amanda snyder

Picturing Oregon: wide open space

In the collections: The Portland Art Museum's survey of Oregon landscapes gives a history of the shifting territory as artists imagine it

On a recent Saturday afternoon I dropped in to the Portland Art Museum and immediately encountered a crowd at the entrance, lined up waiting to get in. That’s odd, I thought. Nice, but odd. Then I heard a bit of chatter in line, and remembered: the cars. It was prime visiting time for the museum’s megashow of slick beauties, The Shape of Speed: Streamlined Automobiles and Motorcycles, 1930-1942, and the traffic was still lively and thick.

It wasn’t quite like working your way around a pileup of tourists snapping selfies with the Mona Lisa, but once I threaded through the Bugattis and Talbot-Lago Teardrop Coupes and Chrysler Imperial Airflows things thinned out a bit to a nice steady pace. It was the first weekend day after the August heat wave had broken and the forest-fire smoke had begun to lift, and people were beginning to get out and about again: It felt as if a good chunk of the car crowd had peeled off to see what else there was to discover in the museum.

There are at least a couple of ways to go about visiting a museum. If it’s a new museum to you, sometimes the best thing to do is just to wander around and see what you find: Let serendipity be your guide, at least at the start. If it’s a museum you’re familiar with, your visits are probably more targeted: to see a special exhibition, for instance. At the Portland Art Museum right now, that might mean taking a last whack at the splendid show of early Richard Diebenkorns, arranged by the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento and hanging around Portland through Sept. 23. (The door-busting Shape of Speed ended Sunday.)

Philip Guston, Untitled, 1969, acrylic on panel, bequest of Musa Guston. Portland Art Museum

Or you might go to check in on some old favorites in the permanent collections. Special exhibitions serve a lot of purposes besides selling tickets. They can fill in gaps in a museum’s collection, or capture an important social or historic moment, or expand on strengths a museum already has. And they can get people interested in a museum, and its art, and encourage them to become regular visitors. But you can find the soul of most museums in their permanent collections, and how they’re displayed and rotated, and the way they allow people to visit over and over again, getting to know specific pieces or collections, or finding something new they hadn’t noticed before. This is where the Deep Museum exists.


Amanda Snyder, “The Monuments” (1965)/Portland Art Museum

By Graham W. Bell

This may be the first time that the location of the basement gallery in the Portland Art Museum has had a strong connection to the practice of the artist being exhibited. The demure Amanda Tester Snyder retrospective going on now (through October 7th) feels right at home in the subterranean, many (if not all) of the works having been made in the late artist’s own basement studio.

Quiet but deceptively complex, the show traverses Snyder’s career from the the 1930s until her death in 1980. Working during a time of great upheaval and innovation in the art world, the paintings nonetheless draw upon earlier eras, first Impressionism and then into Post-Impressionism and Expressionism, the work of an artist who both studied her predecessors and was aware of her contemporaries.

Accompanied by a small publication, Amanda Snyder: Portland Modernist focuses on what curator Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson terms the artist’s “unforced naïveté” [page 39] and a preoccupation with Snyder’s “narrow, domestic world” [wall text]. This personality emerges from  the variety of styles, subjects and media. There are no grand gestures of earth-shattering avant-gardism, but playful studies in movement, collage and abstraction.