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Top 10 Daily Art Moments

When the pandemic began and the Museum first closed its doors earlier this year, our curators took to social media like never before. With galleries closed, our Daily Art Moment was launched—offering followers a daily dose of art accompanied by descriptions, quotes from artists, and other insights. While we aren’t posting quite as often anymore, be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook or catch up on our blog


Top 10 Daily Art Moments

(As measured by Instagram engagement rates, starting from highest)

1.

Photographs of two paintings of Mount St. Helens. Both are in ornate frames in differing styles. The first, by Grace Russell Fountain, depicts a peaked mountain covered in shades of white, gray, and muted pink snow at center. Smaller hills run horizontally in front of the mountain at its base, from right to left, in shades of blues and greens. Steep hills slope downward from each side towards the center of the painting. Two tall, sparse pine trees stand at the lower-left foreground. Between the sloping hills is a flat, smooth body of water reflecting the surrounding foliage and the muted gray sky. A bit of rocky shore is visible at lower right in the foreground. Bright shiny gold frame surrounds the painting. The painting at the right, by Clara Jane Stephens, shows the mountain situated left of center in the top third of the painting, its peak almost touching the top of the painting. The mountain is painted with thick, textured brushstrokes in whites and pale pinks. The bottom two-thirds of the painting suggests a landscape consisting of heavy brushstrokes in shades of blues and grays. In the foreground at right stands a telephone pole: vertical post with a bar across its top and another about halfway down. The paint is applied thickly and roughly creating a sense of texture. A thick, deep brown frame surrounds this painting.

Daily Art Moment: Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art highlighted “two distinct impressions of the volcano’s beautiful conical shape before its radical transformation on May 18, 1980…created about thirty years apart by two of Oregon’s most distinguished women artists,” wrote Dawson Carr, Ph.D., The Janet and Richard Geary Curator of European Art: Grace Russell Fountain (American, 1858–1942), Mount St. Helens, ca. 1890, Oil on board, Collection of Matt and Judy Wilder; and Clara Jane Stephens (American, born England, 1877–1952). Mount St. Helens, ca. 1920, Oil on board; Collection of Jane Knechtel. As our marvelous Volcano! exhibition draws to a close January 3, you can continue to view these paintings along with other superb works inspired by the mountain in our online exhibition.

2.

A vertical rectangular portrait of two male figures shown from the waist up wearing 18th century fashions. The figure on the right is seen mostly from the side and seems to be in the act of turning to face the viewer. His hands are outstretched holding a coral bead necklace up to the other figure. He is light skinned with short brown cropped hair under a blue turban-like headdress that is skewed to the left. He is smiling with lips parted and teeth showing and has soft, youthful features. He wears an open neck, collarless white shirt with a reddish-pink coat and a blue shawl draped over his arms and shoulders. White full, gathered sleeves and shirt cuffs extend past his jacket at his wrists. The figure on the left faces the viewer wearing a white ruffled edged mob cap with a pink bow on top, a mustard yellow dress with a pink stomacher and lacing, with a white ruffle seen at the neckline. This figure is light skinned, has short dark hair, heavy brows and an upturned nose. His forehead and face are lined and his mouth is partially open showing he is missing a tooth. His neck is muscular and he has a goiter.

Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760–1849). Falling Mist Waterfall at Mount Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province, from the series A Tour of Waterfalls in Various Provinces, 1832/1833, Color woodblock print on paper; The Mary Andrews Ladd Collection of the Portland Art Museum, 32.441. “This is one of Katsushika Hokusai’s most extraordinary print designs,” wrote Jeannie Kenmotsu, Ph.D., now The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Asian Art. “It was made at a time when travel was becoming increasingly accessible and landscape—especially ‘famous places’ (meisho)—were a popular subject in woodblock prints.”

3.

A black-and-white photograph of a young African American woman standing turned to the right in a three-quarter view, head facing forward, gazing directly at the viewer. She wears a white, floor-length gown with high neck and long sleeves. Her hair is swept up, piled on the crown of her head, and adorned with several flowers. Her expression is neutral, her head slightly tilted to the left. She holds a large, full bouquet of roses, carnations, and ferns whose long stems are tied with a ribbon. The flowers are angled down toward the floor while the stems point up and away from the viewer. The bottom of her gown ends in several tiers of ruffled flounces. Behind the figure is a painted backdrop depicting drapery and part of a stone mantel. A wide, tan border surrounds the long, rectangular portrait, showing bumped and creased corners and staining at bottom. A handwritten inscription reads: “1st blk. graduate // from high school // in Hastings, Nebraska // about 8 yrs. before grandma Nonie”. A logo reading “Payne Hastings, Nebr” is printed in the bottom right corner of the border.

