James Luna

Crow’s Shadow’s art of the land

The Hallie Ford Museum's generous retrospective of 25 years at the innovative eastern Oregon print center reveals a vital sense of place

Ghost Camp, a four-piece suite of lithographs by James Lavadour from 2002, all but jumps off the wall as you wander through the generous new exhibit Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts at 25 at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem. Lavadour prints and paintings have a way of leaping like that: they have what curators and dealers like to call “wall power.”

But something else is going on in this suite, too. In that familiar Lavadour way Ghost Camp is partly abstract and partly taken from the spacious hilly land of eastern Oregon and Washington near Pendleton, where he lives. A scrawl of lines seems almost arbitrary until you look a little closer and realize they are deft intimations of shapes on the horizon or buildings breaking up the open spaces. Searing streaks of color suggest trees, red and glowing and perhaps – who knows, in a runaway fire season like this one? – on the way to being charred.

James Lavadour (Walla Walla, b. 1951), “Ghost Camp,” 2002, ed. 16, suite of four, four-color lithographs with graphite pencil on Arches 88 white paper, 34 1/4 x 43 3/4 inches overall, CSP 02-114 a, b, c, d. Photo: Dale Peterson

Oh: and, sticking up from the top right print like a towering forest snag, the jagged teeth of a giant crosscut logging blade grind relentlessly at the sky. The suite is inspired by Lavadour’s memories of a forest he used to wander as a child – a forest that’s since been clear-cut, and essentially no longer exists. The lithographs are at once an honoring of the past, a preservation of history, a documentation of a present state of mind, an act of beauty, and a lament. The more you look the more you see; the more you see the more you feel.

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It’s the final week of February, which means we’re entering last-chance territory for a lot of gallery shows, even with that bonus leap day tagged to the end. So like the White Rabbit trying to catch up on a few very important dates, last week I hit the streets. For starters, I walked into the artist-run Waterstone Gallery for the first time since it recently moved into the old Quintana Gallery space at 124 Northwest Ninth Avenue. The gallery is long and lean and crisp and clean and welcoming, with a side opening into the Annie Meyer Gallery next door: in its heyday, the late lamented Quintana occupied both spaces.

Shu-Ju Wang, "Annuvadah," gouache, color pencil, Print Gocco, cold wax on paper mounted on board, 8.5 x 6.5 inches.

Shu-Ju Wang, “Annuvadah,” gouache, color pencil, Print Gocco, cold wax on paper mounted on board, 8.5 x 6.5 inches.

Shu-Ju Wang was handling the gallery that day – the members take turns – and her own show, Imbue/Imbuere, was installed in the gallery’s front half, where it will remain through next Sunday, the 28th. In the back half was a selection of work by other gallery members, many of whom reside at that fertile intersection where craft and art meet. There were carved pieces by R. Keaney Rathbun and Stan Peterson that were appealingly reminiscent of folk art, for instance, and a big brawny mixed media piece by Ann Lindsay. The move’s been good, Wang said, maybe because Powell’s City of Books is that much closer, and because the gallery now has a couple of popular daytime eateries, Pearl Bakery and Fuller’s Coffee Shop, on either end of its block. At any rate, people are stopping in, and if the number of red dots on the wall labels is any indication, they’re doing some buying, too.

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