Volcano! At PAM

Dear Liza,

Auntie Bridgett gives scale to the display…

In May of 1980, when I was living in Eugene and expecting your Daddy David, Mt. St. Helens, a volcano in Washington, had a major eruption. We heard it from 185 miles away, and had volcanic ash coming down for a few days.

Greta Allen’s 1910 portrait of the peaceful mountain

Your great grandpa Lowell was trying to get to Ellensburg to visit his Mom, and couldn’t cross any of the rivers because they were choked with houses and trucks carried along by the boiling hot snowmelt and pulverized chunks of mountain.

Ryan Molenkamp’s “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!”

The ability of nature’s power to absolutely dwarf humans was fully on display. And for the next few months, that power has returned, interpreted and revisited, at the Portland Art Museum.

Hank Pander’s “Eruption as seen from SW Cable Street” shows the view from Portland


But before we saw many paintings on the wall, the exhibit introduced us to the place where it happened, with National Forest maps and informational signs. The logo took me right back to camping trips with your great grandpa, and I could swear I smelled his All Spice aftershave lingering in the air.

The artistic portion of the exhibit is an interwoven collection of photographs, taken by both surveyors and artists, as well as paintings, glass work, and constructions made by artists in response to the power of the volcano. Some are as dry as the volcanic dust itself.

Barbara Noah’s “Tag III”, showing that the muppet has become a monster

Others are very personal, showing how the chaos and majesty of the eruption affected lives when the lovable mountain became a deadly monster.

I walked around, enjoying the bucolic, peaceful “Before” landscape paintings of the mountain when it was just a mountain, one of a dozen lovely peaks in the Cascade Range.

Then I rounded a corner to the gallery of eruptions, and smelled Old Spice again! Fearing for my mental health, I looked around and saw an elderly gentleman in a white shirt and tie. He stopped before every painting, talking softly with his companion. Trying not to be creepy, I walked behind him and softly sniffed. Yep. Old Spice.

So in a metaphysical way, great grandpa Lowell got to see all this art inspired by that amazing, inconvenient day, almost forty years ago.

Love,

Grandma Judy


Author: Judy

I am a new transplant to Portland from Salinas, a small city in Central California. This is a blog about my new city.

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