Payne Studio (American, active late 19th and early 20th centuries). Untitled (Graduate in White Dress with White Flowers), ca. 1900, Gelatin silver print; Portland Art Museum Purchase: Photography Acquisition Fund, 2015.121.2. “This photograph celebrates a significant educational achievement in this young woman’s life during an era when only about ten percent of all teenagers in the country graduated from high school,” Julia Dolan, Ph.D., The Minor White Curator of Photography, wrote in May. “Congratulations to the Class of 2020 from your friends at the Portland Art Museum; we honor your achievements and resilience!”

4.

Daily Art Moment: American Flag: “As we are seeing statues of racist historical figures being toppled in cities across the country, my thoughts jump over to the American flag,” wrote Sara Krajewski, The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “A singular symbol of the idea and the ideals that the United States represents, it also speaks of our history of oppression and the constant fight to attain a reality that upholds democracy, freedom, equality, and justice for everyone.” Krajewski selected artworks in the Museum’s collections by Gordon Parks, Fritz Scholder, Deborah Faye Lawrence, Jasper Johns, and Corita Kent “to offer reflections on the experiences of conflict and hope wrapped up in this object.” Pictured: Gordon Parks (American, 1912–2006). American Gothic, Washington, D.C., 1942 (negative), printed later.Gelatin silver print; Collection of Portland Art Museum, Gift of Ashira and Richard Belsey, ST1999.2.1.

5.

Biophilia, Lynn Aldrich, size 42 x 30 x 28 inches, sponges, brushes, scrubbers, scouring pads, mop heads, plungers, plastic, plumbing parts, wood. A sculpture composed of cleaning implements in yellows, blues and greens with splashes of red, pink, copper and silver and arranged to resemble a squat column of sea life. Beginning at the bottom, flat dark green scrubbing pads layer to form a rounded base. Steel wool is applied at right forming circles that suggest sea anemones. Blue scrubbers and dish sponges layer along with copper mesh scrubbers, nylon scrubbers in pink and green. Half circles of sponges in yellow, and shades of green are stacked to resemble striped plant life. Green plastic mats with suction cups are stacked and layered at left. Above, two blue and white bottle brushes protrude next to a large round, grey mop head and steel wool scrubbers. Yellow and blue dish sponges and pot scrubbers are folded and clustered to suggest more plant life. Blue, green, and yellow rubber gloves are grouped at right with the fingers jutting out from sculpture. At the upper right of sculpture, a cluster of flat, red scrubbing pads layer with blue and white bottle brushes. Near top center is a larger light brown natural sponge. The sculpture is topped with three bottle brushes: two white with green sponge tops and a royal blue one at left.

Lynn Aldrich (American, born 1944). Biophilia, 2007. Sponges, brushes, scrubbers, scouring pads, mop heads, plungers, plastic, plumbing parts, wood; Collection of Portland Art Museum, Gift of Jereann Chaney, 2018.20.1. © Lynn Aldrich. “Artist Lynn Aldrich describes this work as a ‘miniature explosion’ created to reflect the many diverse life forms of a coral reef. She bends, cuts, and links these ordinary, everyday cleaning tools, shaping them into representations of vibrant sea creatures,” wrote Modern and Contemporary Art curator Sara Krajewski. “Aldrich is drawn to these ‘worthless’ materials (as she describes them) and transforms them into a sharp statement on the need to clean up and repair the damage we have wrought on fragile ecosystems.”

6.

Vibrant yellow background with playful black lines depicting a tiger amidst flora ready to pounce.

Paul Elie Ranson (French, 1862–1909), Tigre dans le jungle (Tiger in the Jungle), from L’Estampe originale (The Original Print), Album I, 1893, Color lithograph on cream simili-japon paper; Portland Art Museum Purchase: Funds provided by the Jean Y. Roth Memorial Fund, the Graphic Arts Council, and Pamela Berg, 2014.156. “As a curator, I carry around a huge mental image bank of art,” wrote Mary Weaver Chapin, Ph.D., Curator of Prints and Drawings. “This professional hazard means that just about everything reminds me of a print, drawing, or painting. So when my family joined the millions of others watching the controversial and bizarre miniseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness on Netflix, my thoughts turned to my favorite big cats in the Graphic Arts Collection at the Portland Art Museum,” including prints by Ranson, Evert van Muyden, Eugène Delacroix, and Beth Van Hoesen.

7.

A lone weeping willow tree and its reflection; decaying tree stump against a black background; tree blowing to the left against a gold background; white flowers and an open book on a green table and two chairs; portrait of a bearded man with only his head and large, folded hands visible; red twisted hands raised up to pick blue beans.

