the exhibition will feature nearly fifty of these pots) based on four themes in order to capture the uniqueness of each park. 


Themes include:


Art and the Parks, An Interwoven History: The exhibition will celebrate and recognize the interwoven and ongoing history of artists and the parks and their integral role in convincing Congress to establish the NPS in 1916.


Honoring Indigenous Art Forms and Contributions in a Global Context: Ancient indigenous human interactions with the earth in these historic locations such as cliff-dwellings and petroglyphs also led to in-depth investigations in how both ceramic and basketry disciplines developed and influenced one another.


Geology, Topography, and Rock Formation: A collection of works that illustrates clay as a primal element and its direct scientific, and aesthetic connections to geology, topography and rock formations.


Conservation and Preservation: Beginning with the first residency program at the Lewis & Clark State Park on Lake Sakakawea in ND, conservation concerns began to impose themselves loudly and unexpectantly in each of the following experiences which included: Mesa Verde National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site, The National Petrified Forest, The Grand Canyon/Parashant National Monument and Red Rock National Conservation Area. It became important to highlight the responsibility that modern society, politicians and individuals have to conserve and protect our nation’s most important and vulnerable historical, cultural and natural resources.


Ceramics Monthly Article







Edward and Nancy Kienholz: 
A Selection of Works from the Betty and Monte Factor Family Collection 



The late Ed Kienholz and his deceased wife Nancy Reddin Kienholz, the Factor’s one-time neighbors, are celebrated for their installations and sculptural assemblages that are controversial, graphic, and deeply critical of the politics of mid-twentieth century life in Europe and the United States. 

These large-scale, freestanding tableaux environments, built out of materials salvaged from junkyards and alleyways, survey the difficult truths of modern life often overlooked by artistic representation, including illegal abortion, prostitution, racism, and mental illness. In 1973, the couple moved to Berlin and had a deep and longstanding connection to the city, regularly visiting its shops and flea markets to find objects for their thought-provoking installations.

The collection encapsulates both the friendship and patronage between the artist and two of his most steadfast collectors, Betty and Monte Factor. The show provides a glimpse of rarely seen pieces by one of the most important artist duos of the twentieth century, but also an historic record of the Factors’ patronage of early contemporary art in Los Angeles.

Kienholz began his career as a painter amidst the burgeoning Los Angeles art scene of the late 1950s. In 1957, with the curator Walter Hopps, he co-founded the celebrated Ferus Gallery that soon became the city’s epicenter of avant-garde art. He spent the 1960s developing his freestanding sculptural works into increasingly monumental tableaux, which quickly gained international renown. In 1972, he met his wife and collaborator Nancy Reddin, initiating a long and fruitful working relationship that lasted the rest of his life. They established studios in both Berlin and Hope, Idaho — not far from his hometown and close to his friends Betty and Monte Factor. The Factors accumulated the art piece by piece from their artist neighbors.

In direct preparation for their life-sized environments, the Kienholzes made smaller assemblages that echo both the subject matter and structure of the larger installations and exist as equally compelling works on their own. Ed called these ‘drawings’ and, as preliminary studies, they played an integral part in the production of the full-scale works. This exhibition in North Dakota brings together several ‘drawings,’ all related to major works by the Kienholzes. In addition, it presents early paintings — one with moving parts that presages Kienholz’s later three-dimensional endeavors — and an example from an important series of television sculptures from the late 1960s.

In Drawing for Five Car Stud (1969–72), Kienholz reproduces an image of his large-scale installation Five Car Stud, which he places into a car-door window as if the viewer were watching the horrific scene of a black man restrained and castrated by a group of white assailants. This controversial work details a violent episode of racism at the time and continues into the present day making the work as powerful today as it was in the early 1970s. Kienholz explained that the victim has been singled out by the perpetrators for drinking in the company of a white woman. She hides in one of the cars, vomiting. It is perhaps also her position that viewers occupy in Drawing for Five Car Stud.

Other drawings within the North Dakota exhibition correspond to large installations including Barney’s Beanery (1965), in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Still Live (1974), a major work about risk and contingency that was once banned by the German police; and A Portable War Memorial (1968) as well as Drawing for A Portable War Memorial, a work denouncing war and US international policy that is now in the collection of Museum Ludwig, Cologne. The exhibition also includes a major additional work that demonstrate the Kienholzes’ longstanding use of this innovative preparatory drawing practice: the riveting Drawing for the Caddy Court (1986), which serves as an ironic indictment of the US Supreme Court in the years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. 

The Factors’ relationship with the work of Ed Kienholz dates back to their early involvement with liberal politics and, by extension, the Los Angeles art scene. In the 1960s, through art world luminary, Walter Hopps, and the seminal Ferus Gallery, they became staunch supporters of avant-garde contemporary art and lifelong friends of Ed. 

Describing how the Factors became patrons of Ed Kienholz, Monte recalls that in the early 1960s he and his wife scraped together a small amount of cash, as well as some clothes and an old boat, to buy one of the artist’s works. Some years later they purchased The Illegal Operation (1962), a powerful and important piece that was acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2008, but which the Factors had kept stored in a spare room for many years. In Monte’s words: “For thirty-five years we lived in homes and in a world irradiated by the art of Ed, Ed and Nancy, and now, Nancy. For us, Ed and Nancy found nobility, power and grace in the ordinary. They brought new levels of compassion and beauty into our lives.”

Ed Kienholz died in 1994 and Nancy Reddin Kienholz in 2019. 

The Factor collection is on long-term loan to the North Dakota Museum of Art where it extends the collection from a twentieth century era before the Museum began to collect — or even existed. 


Edward and Nancy Kienholz, "Drawing for Caddy Court", 1986.
Mixed media, 87 x 87 x 31 inches.


Edward and Nancy Kienholz, "Drawing for Still Live", 1974.
Mixed media, 76 x 92 x 33 inches.


Edward and Nancy Kienholz, "Drawing for Five Car Stud", 1969.
Mixed media, variable dimensions. Detail view.


Edward and Nancy Kienholz, "Still Life with Little Bird", 1974.
Mixed media, 79 x 22 x 24 inches.


Edward and Nancy Kienholz, "Television Set", 1967.
Mixed media, 14 x 9 x 13 inches.


Barton's Place


Barton Lidice Benes lived in a magical apartment in New York City. It was filled with over $1 million in African, Egyptian, South American, Chinese and contemporary art, plus much more as touted in the New York Times when it announced Barton’s intended gift to North Dakota (2/6/05).

Barton Benes and his treasure trove spent decades tucked away in a glorious boxcar space in Westbeth, the artist community in New York’s West Village. There, rare works of art joined ranks with the arcane, the wistful, the amusing, the deeply serious, and a “maddening and morbid array of things” (a human toe found on New York’s Williamsburg Bridge, a stuffed mink wearing a mink coat, an eight-foot giraffe head). This temporary installation suggests the drama and mystery embedded in Barton’s private wonderland. Continue reading...


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