Emmet Gowin , Debris Flow at the Northern Base of Mount St. Helens, Looking South, 1983.
Emmet Gowin (American, born 1941), Debris Flow at the Northern Base of Mount St. Helens, Looking South, 1983, gelatin silver print, © Emmet Gowin, Courtesy of Pace/MacGill, New York.
View the Online Exhibition

Volcano!

Mount St. Helens in Art

Feb 8, 2020 – Jan 3, 2021

Main Building, Floor 1

Museum From Home

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the great eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, the Portland Art Museum is proud to present an exhibition that examines artists’ responses to the awesome beauty and power of the volcano. From pre-contact Native American objects to contemporary paintings, drawings, and photographs, the show will trace the mountain’s changing image and significance for local peoples. Native Americans used the substance of the volcano—mainly basalt and obsidian—to create objects of great beauty and utility. While Mount St. Helens featured in their creation stories, no depictions of the volcano in the visual arts are known before the mid-1840s, when explorers Henry James Warre and Paul Kane traveled through the area. As luck would have it, their visits coincided with the volcano’s last eruptive period and they recorded the venting of steam and ash on the north side, presaging its destruction on May 18, 1980.

Beginning about 1870, when the volcano was quiet once again, Portland’s leading landscape artists celebrated the picturesque beauty of the nearly symmetrical cone rising from the surrounding landscape. The exhibition includes fine examples created for Pacific Northwest homes by Eliza Barchus, Grace Russell Fountain, Clyde Leon Keller, William Samuel Parrott, Cleveland Rockwell, and James Everett Stuart, as well as paintings by artists such as Albert Bierstadt who were visiting the area from the East Coast. Interestingly, paintings of Mount St. Helens were historically rare compared with the numerous images of Mount Hood—but that would change in 1980.

Volcanic eruptions have long been depicted by artists because they are the most visually spectacular manifestations of nature’s awesome power. Earthquakes, fires, and hurricanes can affect much larger areas, but few are as breathtakingly beautiful. Pacific Northwest artists who witnessed the eruption in 1980 were compelled to express their experience of nature at its most violent. Henk Pander recorded the visual wonder in numerous watercolors and a large oil painting that normally hangs in City Hall. George Johanson adopted the erupting volcano in subsequent depictions of himself and made it virtually a symbol of the city in his many timeless depictions of Portland. Lucinda Parker also took up the subject and endowed it with her distinctive painterly energy; the exhibition will include a large painting that Parker recently completed. Barbara Noah and Ryan Molenkamp, both from Seattle, explored the event as reflection of our emotions and states of mind when confronted with an overwhelming event.

As soon as the smoke cleared, ceramic and glass artists gathered the abundant ash—which was 67 percent silica—to use in their works. The exhibition will include Paul Marioni’s Mount St. Helens Vase, which he blew from pure ash the day after the eruption.

Photography was the perfect medium for depicting the eruption’s radical transformation of the landscape. Emmet Gowin, Frank Gohlke, Marilyn Bridges, and other photographers concentrated on the savage beauty that resulted from the destruction. Gowin, Gohlke, and later Buzzy Sullivan returned year after year to show the landscape’s evolution. Along with Diane Cook and Len Jenshel, they have depicted the amazing rebounding of nature.

In more recent years, artists have sought to depict the instability of the mountain and our knowledge that another eruption could happen at any time. Cameron Martin’s Remission, an 11-foot-wide painting expressing this instability in purely visual terms, will close the exhibition.

As the region commemorates the 40th anniversary of the volcano’s eruption, the Museum is partnering with the Mount St. Helens Institute on a series of programs, tours, and in-gallery experiences throughout the run of the exhibition.

For those who remember the eruption of 1980 and for those who know only its legacy, the exhibition will bring to life one of the most momentous days in the history of the Pacific Northwest, and artists’ responses to one short period in the epic cycles of volcanic destruction and regeneration at Mount St. Helens.

Curated by Dawson Carr, Ph.D., The Janet and Richard Geary Curator of European Art.

Programming

  • Opening Lecture (recorded)
    Blasts from the Past: Considering Mount St. Helens in Art
    Dawson Carr, Ph.D., The Janet and Richard Geary Curator of European Art
  • 40th Anniversary Live Event (recorded)
    Mount St. Helens: A Landscape Across Time
    Moderated by: Dawson Carr, Ph.D., The Janet and Richard Geary Curator of European Art
    Special Guests:
    Barbara Noah (Seattle Artist)
    Sonja Melander (Science Education Manager, Mount St. Helens Institute)
    Nathan Reynolds (Ecologist and Interim Director of Cultural Resources, Cowlitz Indian Tribe)
    Ray Yurkewycz (Director, Mount St. Helens Institute)

Heart of Portland 2020

Heart of Portland Poster Competition Winners
Congratulations to Portland Public Schools student artists and their teachers! PPS has announced the winners of the 2020 HeART of Portland Showcase Poster Competition and launched the new PPS Visual Arts Virtual Gallery. The competition was a very crowded and impressive field of 61 submissions and the jurying went to two rounds. As award-winning entries, these pieces were selected because they capture the creative spirit and connect meaningfully to the Portland Art Museum exhibition Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art.