Matsubara Naoko (Japanese, active Canada, born 1937). Solitude, Decaying Beauty, Wind, Spring Visitor, Thoreau, Drop of Life, from the portfolio Solitude, 1971, Color woodcut prints on hōsho pure kōzo paper; Collection of Portland Art Museum, Gift of Marge Riley, 88.22.1,2,7,9,10,11 © 1971 Matsubara Naoko. In April,  as the pandemic deepened, Japanese Art curator Dr. Jeannie Kenmotsu highlighted a woodcut print by Matsubara Naoko from a portfolio created at Walden Pond and titled after Henry David’s Thoreau’s 1854 essay “Solitude.” “In these expressive images, she captures the fleeting moments of daily life spent alone,” Dr. Kenmotsu wrote. “She also seems to understand both the sharpness and richness of genuine solitude. A willow weeping over its own watery reflection is simultaneously majestic and yet full of pathos. An empty chair is a poignant reminder of those whose absence we feel most keenly.”

8.

A vertical painting featuring a full-length male figure standing with his hands clasped in front. His left foot is placed in front of the other pointing to the right of the picture. He wears a cap atop a long face with a pointed chin. His ears protrude from either side of his head, bits of black hair poking out by his ears and at his forehead. Large dark eyes look off to the viewer’s left. He wears what appears to be a long-sleeve, high-collared white shirt. When examined more closely, the white shirt as well as his cap and shoes are made up of many colors in addition to white—grays, blues, green, yellows, tan, orange, and dashes of red applied in broad, rough brushstrokes. Similarly, his baggy, brownish pants are painted with strokes of brown, black, yellow, red, orange, and tan. To the left of the figure stands a brown chair with ornate slatted back. Behind the figure is a field of mottled red tones making up most of the width of the painting, suggesting a curtain. A narrow swath of reds, browns, yellows complete the right side of the painting running from top to bottom.

Chaïm Soutine (Russian, 1893–1943). Le Petit Pâtissier (The Little Pastry Cook), ca. 1921, Oil on canvas; Portland Art Museum Purchase: Ella M. Hirsch Fund, 40.30. “I adore this painting,” wrote Modern & Contemporary Art curator Sara Krajewski, echoing the sentiments of generations of enchanted Museum visitors. “Full of beautiful contradictions, it seems to stand outside of time while it remains so specific.” Krajewski quoted New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl on Soutine’s magical mystery: “Let slide the weary art-historical narratives that lock Soutine into categories of style and sequences of influence. Only look.” 

9.

A horizontal rectangular black-and-white photograph of a young Black woman being detained by two male police officers. The woman is at center, flanked by the officers. Each holds the woman by her outstretched arms. The woman faces front but her head is turned to the right. She has dark skin, short wavy hair and wears a bright white, round earring. Her expression is neutral. Over her dark dress, she wears a light-colored cardigan sweater which is torn at the shoulder and front. The officers wear their police uniform of light shirts, dark pants, helmets, dark bow ties, duty belts with straps crossing the chest from shoulder to belt, holsters, and guns. The officer at left uses two hands to hold the woman’s arms, one hand on her upper arm and one hand on her wrist. The officer at right holds the woman’s wrist. Behind the three figures we see cars of the time, and a large movie marquee. The marquee reads “SUSPENSE! EXCITEMENT! SUSAN HAYWARD IN ‘BACK STREET ‘ AND ‘DAMN THE DEFIANT.' " People are crowded beneath the marquee.

Bruce Davidson (American, born 1933). Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, Gelatin silver print; Collection of Portland Art Museum, Gift of an Anonymous Donor, 2018.75.326. © Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos. In July, as federal troops entered Portland and began injuring and detaining protestors, Photography curator Dr. Julia Dolan discussed “the deeply important but dangerous and ethically complex work of photographing at protests,” highlighting Davidson’s image of high school student Mattie Howard’s arrest during Civil Rights–era protests. “It is critical to bear witness to the struggle for Black lives and record protests for the world to see,” she wrote, but with law enforcement now using advanced photographic technologies to identify and prosecute protestors, “how can photographers, or anyone present at protests using recording devices, ethically document these flashpoint moments in our city and country’s histories?”

10.

Stylized figure adorned with black-and-white triangular patterns. Details include reddish circular earrings similar to the shape of the lips, a long ponytail, and whip.

Virgil Ortiz (American and Cochiti, born 1969). Clay Figure, from “Tourniquet” Series, 2009, White clay slip, red clay slip, and black (wild spinach) paint on Cochiti red clay; Portland Art Museum Purchase: Funds provided by Elizabeth Cole Butler Auction Proceeds, 2015.49.1. “This figurine has somehow become my unofficial mascot since I started this position in 2019,” wrote Kathleen Ash-Milby, Curator of Native American Art. “She is an example of a powerful woman who is also beautiful and stylish. You might not even notice she is holding a whip! She reminds me to be brave and confident as I face many new responsibilities and challenges, but also to have fun.”