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Why do the words truck and America go so well together? And why do brides always feel the need to take their sacred wedding pictures with old trucks? Belgrade painter Wendy Marquis knows the answer.

“People love a rural romance,” Marquis said. “And that’s what a truck symbolizes. When you see an old truck, you know that there was a boy driving his date to the movies and maybe they made out in the back.”

Trucks encompass the dual combination of a love-filled tale and the hardworking story of hauling and building the American life, all set in the back of a pickup. That is what makes the pickup truck such a beautiful and necessary part of Montana.

“There is a special American story behind each of one of those tailgates that I paint,” Marquis said.

When people see Marquis’ colorful canvases showing off an expanse of country land and an equally striking rusted old truck, they often can’t help but share their own crazy experiences that could only happen while rolling down the open road in a well-loved gas guzzler.

But trucks aren’t just a part of our history. Even with gas prices high and the economy low, there is still a market for full-sized pickups and their combination of power and versatility. The only thing that has been left behind is the design.

“The shapes that those old trucks create, the colors from the rust, are all so aesthetically pleasing,” Marquis said. “That’s another reason people love the old trucks in particular and want to hang a picture of them over their mantle.”

The strong curves and the bold silhouettes of a ’51 Studebaker or a ’62 Chevrolet completely consume Marquis when she first starts painting her beloved machines. She picks out every shadow and triangle in detail, like she has a magnifying glass on her eyes from the start. Then she transitions to take in the whole body of the truck and is humbled by the complete captivating construction.

“They look good close-up and they look good from far away,” Marquis said. “And every time I begin to paint a new one, I have to figure out the truck all over again. I love it.”

Marquis recently found out that just like the brilliant colors of a Montana landscape compliment a truck’s silhouette, so do the rich wood colors of an acoustic guitar.

In her grand opening of her new art gallery, Marquis’ old beauties will be paired with guitars made by local Dan Roberts. The opening of Wendy Marquis Art, 9 E. Main St. in Belgrade, will be Friday, June 27, 5-8 p.m. and will include live music.

“It is really my dream come true that I now have my own gallery,” Marquis said. “I’m bringing a whole new kind of energy to Belgrade, an energy of funky, patina trucks and a very proud Montanan.”

To see more of Marquis’ creations, find her paintings at the Ridge and Sola Café, her greeting cards at the Coop and Wheat Montana, and her belt buckles in Head West. For more information, visit www.wendymarquis.com.

Ali Everts is an avid art consumer who would love to hear your comments or suggestions. She may be reached at aeverts@dailychronicle.com or 582-2632.

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