Hallie Ford Museum

Crow’s Shadow’s art of the land

The Hallie Ford Museum's generous retrospective of 25 years at the innovative eastern Oregon print center reveals a vital sense of place

Ghost Camp, a four-piece suite of lithographs by James Lavadour from 2002, all but jumps off the wall as you wander through the generous new exhibit Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts at 25 at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem. Lavadour prints and paintings have a way of leaping like that: they have what curators and dealers like to call “wall power.”

But something else is going on in this suite, too. In that familiar Lavadour way Ghost Camp is partly abstract and partly taken from the spacious hilly land of eastern Oregon and Washington near Pendleton, where he lives. A scrawl of lines seems almost arbitrary until you look a little closer and realize they are deft intimations of shapes on the horizon or buildings breaking up the open spaces. Searing streaks of color suggest trees, red and glowing and perhaps – who knows, in a runaway fire season like this one? – on the way to being charred.

James Lavadour (Walla Walla, b. 1951), “Ghost Camp,” 2002, ed. 16, suite of four, four-color lithographs with graphite pencil on Arches 88 white paper, 34 1/4 x 43 3/4 inches overall, CSP 02-114 a, b, c, d. Photo: Dale Peterson

Oh: and, sticking up from the top right print like a towering forest snag, the jagged teeth of a giant crosscut logging blade grind relentlessly at the sky. The suite is inspired by Lavadour’s memories of a forest he used to wander as a child – a forest that’s since been clear-cut, and essentially no longer exists. The lithographs are at once an honoring of the past, a preservation of history, a documentation of a present state of mind, an act of beauty, and a lament. The more you look the more you see; the more you see the more you feel.


Art notes: Maryhill springs up

Plus: Final call for 'Mother' and Louis Bunce, Goltzius x 3, kickoff for Art Passport PDX, Portland Open Studios' be-a-patron plan

Sunday was shirtsleeve weather in Portland. The torrents returned on Monday, but the temperature’s been inching above 55. The hellebores and daffodils are pushing up. And if you want a sure sign that it’s almost spring (the calendar says it starts next Monday, the 20th) here it is: Maryhill Museum of Art opens for the season on Wednesday, with a big celebration on Saturday.

The museum, in a concrete castle that stands above the Columbia Gorge about a hundred miles east of Portland on the Washington side of the river, battens its hatches every winter when the storms grow fierce, and its reopening every March is a true regional reawakening.

Théâtre de la Mode: “My Wife is a Witch” (Ma Femme est une Sorcière)—A Tribute to René Clair, with 1946 fashions and mannequins; original set by Jean Cocteau, recreated by Ann Surgers; Gift of Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, Collection of Maryhill Museum of Art

The 2017 season, which runs through November 15, appears to be focusing on the museum’s own eclectic collections, with a new installation of its international chess sets, a show of ancient Greek ceramics from the permanent collection, some spruced-up dioramas from it weird and wonderful Théatre de la Mode models of post-World War II French fashion (including the Jean Cocteau design), and an exhibition of recent works added to the permanent collection, including pieces by, among others, Lillian Pitt, Rick Bartow, Betty LaDuke, Fritz Scholder, and R.H. Ives Gammell, the American realist whose symbolic/mythological series of large paintings The Hound of Heaven has long been in the permanent collection.

Angela Swedberg (American, b. 1962), Cheyenne-Style Elk Ladle, 2008, hot off-hand sculpted glass, brain-tanned leather, antique Italian glass seed beads, porcupine quills, silk ribbon and red ochre paint, 28” x 6”; Museum purchase, Collection of Maryhill Museum of Art

Visiting the esoteric blend of passions and aesthetic compulsions that make up the museum – they range from brawny Rodins to furniture designed by Queen Marie of Romania to celebrations of the iconic dancer Loie Fuller to American realist paintings of the 19th century to a significant collection of Native American and Western art – is almost always a blast, and getting there on a nice spring day is half the fun. You can plan your own route and take as much time as you like. I’m partial to a coffee stop in Mosier, then winding through the hills on the old highway into The Dalles, maybe stopping for lunch, and getting back on the freeway for the final lap. The Gorge beckons. Heed its call.


ArtsWatch Weekly: Road trip!

