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Preserving A Legacy Of Artwork: The Clarke Gallery
Montana Senior News August/September 2015
Blackfeet artist John Clarke may have lost the ability to speak and hear at a young age, yet that never kept him from clearly communicating. Through sign language, both American and Indian, as well as the written word, John effectively shared his thoughts. But it was through the silent medium of art that he excelled at expressing his love for the Plains Indian culture, Glacier National Park, and the wildlife that roamed its forests, meadows, and mountains.

A skilled woodcarver, sculptor, and painter, John produced a body of work that has become synonymous with Glacier Park’s early days. Just looking at his mountain goats or whimsical bears brings to mind dudes on horseback and Glacier’s old-time backcountry chalets.

To commemorate the influence and talent of this dynamic artist, John’s daughter, Joyce Turvey, established the John L. Clarke Western Art Gallery in East Glacier in 1977. Its door has remained open every summer since then welcoming visitors from around the globe. Nowadays, John’s granddaughter Dana runs the gallery. Like her mother, Dana celebrates her grandfather’s creativity along with that of other regional artists.

“My grandfather was a delightful soul with a sense of humor. He came from a simpler time in a calmer world reminiscent of the 1930’s to 1950’s,” explains Dana. “His way to interpret his life was through these beautiful carvings and paintings.”

Some of Dana’s most vivid childhood recollections of Grandpa John were etched in memory during their sallies together around town. Even as a little girl, she knew he was different—in the best kind of way.

“He was so observant. If he looked at something, so would I. And he was always looking around him,” remembers Dana. “Perhaps the artist seeking ideas, pieces of wood, or noticing a bird in a tree.”

As students of Montana’s frontier days know, the Clarke family history is woven into the fabric of East Glacier’s past. John’s father was the town’s first settler while his aunt Helen advocated for women’s and Native American rights. His contribution to the art world was equally significant.

“John Clarke was one of the state’s most prolific lesser-known artists. His artwork is accurate and evocative of a trip to Glacier; it’s iconic of the era and this amazing time,” sums up Dana. “I feel I’m the last harbinger of making people aware of him.”
For more information, visit: or call 406-226-9238.