Exquisite Gorge 11: It’s a print!

On a bright & shining Saturday, it all came together: Maryhill Museum's audacious, 66-foot long print project went to press via steam roller

Woodblock print by Ken Spiering (Detail)

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER


“Only in community with others has each individual the means of cultivating his gifts in all directions; only in the community, therefore, is personal freedom possible.” Karl Marx The German Ideology (1846)

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It was Print Day at Maryhill Museum of Art. Eleven wondrous woodcuts, each sized 6×4 feet, were inked, aligned in a row, and printed by a steam roller, producing the largest contiguous woodcut print that we know of. They depict the length of the Columbia River flowing through The Gorge, with geographic precision regarding the river, and imaginative representation for everything else.

The scaffold is ready, early morning
So is the steamroller
At the end of the day all boards are aligned

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August 24, 2019 turned out to be a memorable day beyond creating a gigantic work of art: It was proof positive that institutions like this museum (under the direction of Colleen Schafroth, who was a happy woman greeting the hundreds of attendees) enrich our civic lives.

Colleen Schafroth, Museum Director

It was proof positive that initiatives of individuals can blossom into something larger. (Louise Palermo, curator of education, was the driving force behind the project, both figuratively and literally.)

Lou Palermo, Curator of Education

And, importantly, it was proof positive that collective actions both create and benefit community. Institution, artists, community partners, sponsors, volunteers and those of us observing from the periphery all gained from each others’ engagement, enriched the creative output and – ideally – will carry something into the future that will be decisively constructive.

Left to Right front: Sarah Finger, Drew Cameron, Mike McGovern, Roger Peet, Steven Munoz.
In the back: Lou Palermo, Neal Harrington, Jane Pagliarulo, Molly Gaston Johnson, Greg Archuleto surrounded by his collaborators, Dylan McManus.

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.”


 Louise Palermo, Curator of Education at Maryhill Museum


There was a lot of work to prepare for the printing itself. The boards came out, tools were readied, ink and rollers saw action, paper was aligned.

Lou Palermo, driving carts, driving steamrollers, driving ideas
Stabilizing the ink surface
Dylan McManus, starting to apply the ink to a board
Neal and Tammy Harrington (herself an accomplished printmaker), Steven Munoz, Jane Pagliarulo, Mike McGovern

In a group effort, the boards were aligned, nailed down, the felt or other covers applied, the paper affixed.

And then: the run!

People worked hand in hand, got to know each other, and improvised, cheered on by the many spectators who had come, filled with curiosity.

Lisa Commander, Director of the Columbia Gorge Veterans Museum, and her lovely parents.

Press was there, drones and all.

Kids could make art and get involved themselves.

Others explored better viewing opportunities:

In addition to everything else the museum offers, it has terrific climbing trees in its park.

The enthusiasm and joy were palpable and evenly distributed.

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The “common good” refers to those facilities—whether material, cultural or institutional—that the members of a community provide to all members in order to fulfill a relational obligation they all have to care for certain interests that they have in common. – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Maryhill Museum is an institution that preserves the past, educates about the present and works to provide access to art for future generations. The artists’ wood blocks, as different as they were stylistically, shared with the institution and among each other a similar commitment to the common good. They focused, in varying degrees of explicitness, on the obligations that we have toward the community at large: to protect and preserve the environment, to honor the lessons of the past, and to use art as a vehicle to reach hearts, brains, and souls of all who can help with these tasks.

Frontispiece by Ken Spiering
Sculptor and printmaker Spiering holds an MFA from the University of Idaho and is known for numerous public art commissions in the Northwest and across the U.S.

