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Poster Project: George Johanson

Portland-based artist George Johanson once said, “I feel like I’m doing a portrait over and over again of the city.” Following Mount St. Helens’ eruption in 1980, the volcano became a motif in those portraits. Sometimes it sends a black column of smoke into the sky. Other times, as in this glorious print featured in the exhibition Volcano! and in the Poster Project, the dazzling eruption appears celebratory, like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Johanson invites us to revel in this tension, that something could be at once “menacing and a visual feast.”

Create a portrait of the place where you live as you’re experiencing it during the current shutdown. Your place might be as small as your bedroom or as large as your neighborhood or city. Begin by making a list of the defining characteristics of the place. Then, think about how to translate those characteristics into visual form. Consider landmarks, buildings, the natural world, human, or animal activity. What makes this place itself? 

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The Poster Project is supported by the PGE Foundation.