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

GET OUT OF TOWN. No, seriously. Summer’s here, and it’s travel time in Oregon: ah, the possibilities! You could grab a dashing neck scarf, put the top down on your convertible and zip on down the open road toward the California border and Ashland, where the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is in full swing. Suzi Steffen’s been spending a lot of time there for ArtsWatch this season, and has sent back several insightful posts in her quest to cover the 2016 season like a fog smothering a bay in a John Carpenter summer horror flick.

Quang (James Ryen) and Nhan (Will Dao) have a run-in with a redneck biker (Paco Tolson) in "Vietgone." Photo :Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Quang (James Ryen) and Nhan (Will Dao) have a run-in with a redneck biker (Paco Tolson) in “Vietgone.” Photo :Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Here’s what she’s reported so far. And watch soon for her reviews of Roe, the festival’s world-premiere production of Lisa Loomer’s play inspired by the groundbreaking Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision on abortion, and The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare’s late romance. Read, and plan:


ArtsWatch Weekly: It’s raining cats and dogs. Road trip!

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

In a lot of Oregon schools it’s spring vacation. Maybe you’re already off someplace with the offspring – a beach cabin, or the dreaded Disneyland. (Hint: Enchanted Forest, south of Salem, is a lot closer and a lot cheaper, and it’s open this week.) Maybe your kids are grown and gone, or you don’t have any, but a little early-spring zip out of town sounds like a good idea. Well, why not? Interesting stuff happens all over the place.

Out the Columbia Gorge, the Maryhill Museum of Art opened last week for the 2016 season, which will run through mid-November. I haven’t made the trek yet, but I will, partly to see the museum’s freshened-up display of international chess sets, a collection I find fascinating even though I don’t play the kingly game. There are also interesting-looking exhibitions of American Indian trade blankets (this one doesn’t open until July 16; the others are open now), classic American art pottery, several paintings from the collection that are too big to be on permanent display (size matters, especially when there’s limited space) and – this should be a kid-pleaser – animal paintings from the permanent collection.

"A Golden Retriever," Edwin Douglas, 1900, oil on canvas, Maryhill Museum of Art

“A Golden Retriever,” Edwin Douglas, 1900, oil on canvas, Maryhill Museum of Art

That includes the 1900 A Golden Retriever (above), by the Scottish painter Edwin Douglas, and to be sporting about it, you might want to take the nippers first to the Portland Art Museum to see another great big painting, Carl Kahler’s My Wife’s Lovers (you don’t have to spill the beans on the title), which is on loan through May 15 and is being promoted as “the world’s greatest painting of cats.” Hey, this is the Pacific Northwest: It’s raining cats and dogs.


Music director Carlos Kalmar and the Oregon Symphony reached an agreement to extend the maestro’s contract for three more years, to 2018, the orchestra announced this weekend at its annual meeting in the lobby of  Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

That continues the enviable stability at the top of the orchestra’s artistic pyramid, where Kalmar has fashioned an orchestra that plays far better than it is funded, and though its president position has been empty since Elaine Calder left more than a year ago, its other top managers are veterans, too.

Back to the press release for the kind words Kalmar from outgoing Board Chair Terry Pancoast:  “Carlos’s accomplishments with the orchestra since he was first named Music Director in 2003 have been extraordinary.  It gives us great pleasure and confidence that he will continue on our podium at least until June, 2018.”

And then Kalmar responded in kind: “I look forward to these additional years and making great music for all of our Symphony family and to serving this great community in ever-increasing ways.”

Carlos Kalmar's contract has been extended until June 2018./Leah Nash

Carlos Kalmar’s contract has been extended until June 2018./Leah Nash

The press release didn’t divulge the terms of the contract (Kalmar received a salary of $451,929 in 2010-11  [NOTE: The symphony says this number is incorrect, though it won’t divulge Kalmar’s salary in that or any other year, including the extension years] per Adaptistration, very close to the national average of $480,037), so we don’t know how much it cost to wrap-up Kalmar for three more years, though music directors around the country are pulling in higher and higher salaries. In 2010-11, their salaries rose an average of 12.02 percent.

The symphony also announced its new lineup of officers for the upcoming year: Karl A. Smith, Chair; J. Clayton Hering, Vice Chair; Walter E. Weyler, Vice Chair, Gerald R. Hulsman, Secretary; and Ted Austin, Treasurer.