Here are the boards, not necessarily in the order they were aligned to represent contiguous parts of the Gorge:

Work by Greg Archuleta and his team
Work by Tammy Wilson, Matt Johnston and the Lewis&Clark College group
Work by Molly Gaston Johnson, New Jersey
Work by Mike McGovern
Work by Neal Harrington, Arkansas
Work by Roger Peet
Work by Steven Munoz, Washington, D.C.
Work by Sarah Finger, Bellingham, Wash.
Work by Janet Pagliarulo
Work by Drew Cameron, Iowa

And this is how the prints unfolded after the paper was peeled off the boards:

Work by Molly Gaston Johnson
Work by Drew Cameron and Mike McGovern with the indefatigable Tammy Harrington in action.
Work by Neal Harrington
Work by Roger Peet
Work by Sarah Finger

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The project reminds us that we need institutions like Maryhill Museum to initiate efforts on this scale and see them through, being uniquely placed to access both the world of artists and the people in the region, who benefit from the resulting vision. These institutions cannot go it alone, however. They need our renewed or continuing support, our advocacy and commitment, even or particularly if they are located in remote areas that deprive them of walk-in visitors and hamper visibility of their continual accomplishments. Lend them a hand.

Work by Drew Cameron

The project also makes clear that small regional studios – like LittleBearHill under the tutelage of Dylan McManus, artistic director of the Exquisite Gorge project – provide an important hub for regional and national artists with residencies and opportunities for creative exchange, much of which affected the final artworks.

Work by Mike McGovern

The project as a whole, made possible by Maryhill, produced more than an unusual piece of art. Importantly, it brought people together who had not known each other before, bridged divides among groups that had often contradictory views, and created a national network of artists who now consider themselves part of a team. It brought attention to the issues of environmental decline, economic hazards, climate disaster, and, above all, a sense of shared love and admiration of this precious piece of land we inhabit, understanding that we cannot delegate its protection, no matter where we come from or how we relate to it.

View East from Maryhill Museum

Let me end with a quote from another Northwest treasure, the late author Ursula LeGuin:

We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art – the art of words.” 
— Speech at the National Book Awards upon receiving the U.S. National Book Foundation’s media for distinguished contribution to American Letters on 19 November 2014.

Join me in cheering the museum, the arts, courageous words, and all those who stand up, as a community, for change necessary to serve the common good.

The print will be open for viewing September 3-25, 2019, at Maryhill Museum. Maybe by then I will have learned to drive this thing…..


This is the eleventh and final chapter 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 PictureIt is also published on YDP, on Wednesday, August 28, 2019, under the heading “This Is Maryhill Museum: The Exquisite Gorge Project.”

  • Exquisite Gorge 1: Getting Started. Introduction to the project, and meeting with artist and master printmaker Jane Pagliarulo of Portland’s Atelier Meridian.
  • Exquisite Gorge 2: The Witness. Printmaker and muralist Roger Peet conducts a community woodblock-carving session in the courtyard of the Goldendale Public Library.
  • Exquisite Gorge 3: The Listener. Arkansas printmaker Neal Harrington mixes ospreys and computer mice in The Dalles.
  • Exquisite Gorge 4: The Bee Maven. In White Salmon, artist Steven Muñoz engages a hive of community creativity to make art highlighting the danger of ecological collapse.
  • Exquisite Gorge 5: The Alchemist. In snippets of words, sounds, slivers, shreds, scraps, slices, and fragments, artist Mike McGovern transforms a stretch of the Columbia.
  • Exquisite Gorge 6: The Guardian. Greg Archuleta, artist and cultural policy analyst for the Grand Ronde tribes, links past and future in the print project.
  • Exquisite Gorge 7: The Explorer. Printmaker and teacher Molly Gaston Johnson follows Lewis & Clark’s westward path to make her mark on Maryhill’s Columbia River project.
  • Exquisite Gorge 8 & 9: The Map Makers. Two teams – Matthew Johnston and Tammy Jo Wilson, from Troutdale to the Bridge of the Gods; Sarah Finger and Nicole Pietrantoni, from Hat Rock to the Snake River confluence – consider the differences between maps and territories.
  • Exquisite Gorge 10: The Truth-Teller. As Saturday’s finale of Maryhill’s print project approached, artist and Iraq War veteran Drew Cameron talked about art and war.

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