VIRTUAL WALK-THROUGH: Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art

VIRTUAL WALK-THROUGH: Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art


May the 18th, 1980 was one of the epic days
in the history of the Pacific Northwest, at least in the modern history of the Pacific
Northwest. The exhibition is the first survey of images
of Mount St. Helens, and related matters, that’s ever been undertaken. Volcanoes can make really beautiful mountains
and that’s particularly true of stratovolcanoes like Mount St. Helens and like Mount Hood. Volcanoes that are built up very slowly in
layers, or strata, so that they form these beautiful conical shapes rising majestically from the
horizon. The triangle is one of the perfect geometric
forms. And so these stratovolcanoes have attracted
artists wherever volcanoes are located. In opposition to the period before 1980, Mount
St. Helens never got so much attention from artists until it blew, and then it started
getting quite a bit. Henk Pander has been Portland’s history painter
for more than 50 years now. And when the mountain blew, he was completely
taken with it. And he’s one of the Portland artists who made
it a long lasting subject in his art, both the eruptions and the aftermath. Photography was the ideal medium, it can simultaneously
depict vast vistas, and fine detail, and minute variations in light. And black and white photography was even more
ideal for the subject because of course the lush green and blue of the landscape became
monochrome after the eruption. I read in Ursula Le Guin’s wonderful essay
“Coming Back to the Lady”, she referred to Mount St. Helens as the Lady, and she was
more than a bit obsessed with it. But I learned from that essay that she made
pastels and drawings of Mount St. Helens, so those are part of the exhibition as well. The last room of the exhibition deals with
Mount St. Helens as an active landscape. A landscape that is ever-changing. This last room of the exhibition treats some
of the beautiful new landscapes that were created by the eruption. Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art explores a great cycle
of volcanic destruction and regeneration, through images that record the majestic mountain
before 1980, through artists’ responses to nature’s most visually spectacular display
of power, and finally, images that show the strong resurgence of life in the intervening
years.

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