Louise Palmiero

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.

Continues…