Exquisite Gorge 1: Getting started

Maryhill Museum embarks on a mission to create a giant collaborative print depicting 220 miles along the Columbia River. Part 1 in a series.

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER

I have on previous occasions written on this or that aspect of Maryhill Museum of Art in Washington, which I like to visit as often as I can. An eclectic collection of paintings, fashion, artifacts of some Eastern European aristocracy (Queen Marie of Romania), chess sets, native American basketry, 80 or so works of art by Rodin, displayed in an old manor house with a fascinating history of its founder, beautiful grounds and a sculpture park, high above the Columbia Gorge – it has all drawn me for many a decade. In fact, I remember when they still had peacocks roaming the manicured lawns and discreetly placed signs, warning you of rattlesnake danger, should you step off the paths…

Tools of the trade at Atelier Meridian in North Portland, whose co-owner and master printer Jane Pagliarulo is part of the Exquisite Gorge project. All interior photos are from the Atelier.

This summer I have the best ever justification for more repeat visits, carbon footprint be damned (it is a two-hour drive east from Portland, after all): The museum has a fascinating project called Exquisite Gorge under way, which promises both a distinct process and an exciting outcome for all of us interested in learning about as many local artists as we can and celebrating the history and beauty of the Gorge and its people. Here is the description of this brainchild of Lou Palermo, Curator of Education at the museum, who has been instrumental in connecting artists and communities throughout the Columbia River Gorge:

Louise Palermo, Curator of Education at Maryhill Museum.

THE EXQUISITE GORGE PROJECT

“…a collaborative printmaking project featuring 11 artists working with communities along a 220-mile stretch of the Columbia River from the Willamette River confluence to the Snake River confluence to create a massive 66-foot steamrolled print. The unique project takes inspiration from the Surrealist art practice known as exquisite corpse. In the most well-known exquisite corpse drawing game, participants took turns creating sections of a body on a piece of paper folded to hide each successive contribution. When unfolded, the whole body is revealed. In the case of The Exquisite Gorge Project, the Columbia River will become the ‘body’ that unifies the collaboration between artists and communities, revealing a flowing 66-foot work that tells 10 conceptual stories of the Columbia River and its people.”


I plan to visit with as many of the contributing printmakers and communities involved in the process as is feasible between now and August 24, when the collaborative efforts will be revealed and united via a giant steam roller at Maryhill Museum. I hope my reports will allow glimpses into the diverse, creative power all around us that we so rarely have a chance to observe directly, documenting the thinking about and carving of each of the 10 segments allotted to the individual artists. And of course I can’t wait to be part of that grand finale in August, interviewing Palermo in depth on her curatorial vision and her ability to forge alliances across diverse populations.


Last week was off to a great start: I got to meet Jane Pagliarulo in her beautiful Atelier Meridian in North Portland, which she co-owns with Barbara Mason (with whom she also shares a leadership role in Print Arts Northwest (PAN), a nonprofit that has advocated the art of printmaking through exhibitions, professional development, and educational programs for almost 40 years here in Portland. (Photographs throughout are from the Atelier.)

Pagliarulo is a Master Printer with a life history that could fill several lifetimes, or be made into one of those movies where you long to be the heroine – except you don’t have a smidgen of the energy displayed by this artist, or the courage to try so many independent ways of living – well, I don’t, in any case. Educated at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Exeter in England, she traveled and worked extensively in Europe and eventually did fine art printing in Santa Fe, N.M.

Jane Pagliarulo, Master Printer, in her studio.

Before you know it, she was an outdoor guide and independent survey forester in Oregon, where she also taught printmaking as an artist in residence in Hood River County schools. She co-founded a printmaking workshop in the Alpinee Hut in Hood River from 2000 to 2006. Now she manages the studio here, and prints for other people as well as her own art while donating time, knowledge, materials, and skills to various education projects, and raising a 12-year-old. No wonder she recently received an award that was established in honor of a truly generous person and has been given to those acknowledged to contribute deeply and freely to community.

Pagliarulo
Ray Trayle Print Prize, 2017

Her fierce devotion to nature and her extensive skill with a variety of printing techniques – lithographs, woodcuts, etchings, and photogravures – as well as her connection to the Hood River community, made her the perfect choice for being assigned that section of the river. The baltic birch panel is ready and set to be carved at the shop – I will report back when the design materializes!


This is Part 1 in a series of stories and photographs by Friderike Heuer, published on Oregon ArtsWatch in collaboration with Heuer and her web site YDP – Your Daily Picture. It is also published on YDP, on Wednesday, June 12, 2019.

One Response.

  1. Martha Ullman West says:

    This is wonderful and just to add an historical note, Maryhill contains a good deal about Loie Fuller (who donated her personal collection of works by Rodin to the museum. She was an early modern dancer and choreographer who worked in Paris and because of her performances, which were rooted in nature and included yards of fabric, and were titled things like Butterfly, La Mer, and The Flower, were rooted in nature and therefore the environment. She was also an inspiration for the Art Nouveau movement, but that’s another story.

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