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Daily Art Moment: Barbara Noah

“For the 40th anniversary of the great eruption of Mount St. Helens, here is a wonderful work by Seattle artist Barbara Noah. It is based on a United States Geological Survey photograph of the eruption plume. Barbara describes its creation:

‘When Mount St. Helens first erupted with small emissions, I visited frequently, driving up logging roads to photograph it. I was amazed by the sublime spectacle but also amused by the picnic atmosphere of crowds in lawn chairs lined up to watch it like a reality TV show. It became personified, a mighty and even benevolent sentient being communing with onlookers.

On the morning of May 18, 1980, I was in Seattle. When I drove down later in the day, access to the volcano was blocked. The mood was somber, no longer celebratory. The glorious spectacle had been transformed. The volcano, a dispassionate force of nature, had taken on a new persona. Tag III represents this transformation through the lens of pareidolia, which is the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist, e.g., seeing faces in things. The ensuing altered and anthropomorphic image alludes to Mount St. Helens’s transformations: from the ridiculous to the sublime, and from Muppet to monster.’

Our exhibition, Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art, features artworks created before and since the great eruption. It captures one brief cycle in the ongoing story of destruction and regeneration at Mount St. Helens. Please take the opportunity to visit the virtual exhibition.”

Dawson W. Carr, The Janet and Richard Geary Curator of European Art

Barbara Noah (American, born 1949). Tag III, 1981. Oil on photo linen. Collection of the artist, Seattle, © 1981 Barbara Noah, for changes and additions to a Mount St. Helens image courtesy of USGS, L2019.93.1