Pancoast closed with comments about the symphony’s strategic planning effort, and said that the orchestra was giving a new emphasis on service to the community. “We are owned,” he said, “by the community and entrusted to bring vibrancy to the cultural life of our community.”  This sounds very promising, and as details emerge, we’ll let you know about them.


Lawrence Leighton Smith

Lawrence Leighton Smith

Former Oregon Symphony music director Lawrence Leighton Smith has died in Colorado at 77. He left the symphony in 1980, and became music director in 1983 of the Louisville Orchestra, which he established as a hotbed of new orchestral music. He became artistic director of the Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale (1995-2004) and then music director of the Colorado Springs Symphony in 2000 (which morphed into the Colorado Springs Philharmonic following the bankruptcy) until he stepped down in 2011 when he fell ill with Binswanger’s disease. He also led the Sunriver Music Festival for 17 years.


Dear arts funders, Stop asking arts organizations to innovate. They do that already. Signed, Todd London, artistic director, New Dramatists

OK, London did not write that, not exactly. But that was the idea of the lecture, http://www.howlround.com/i-don%E2%80%99t-want-to-talk-about-innovation-a-talk-about-innovation< “>“I Don’t Want to Talk about Innovation: A Talk about Innovation,”  he gave at the National Innovation Summit for Arts + Culture in Denver, October 21, 2013. Maybe you can already tell how subversive the lecture was in that particular context.

“Where innovation thinkers see ill-adaptive organizations, I see decades of unsupported art and artists, energy and money thrown at institutional issues, as if this can make the art relevant. I’d suggest it’s the funding community that needs to take a deep, humble look at its assumptions and, most urgently, at the human relations and power dynamics of money and expertise. Doctor, please innovate thyself.”

A thought experiment, inspired by London’s lecture:  Suppose you wanted to invest $1 million in local theater next year, how would you spend it? Most likely, you’d pick out some theater companies you thought did excellent work and divide it among them. Or maybe you’d invest in the future in the form of college or even high school drama programs. But what if you just gave the money directly to the artists, say, 25 grants of $40k each, for independent actors, directors, and designers. What would happen next?


Shaking the Tree Theatre’s “Wilde Tales” runs through November 9, and Bob Hicks has already written persuasively about how important (and underrated) these fairy stories by Oscar Wilde are. He’s not alone: novelist Jeanette Winterson has recently written an essay for The Guardian about the Wilde tales that makes a similar argument and expands it.

“Reason and logic are tools for understanding the world. We need a means of understanding ourselves, too. That is what imagination allows. When a child reads of a Nightingale who bleeds her song into a rose for love’s sake, or of a Selfish Giant who puts a wall round life, or of a Fisherman who wants to be rid of his Soul, or of a statue who feels the suffering of the world more keenly than the Mathematics Master who scoffs at his pupils for dreaming about Angels, the child knows at once both the mystery and truth of such stories. We have all at some point in our lives been the overlooked idiot who finds a way to kill the dragon, win the treasure, marry the princess.”

She also points out that in the Age of Harry Potter, children’s literature is no longer overlooked as it once was, though really, it was only the stuffy old adults who were doing the overlooking, wasn’t it?


Carl Hall, 'Fog Totem Woman'/Permanent collection/Hallie Ford Museum

Carl Hall, ‘Fog Totem Woman’/Permanent collection/Hallie Ford Museum

The indispensable Hallie Ford Museum of Art is turning 15, which seems odd. Hasn’t been there, tracking the important artists of the state since there WERE important artists in the state? Apparently not.

The Salem Statesman Journal’s Barbara Curtin marks the birthday with an in-depth account of the museum’s history.

“Trudy Kawami, director of research at the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation in New York, said the Hallie Ford museum stands out for the way it stages fresh exhibits instead of simply showing its own collection.

“In the Northwest there are a couple of museums in Portland and Seattle that have larger collections, but are nowhere near as active,” Kawami said. “It’s a little museum that could,” she said.”

Curtin starts at the beginning of the museum and works forward, detailing the important gifts (from Hallie Ford and Maribeth Collins), the stability (John Olbrantz has led the museum from the beginning, and Roger and Bonnie Hull have helped keep its focus on Northwest art), and its growing importance in the region, especially to local artists. The Ford Museum’s retrospective exhibitions of the work of Oregon artists, organized by Roger Hull, have produced a series of catalogs that are central documents in the preservation and interpretation of art history here. Happy Birthday!

Oregon ArtsWatch Archives