Thursday, June 18, 2009

An Artsy Day in Portland

I've "known" June Underwood since about 2001, when I joined the Alternative Quilt List in what felt like a very cheeky move. I found among this international network of textile artists a gentle, nurturing, supportive community in which to stick my toe in the scary waters of art quilting. June was one of the first to assure me that a quilt I'd gotten up the nerve to share was indeed more art than traditional quilt, and that she could see the deeper meaning in it. With that one kindness, I continued moving into the art quilt medium, gaining confidence that eventually led me to where I am today, both geographically and in my creative journey. June, no doubt is blushing to learn this, and she was not the only one to offer kind words of encouragement as well as helpful critiques, but she WAS the only one posting from the Pacific Northwest where I originally hail from. It was a connection to an area I was incredibly homesick for. I started following her blog as much for the pictures of Portland and the Columbia gorge as for the ones of her quilts. I knew I would eventually move back to the PNW and looked forward to the day when I could meet her in person. That day finally came and as you can see, it was a jolly event!

June was gracious enough to grant my request for lunch with any like-minded art quilters she could round up and scope out the art exhibits available for perusal. Here's Gerrie Congdon and Joanell Connolly (above) and Terry Grant (below), all names I recognize and artists I was delighted to meet. Gerrie was fresh off a stint at the Surface Design Association Conference so had show & tell from a class and postcards & brochures from the various exhibits she saw plus, of course, stories to tell. (Check her blog for pictures and commentary.) She also had an extra copy of Fiberarts Magazine which I snagged. Thanks, Gerrie! I shared it with my Hood River and Walla Walla friends as I wended my way home, and now I'm looking forward to reading it myself!.

I thoroughly enjoyed the great food and "shop talk," the best way I can think to describe the various topics we covered. I'm feeling a little isolated in the Idaho Panhandle and part of what I gleaned from conversations this day was personal experience with options I've both considered and those I've rejected. It's always nice to find out others are thinking along the same lines or have had similar experiences, or that you may have dismissed something that could actually be a good thing. Oh, and I couldn't help chuckling at the some of the titles of books behind Gerrie & Joanell. You know you're in Portland when "Reefer Madness" is on the shelf.

June discovered that the Portland Art Museum was featuring an M. C. Escher exhibit (a be-still-my-heart moment for me when I heard), so off we went to check it out. Escher is best known for his "impossible worlds" and complex tessellations, which were well represented in this exhibit. It also included his early drawings while in Italy where you could already see the beginnings of his fascination with stairways and odd angles. Having just taken a drawing class, I was particularly interested in these drawings, some of which were studies, working sketches, and even a few that were incomplete. The exhibit did a fine job of showing the steps involved in developing an idea, and in some cases included the actual woodblocks used to create some of his prints. Terry had the most printing knowledge of the bunch and pointed out things we would not know to look for.

The Museum was also showing a retrospective of artists associated with the Museum Art School (now Pacific Northwest College of Art) as it celebrates its centennial. I am woefully unfamiliar with the names of these regional artists, let alone their work, so this was also interesting to view. Because the art spanned such a large time period, it was also interesting to guess when they were executed. Some definitely reflected their time, others were more timeless. My favorite artist from this show was William H. Givler, particularly his "Waterfall." There's not much about him on the Internet, let alone this particular painting, but this link includes "Mountains with Slender Trees" which is a similar style and color palette, although painted 25 years later. I think it was this color palette plus the blocky lines hinting at the more complex detail left out that drew me to his work. This AskArt link shows several paintings and gives a little additional info.

To wrap up the day, June steered Joanell & me to the nearest Starbucks for a needed sit-down and infusion of caffeine. More "shop talk" ensued, and before I knew it, June was proposing a challenge to me. She doesn't work in textiles much anymore, having taken up oil painting (see this painting of which I am the proud owner), so her proposal was for us to create original pieces in our own medium, then create additional pieces inspired by each other's art. Of course, we will have to blog about it, so stay tuned.

Next installment of my travelogue...Maryhill Art Museum.


Shirley Goodwin said...

Thanks for your helpful info. about stitching!

The Idaho Beauty said...

You're welcome, Shirley. I hope you've found something that is working now.

RHONDA said...

I'm really looking forward to seeing the results of this challenge.

Katney said...

Thanks for the info on the Escher exhibit. DH will be in Portland while I am at my next quilt retreat and he will love it.

June said...

I'm definitely blushing -- and thinking that the admiration is mutual. I was delighted to meet Sheila in person and find that she's even better to hug in reality than virtually. The Escher was a delight -- somewhat to my surprise, since I had thought that he was onto a good gimmick, but I wasn't overwhelmed by the art. But the exhibit proved me wrong. And I can't believe Sheila, Joanell and I spent over two hours at Starbucks, just gabbing away. It was a delightful day, and I now have an even greater appreciation of Sheila's work and Sheila's self.