Columbia Gorge

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

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Exquisite Gorge 8 & 9: The Map Makers

As the Aug. 24 print date for Maryhill Museum's Columbia River project fast approaches, its artists think about the mix of maps and territory


STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER


Cartography is the study and practice of making maps. Combining science, aesthetics, and technique, cartography builds on the premise that reality can be modeled in ways that communicate spatial information effectively. – Wikipedia

Maps. You know, those paper things that half of us can read and half of us cannot; they pointed the way to our destinations before the arrival of talking machines that tell us how to proceed – and then reroute. Maps that were, in theory, supposed to adhere to “the empiricist paradigm of cartography”—that cartography’s only ethic is to be accurate, precise, and complete. Of course, that’s not what many maps are about – instead they often serve as a tool for persuading us to accept a particular view of the world, and not just geographically.

Mapping the territory.

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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

Molly Gaston Johnson and her river of wood.

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER


Maryhill Museum of Art’s planned print day of its Exquisite Gorge project is approaching fast. Hopefully there is a chance to portray each of the participating artists and their work before August 24. Let me introduce today another one of the print makers who I had a chance to talk to in the last several days.

Molly Gaston Johnson, Printmaker and Educator

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


Imagine being told since the time you sat on your father’s knees that you are a descendant of Lewis & Clark. Lewis AND Clark! Being regaled with lively tales of hardship and adventure, what is a little girl to do but fall in love with the outdoors and embrace most forms of risk-seeking ventures – it is practically written into your DNA. Well, perhaps not practically, but theoretically. Who knows about the factual truth of the family lore?

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Exquisite Gorge 6: The Guardian

Greg Archuleta, artist and cultural policy analyst for the Grand Ronde tribes, links past and future in Maryhill's Columbia Gorge print project


STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER


Last week I met a guardian of both the past and the future.

Greg Archuleta, Artist and Cultural Policy Analyst for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde

A conversation with Greg Archuleta, artist, educator, and now Cultural Policy Analyst for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, made his calling abundantly clear. On the one hand, as an artist and educator, he is focused on preserving the traditions and knowledge of the past. On the other hand, he is also intensely engaged, both as an educator and a community activist, in protecting conditions needed to extend that past into the future.

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Exquisite Gorge 5: The Alchemist

Snippets of words, sounds, slivers, shreds, scraps, slices, morsels and fragments: Artist Mike McGovern transforms a stretch of the Columbia


STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER




Alchemy – noun : a power or process that changes or transforms something in a mysterious or impressive way.” (Merriam-Webster) 

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THE ENGLISH WORD ALCHEMY has its historical roots in the Greek term chēmeia (the Arabic article al was added later when the word traveled across the Mediterranean world), referring to fluids and pouring. Long before the science of chemistry entered the scene, alchemists mixed liquids to create gold or cure diseases, seeking some sort of transformative power.

Mike McGovern, printmaker and professor in the art department at PCC Rock Creek Campus.

The term came to mind when I visited with Mike McGovern, yet another artist selected by the curatorial committee at Maryhill Museum for the Exquisite Gorge project, tasked with providing a wood block print representing a particular part of the Columbia Gorge. He will be among all those who gather on August 24 at the museum for the public printing of the aligned 8×6-foot blocks by means of a steamroller.

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Exquisite Gorge 3: The Listener

Roots music, laughter, an osprey snaring a computer mouse: In Part 3 of Maryhill's river-art project, Neal Harrington imprints on The Dalles.

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER

How does an artist decide which questions to raise and which, if any, answers to provide? How does an educator reach an audience and communicate innovative ideas hoping to stir up responses that foster curiosity and open or change minds?

Neal Harrington, printmaker, musician, associate professor of art and gallery director at Arkansas Tech University

I wondered about this when meeting Neal Harrington, the third of the printmakers to be portrayed for Maryhill Museum’s Exquisite Gorge project: To recap, he, too, is one of 11 artists who in collaboration with community partners are carving woodblocks filled with ideas about individual sections of the Columbia River. All of the blocks will be aligned and printed by a steam roller at the museum on August 24.

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Exquisite Gorge 2: The Witness

Woodcarving in Goldendale with Roger Peet in Maryhill Museum's 220-mile Columbia River printmaking project. Part 2 in a series.

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER

HOW DO YOU TELL A STORY that is not necessarily your own? How do you draw a landscape that did not always belong to you? How do you document reality without appropriating someone else’s history? These questions pose themselves to any artist, anthropologist, historian who is aware of the limitations of their own perspectives.

These kinds of of questions also arise for me when constructing profiles of people who I find interesting, whose work I admire, whose politics I likely share, and who I get to talk to only once.

Roger Peet, printmaker and muralist

Case in point is today’s portrait of one of the artists chosen for Maryhill Museum’s Exquisite Gorge project: printmaker and muralist Roger Peet, who I met last Saturday during a public woodblock carving session at the Goldendale Public Library, a few miles north of the museum on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. He is one of 11 artists who in collaboration with community partners are carving woodblocks filled with ideas about individual sections of the Columbia River. All of the blocks will be aligned and printed by a steam roller at the museum on August 24.


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


During our short conversation before the public portion of the event, I was quickly convinced that the artist is someone who would ask himself the questions outlined above. His section of the river ranges from the Deschutes River to the John Day River, including The Dalles Dam, one of four dams built along this stretch of the Columbia between the 1930s and 1970s that displaced Native American communities and wiped out traditional fishing grounds. We ended up in no time discussing the historical, political and environmental implications of that structure as well as other effects of human interference with nature.

Yet we also talked about whose story this truly is, embedded in the context of all other assaults on Native American rights, and how one cannot usurp that telling.

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