This past Sunday was the last day of a wonderful exhibit at the Portland Art Museum, called PAM for short. The exhibit was by artists who live in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, Alaska) and whose work is directly affected by where they live. It is called The Map is not the Territory.
This piece, called Moving Mountains by Annette Bellamy, goes from the floor to the ceiling and is about ten feet square. It is kinetic, which means the suspended rocks can move. It sways just a little as people walk past. It makes you look at things that seem permanent, like landscape, as something delicate and tenuous. I loved it!
Ms Bellamy made my other favorite piece in the show, called Out of Water. It is made of dried fish skins sewn together in an irregular, changing patchwork. Knowing that she spends her summers making a living deep sea fishing informs her relationship with fish, and shows us her appreciation of this animal, inside and out.After we had enjoyed the exhibit, we had a snack and visited Grandpa Nelson’s favorite room of the museum. It holds the impressionists and modern art. Last time I was here, a wonderful docent named Ted introduced me to Otto. Otto is an almost creepy lifelike resin cast of a dishwasher. He also showed me Muse, and corrected my pronunciation of its creator’s name. It is spelled Brancusi, but pronounced ” Brancoosh”, because he is from Romania.
This visit, Grandpa Nelson pointed out a dark painting I hadn’t given a second glance to, and said to Ted, “I wish we could get a different Van Gough.” I almost laughed… that’s not a Van Gough! But there it was, on the tag.It is called Charette de Bouef, or Ox Cart, and was painted by Van Gough just before he left The Netherlands for Paris, where his life and color scheme changed dramatically. The museum acquired this piece from a Roseburg, Oregon, couple, who had hung over their sofa. Yes, a Van Gough over their sofa.
Since the couple smoked, by the time they passed away and the painting was donated to the museum, it had a thick coat of nicotine and tar, needing a good cleaning. After weeks of delicate work, when the delicate hints of white and blue started to pop, the museum took it to the medical center and had it X-rayed and given an MRI, revealing Van Gough’s own fingerprints in the corners of the work.
I had never cared for this painting, but now that I know the history, I will give it more attention. Like people, the more you know about art, the more interesting it becomes.
On our way up the stairs, we ran into an historic collection of lithographic prints from the 1930s and 40s, by folks I had heard of, like Thomas Hart Benton, and some I hadn’t, like Peggy Bacon. These works were created as part of a government project to depict American life, and show so much humor and movement that they look like sketches, not prints from stone. They were cartoon-y and delightful.We took a little break before heading off to the next part of our adventure, which I will tell you about next week!