Louise Palermo

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 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


STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER


The bees build in the crevices
Of loosening masonry, and there
The mother birds bring grubs and flies.
My wall is loosening; honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare
.”

W.B. Yeats wrote these words in the sixth section of his poem Meditations in Time of Civil War, longing for bees. The structures were crumbling, symbol of the destruction wrought by Ireland’s civil war in the 1920s, and rebuilding was direly needed. I was reminded of this poem and the restorative role it assigns to bees, when meeting with Steven Muñoz last week for a studio visit and an art talk in White Salmon, Wash.

Steven Muñoz, printmaker and director of the Lee Arts Center, Arlington, Va.

The printmaker is the fourth of several artists who I visited during their participation in the Exquisite Gorge project, which accumulates individual wood prints for a final printing by a steam roller in late August at Maryhill Museum. If the wait until then seems too long, you can attend an earlier opening of what promises to be a different, extraordinary print exhibition on July 13th at the museum:


Muñoz is a man who walks, talks, breathes, and, for all I know, sleeps and dreams bees. A mere century after Yeats’ lament, with the structures crumbling again, this time destroying the very fabric of nature on which the bees and all who rely on them depend, his work is a call to action.

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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 1: Getting started

Maryhill Museum embarks on a mission to create a giant collaborative print depicting 220 miles along the Columbia River. Part 1 in a series.

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER

I have on previous occasions written on this or that aspect of Maryhill Museum of Art in Washington, which I like to visit as often as I can. An eclectic collection of paintings, fashion, artifacts of some Eastern European aristocracy (Queen Marie of Romania), chess sets, native American basketry, 80 or so works of art by Rodin, displayed in an old manor house with a fascinating history of its founder, beautiful grounds and a sculpture park, high above the Columbia Gorge – it has all drawn me for many a decade. In fact, I remember when they still had peacocks roaming the manicured lawns and discreetly placed signs, warning you of rattlesnake danger, should you step off the paths…

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