Various Venues

It’s remarkable when folks in this area have to look northward—to Washington state—for inspiration but look and venture they did this past month—to Olympia, of all places. First, for the sake of clarification, it must be said that Marilyn Monroe—who was oft accused of selling herself to the public on the basis of sex, countered a group of reporters one day with the remark that if she were to be identified with an institution, she couldn’t think of a better one. And the 1,000 or so guests (Oregonians included) who attended Washington’s First Annual Governor’s Invitational Art Show in Olympia’s Capitol Museum pretty much felt the same—only here the association was art with that venerable institution—politics.

Presented a bronze medallion naming him the Evergreen State’s first Artist of the Year was Philip McCracken, 34-year-old sculptor from Guemes Island. The one-time assistant to Henry Moore specializes in small animals, creatures of the sea—small, breathlessly painstaking crafted pieces of wood—and he had two such items in the exhibit. The award was given him by Governor Albert D. Rosellini. McCracken was selected the state’s No. 1 artist by receiving the highest number of recommendations submitted to the governor by the art reviewers for five Washington newspapers.

Naturally all this wasn’t taken without reactions of one sort or another.

Mrs. William Cumming, wife of the painter (who also had two works in the show), said: “You’d think they were naming the Boy Scout of the Month or something,” but generally all agreed that recognition of any sort was amazing. One prominent Seattle gallery director thought it was sad that no plans for circulation had as yet materialized, considering the commotion and all. After the opening he doubted if 500 people would visit it in its present location, a better setting than the one used in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? The director of Portland Art Museum said one might disagree with some of the 31 artists selected but that the idea was, essentially, a good one. Another staunch supporter of Northwest art, Mrs. William Haseltine, was of the same opinion. Others thought the concept of a governor’s show excellent but believed an award of merit a better token of achievement than singling one man out to be the “Artist of the Year.” Another called the event “a beginning” and thought circulation of the exhibit would be good, as displays in Oregon tend to become “too localized.” The writer shared their views.

Included were works in a variety of media by Guy Anderson, Joseph Petta, Robert Feasley, Andrew Hofmeister, Ruth Fluno, Kathleen Gemberling, William Cumming, Jeanne Mason Koch, Bill Colby, Art Hansen, James Martin, Kenneth Callahan, Virginia Banks, Morris Graves, Bill Hixson, Paul Horiuchi, Boyer Gonzales, William Ivey, Alden Mason, Neil Meitzler, Frank Okada, Mark Tobey and Margaret Tompkins. Sculpture was by Howard Duell, Everett DuPen, James Fitzgerald, James Hales, James Lee Hansen, George Tsutakawa, Philip McCracken and James W. Washington, Jr. His honor the Governor said that with an election in the offing he hoped to be around next year to sponsor a second annual.

Back in Portland, the dead of winter provided an appropriate background for the staging of the Artist of Oregon Annual Exhibition at the museum. Concentrating heavily on the work of the Artist Membership it displayed a single face—not too realistic, not too sweet, not too abstract, but abstract enough to be modern. There wasn’t any magic realism, nor anything charmingly naive, nor traditional. There was an effective collage by Bert Garner. Assemblages were out. As for Pop Art, it has yet to find its way across the state line.

Three-fifths of the oils and sculptures should have been rejected. (After all the columnists and commentators had delivered their opinions via radio, educational TV and Letters to the Editor—maybe four-fifths.) The jurors were Betty Feves, a Pendleton potter; Claude McGraw, Portland painter; and David McCosh, Eugene painter and member of the University of Oregon art faculty. Mrs. Feves entered an unhappily impaled clay floral form; McGraw, a well-ordered color study and McCosh, a rather busy abstraction.

Appearing as mountains among the molehills were canvases by Carl Morris and Hank Kowert. Morris’ work, Nomadic Forms, related to the Northwest topography and by its innate simplicity captured the poetry of nature. Kowert submitted Snow Under a Cliff in which the oil was so thin as to be almost translucent. His was a definitive statement of the cold climate of winter. Other works that captured the imagination were landscapes by Carl Hall and Richard Muller. Both were paintings free enough and imaginative enough to please the lover of non-objective painting; their subject matter was satisfying. Muller worked with a thick impasto of bright colors; Hall’s High Desert Country was luminous in appearance as if light and air were entrapped in the several thin films of pigment that made up the surface. Although the paint was not thick it gave an illusion of richness, and the color was worked subtly in many variations. Sound pulsated eerily from Dorothy Yezerski’s oil and Orchard by young Beaverton painter Craig Cheshire was visually fresh and rewarding. Triumphs of lyricism in cold metal were achieved in the sculptures of Lee Kelly and Manuel Izquierdo. Donald Wilson’s applewood Woman Disrobing and Carmen Taysom’s walnut Night were notable for the respect both sculptors had shown for their materials.

Andy Rocchia