Art on the fly
Finding peace and creating art in Big Sky’s backyard
It is clear that to Brett Ozment art is freedom and freedom is art. He left the familiarity of his Missouri home with long nights spent fishing on the Jacks Fork River and moved to Montana over a decade ago to chase the powder and carve into slopes. Fishing had been his only artform – he’d skip high school classes to cast a line. When he found his way to Big Sky his love for fishing expanded to fly fishing and he ventured deeper and deeper into the wilderness – chasing rainbows, browns and reveling in the solitude.
“The way you cast the line can be a work of art,” he said.
On Ozment’s studio wall hangs a photo of an old man in a cowboy hat appearing weather-beaten and wise, like someone who just walked out of the novel “Lonesome Dove.” The photo is of his one-eyed grandfather who had a roping course in the front yard for the duration of Ozment’s childhood in rural Missouri. He also started a horse breaking business when he was 50 years old. Ozment prides himself on being raised the cowboy way.
Placed upon the opposite wall is a collection of nature inspired 3D art with an abstract twist – every single piece representing a series of adventures from Ozment’s life.
Ozment is a self-proclaimed part “dirtbag” who has wholeheartedly adapted to life in a ski town. However, he has not been able to shake his cowboy roots – the rough and tumble toughness of his country heritage or the respect he feels for the natural world down to his very core. Before long, the slopes and the rivers pushed his artistic inspiration even further.
The Big Sky artist started finding things: a piece of driftwood; a deer skull; old metal objects; an old can of spam; a handmade “No trespassing” sign faded from decades in the elements; an old metal wheel he actually caught in lieu of a fish; pieces of copper left over from a Yellowstone Club construction project. He started eyeing his collection and thinking – these can be so much more.
“There are certain things I just can’t not bring home,” he said.
Then, one day, partly from inspiration and partly from the need to tidy his collection, Ozment began putting things together – physical culminations of stories from his life – every single artifact representing an adventure in nature.
“This is what I like – questionable stuff that doesn’t really make a lot of sense, but makes a lot of sense,” he said.
One piece which looks similar to a tribal mask is comprised of a pelvic tailbone of a cow found along the Gallatin River, feathers from a grouse and wood pieces cut from an old Christmas tree.
Ozment started quail and pheasant hunting this past fall – shot and harvested them, ate them and then pulled feathers from the pelts to add to his artwork. The meat tasted like “sweet chicken” and nothing was wasted.
“If I don’t create, I’ll die,” he said almost jokingly while casually leaning against the door jam of his studio, but there is a pervading sense that he means it.
Recently, Ozment had a bit of a crushing blow to his creations. With an art show lined up for both floors at Map Brewing Company for the month of December he had his van packed with pieces large and small to fill the space and stacked as carefully as possible. He caught a slick spot with one of his tires and was forced into a snowbank. Nearly all the pieces broke.
“Someone much wiser than me once said there are three things you need to invest in which are between you and the ground: tires, shoes and a nice bed,” he said. He has since invested in new tires and shoes. The process of breaking down and recreating consumes him. Still, even with repurposing previous pieces, he will only have enough to fill the bottom floor.
When he’s not working at East Slope Outdoors Ozment is casting a line or creating some form of art: earrings, belt buckles, coasters, wooden bowties.
He recently designed his own snowboard with Free Life Snowboards. The company has shown interest in featuring his artwork on more snowboards and other gear as well. “I want to make designs and graphics for all sorts of stuff,” Ozment said, noting that he likes to design artwork for t-shirts, hats, snowboards and skis.
Ozment’s goal this spring, summer and fall is to have no home and no job. He wants to sustain himself by traveling the state, selling his artistic wares. He wants to fish at his leisure, collect things which inspire him and not have to worry about rushing back and clocking-in to a job. He wants to get lost by the river, focusing on his next cast; his next catch; stumbling upon objects and maybe a little peace in the process.