I jumped on the opportunity to celebrate today’s international holiday and visited the wonderful Portland Art Museum. About 3 blocks off campus, I hadn’t actually gotten around to visiting it yet and was happy for a reason to get my butt over there! Across the street is the Oregon Historical Society Museum and if I hadn’t recently walked through and seen everything they’re showing right now, I would have gladly gone again. I know some people find museums boring, but I love being able to see and learn new things and think that they’re actually quite a good use of an afternoon! If I was in Albany this weekend, I would show you all our adorable little Regional History Museum, but alas, you’ll have to get my insights on a legitimate one. ; )
One of my favorite things about the Art Museum is how well the galleries showcase the art featured in that room. The lighting, wall color, spacing, frame choice, and bench placement create a setting that allows the artwork to be the focus and the room is merely the medium. After learning about Hitler’s Degenerate Art Show (look it up, it’s rather interesting history), I now know how important those kinds of aesthetic supporting features can be to the way art is accepted. Here are some of my favorite gallery scenes.
Throughout the museum I saw a lot of amazing pieces of art and some that were a little lackluster like a 3-D plain black box titled Black Box. And of the amazing pieces, I picked out two that I thought were my very favorite that I’ve never seen before.
The first is titled And The Spell Was Broken Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Brett Reichman. It’s not unusual for artists to experiment with color and although the linear movement and color distribution is simple, there’s something mesmerizing about this, and it’s not just the swinging clocks. I can’t even explain why this is so striking to me, but it’s so beautiful. And as much as I tried to manipulate the colors of the photo to be true to the real life experience, it can’t capture the vividness of each color in its relationship to the next. I looked at this one for quite a while, and would have lingered longer if a rambunctious group of teenagers hadn’t forced me along.
This next one is powerful in its provocativeness, and although it has an intense, rather unsettling message, it was one of the most thought-provoking pieces I saw all day. Edward Keinholz created The Bear Chair and apparently the Portland Art Museum has received heat for keeping this piece on display and actually has to post a warning sign for mature content at the entrance of this gallery. I know there’s no way that I can show it in detail through a picture so I’ll try to describe the details that make this sculpture so poignant. Under the bear’s chair is a life size doll tied to the legs of the chair and although she has no real expression, just a blank doll’s face, her movement seems to mock both attempts to struggle and apathy as if she’s given up trying. Etched into the mirror table, it says “If you ever tell, I’ll hurt your mama real, real bad.” To add to the icy, violent atmosphere, there is a dead bird, mercilessly flattened under one of the bear’s boots. The whole piece looks as if it’s melting, with drops of watery color forming pools on the table and the floor where the girl is captive. It’s a piece that makes you hate the bear, hate what’s happening to the girl, and in a sense, hate the artist for putting it on display. But on the other side, it makes you think; it’s real; this happens; sexual exploitation is a problem that needs to be solved. It makes you question the injustice in society and makes you secretly so relieved that there isn’t a bear in your life.
If you’re in the Portland area, I recommend that you visit the Bear Chair in person and make your own judgement. It’s on display until Mid August and although it’s hard to look at and really examine, I feel like that made the whole museum visit worth it. And I’m glad that I was alone when I did and there were no distractions so that I could just think. I imagine that that was the point of Keinholz’s work – to make you think.