Savonarola

Kill a painting, save a world

Like Banksy, Portland's Elisabeth Jones Art Center plots to destroy a painting. Unlike Banksy, its goals are global and environmental.

On November 1, the day after Halloween and roughly three weeks after the titillating shredding of the Banksy painting Girl With Balloon during an auction at Sotheby’s in London, a large blue and green painting will be destroyed at the Elisabeth Jones Art Center. The painting, Danger, Little One, features a large pair of bears in the polar lights looming over a small polar bear on a melting ice floe. It faces a grisly ending: It’ll be pierced, jabbed, sanded, attacked with power tools that whine like dentists’ drills, smashed to smithereens.

Banksy see, Banksy do? To be fair, the Portland art center got there first.

“Danger, Little One”: to be terminated November 1.

In early August, two months before The Shredding That Shook The Art World (although Banksy had planned it earlier), the Elisabeth Jones center had destroyed another large painting, Peaceable Kingdom, which also depicted polar bears, these ones swimming happily along with fish and sea mammals in a dream of non-imperiled status. And John Teply, the center’s director, has done this sort of thing before. In the 1980s, in Santa Cruz County, California, he created a 30-foot-long outdoor painting, Wingspread, and then had it bulldozed as onlookers watched, aghast.

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… and oddly, as a pitched political battle sweeps the nation, life goes on. How will the arts world respond to the extraordinary events of the day? How, if at all, will this most divisive and pugilistic of administrations respond to the world of art? Shoes could drop at any moment: the administration has already stated its intent to kill the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, and to end federal funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. While Nero threatens to cut off the fiddles, here are a few highlights of what’s going on in and around town.

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IT’S FIRST THURSDAY this week, when many galleries open their new monthly shows, so visual art is on our minds. The Portland Art Museum has opened Rodin: The Human Experience, a major show of 52 bronzes, and Constructing Identity, an important overview of historical and contemporary work by African American artists.

Louis Bunce, “Apple”, 1968. Oil on canvas. 41” x 48”//Courtesy Hallie Ford Museum of Art

And the invaluable Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem has opened Louis Bunce: Dialogue with Modernism, a retrospective on the late Oregon artist, who Paul Sutinen, in his ArtsWatch review of the show, identifies as a key figure in the city’s cultural life, the catalyst for making Portland a city of modern art. “It is an important show,” Sutinen declares. “It is a great show. It is accompanied by a monograph on Bunce by Roger Hull. It is important. It is great.” And then he explains why. See the sort of thing that the Savonarolas of the federal purse are eager to upend.

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