Julie Green

America, from inside out

Inspired by conceptualist Joseph Beuys, a show at the Linfield gallery explores the nation's history, identity, and legacy of trauma

In 1974, nearly a year after Sacheen Littlefeather spoke at the Oscars on behalf of indigenous people, the German Conceptual artist Joseph Beuys flew into New York City and was met at the airport by assistants who wrapped him in felt and drove him to a gallery in SoHo. There, he spent the next three days in an enclosed space with a coyote and a supply of newspapers — the Wall Street Journal, no less, the journalistic flagship for American finance capitalism.

Beuys’ iconic piece of postmodern performance art, entitled I Like America and America Likes Me, isn’t as well-known as Littlefeather’s speech, which she cut short before being escorted off-stage past a furious John Wayne, who was in the wings. But both had the same goal of highlighting the inconvenient truth of the genocide of indigenous peoples.

Right-hand section of Daniel Duford’s John Brown triptych: “The General and the Supermax,” 2018; Watercolor and graphite on paper.

The numbers are horrifying. Hard numbers are difficult to come by, of course, but when Columbus landed in the “new” world in 1492, there’s a consensus that the Western Hemisphere had an indigenous population of anywhere from 50 to 100 million. Two centuries later, that population had been slashed by as much as 90 percent. It’s that historical context within which the current exhibit at Linfield College’s art gallery in McMinnville finds itself: America Likes Me, organized by gallery curator Josephine Zarkovich, was inspired by and “is in conversation with” Beuys’ seminal 1974 show. The exhibition runs through Oct. 5 and features work by six Oregon-based artists “whose work explores ideas of shared histories, American identity, and the legacy of trauma.”


Julie Green: Yielding to the capricious outcome

Artist Julie Green's installation at Upfor Gallery gradually becomes familiar and powerful


The world is blue at its edges and in its depths. This blue is the light that got lost. Light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us. It disperses among the molecules of the air, it scatters…. This light that does not touch us, does not travel the whole distance, the light that gets lost, gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the color blue. — Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Upfor Gallery’s current exhibition of Julie Green’s installation My New Blue Friends is striking and quietly inviting. Deceptively minimal, Green’s installation taps into the senses, conjuring up subjects of home, food, and memory. The undercurrents of labor and devotion in the works are evident throughout the exhibition, which at first feels physically vacant until its content begins to expands in its space over time.

Julie Green's "My New Blue Friends" installation. Photo: Upfor Gallery

Julie Green’s “My New Blue Friends” installation. Photo: Upfor Gallery

Set apart from the sterile white box of most gallery shows, Green’s installation covers the gallery walls with 200 sheets of mulberry paper. These sheets, covered in seashell forms painted in sumi ink, create a wallpaper for the gallery. The playfulness of the Pattern and Decoration movement sets in: all functional surfaces are game for being painted and designed on. Kim MacConnel’s painted drapes and sofas come to mind as well as Joyce Kozloff’s An Interior Decorated (1978-80), teetering on the narrow distinctions of decorative and fine arts.

A meditative spirit is also seen in the repetition of forms. The hours dedicated to the wallpaper, the gradation of the concentration of ink from deep blacks to pale grays, the uneven sizes of the shells, and their wavering densities, add to their form as both an oscillating backdrop to Green’s paintings and a foundation for the installation.