Every spring for the past five years, the Museum has been honored to host the Heart of Portland: A K-12 PPS Arts Showcase—a celebration of student visual and performing artists and their dedicated teachers. While we very much missed seeing your work in person this spring, we are thrilled to see the wonderful virtual gallery and to have this opportunity to say thank you to Portland for supporting arts education through the Arts Tax!

Make Art Inspired by Volcano!

Portland Public Schools art teachers developed two art projects for K-12 students inspired by the exhibition. We’ve adapted them for you to try at home with children–and adults–of all ages. Have fun and share your work with us! @portlandartmuseum #createfromhome

Mount St. Helens Inside

MSHInside is a virtual source for 40th eruptiversary activities, events, and resources from our partner the Mount St. Helens Institute. Explore Mount St. Helens from home with live videos and weekly challenges.

Jan
29
Sat
Slow Looking
Jan 29 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Join Portland Art Museum docents for a slow looking and art focused meditation experience. This interactive virtual tour invites you to relax, rejuvenate, energize and to try and find a moment of calm. Come along as we connect and create space together for a deeper understanding of artworks on view at the museum.

This program is free and will be presented on Zoom. Closed Captioning will be available.

Join on Zoom

Feb
3
Thu
Slow Looking
Feb 3 @ 12:00 pm – 12:45 pm

Join Portland Art Museum docents for a slow looking and art focused meditation experience. This interactive virtual tour invites you to relax, rejuvenate, energize and to try and find a moment of calm. Come along as we connect and create space together for a deeper understanding of artworks on view at the museum.

This program is free and will be presented on Zoom. Closed Captioning will be available.

Join on Zoom

Feb
15
Tue
Slow Looking
Feb 15 @ 12:00 pm – 12:45 pm

Join Portland Art Museum docents for a slow looking and art focused meditation experience. This interactive virtual tour invites you to relax, rejuvenate, energize and to try and find a moment of calm. Come along as we connect and create space together for a deeper understanding of artworks on view at the museum.

This program is free and will be presented on Zoom. Closed Captioning will be available.

Join on Zoom

Kronos Quartet & Sam Green: “A Thousand Thoughts”
Feb 15 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Kronos Quartet & Sam Green: “A Thousand Thoughts” @ Kridel Grand Ballroom

In partnership with the Northwest Film Center.

A live documentary with The Kronos Quartet, written and directed by Sam Green and Joe Bini.

For over 45 years, San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet – David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola), and Sunny Yang (cello) – has pursued a singular artistic vision, combining a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to continually reimagine the string quartet experience. In the process, Kronos has become one of the most celebrated and influential groups of our time, performing thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing more than 60 recordings of extraordinary breadth and creativity, collaborating with many of the world’s most accomplished composers and performers, and commissioning more than 1,000 works and arrangements for string quartet.

This season, we are so excited to present the Portland debut of A Thousand Thoughts, a “live documentary” film that chronologically unfolds the Kronos Quartet’s multi-decade career. Academy award-nominated filmmaker Sam Green and Emmy award-winner Joe Bini have teamed up with Kronos Quartet for a wildly creative multimedia performance piece that blends live music and narration with archival footage and filmed interviews with such prominent artists as Philip Glass, Tanya Tagaq, Steve Reich, and more. Learn more about A Thousand Thoughts.

A Thousand Thoughts was easily the [Sundance] festival’s most mind-blowing experience.”  Newsweek
“Watching it was the most joyous experience you could have at Sundance this year.” Slate

Friends of Chamber Music’s Commissioning Partnership with Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire is dedicated to the memory of BOB FRASCA and is made possible by a gift from the BOB AND JEANNE FRASCA FUND. We are happy to feature performances from Portland Youth Philharmonic and Metropolitan Youth Symphony musicians in the lobby before “A Thousand Thoughts” as part of this project.

Purchase tickets

Feb
26
Sat
Educator Workshop: Look Club
Feb 26 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Educator Workshop: Look Club @ Stevens Room, Lower Level

Please join us for Look Club—an in-person workshop for educators at the Portland Art Museum. We will gather in the galleries to engage with artwork from PAM’s permanent collection and reconnect with one another. Take the time to relax with art and colleagues while gaining some inspiration for your teaching practice.

The Upper Left Projects + Portland Art Museum Look Club is a come-as-you-are, no-prep-needed space designed for educators to stretch the muscles of wonder, curiosity, and community building. This is an opportunity for discussion and collaboration that can help us to reconnect, restore, and re-gather in a way that is intentional and fulfilling. Facilitators Kim Aziz and Mirka Jablonski will lead discussions with the Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) methodology to highlight active listening skills and to encourage diverse perspectives and ideas. 

Educators in all subject areas and grade levels are welcome. We will meet monthly on Saturdays from January through May. Come to one session or come to many. 

The first date is open for registration: February 26 at 10:30 – 12 pm.  Subsequent dates will be: March 12, April 30, and May 14.

Participants must provide proof of full COVID vaccination or a negative test result (within 48 hours) from a healthcare provider at entry.

This program is free of charge, but space is limited. Registration required. PDU credits provided.

Register Now

Questions? Contact Hana Layson, Head of Youth and Educator Programs

Slow Looking
Feb 26 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Join Portland Art Museum docents for a slow looking and art focused meditation experience. This interactive virtual tour invites you to relax, rejuvenate, energize and to try and find a moment of calm. Come along as we connect and create space together for a deeper understanding of artworks on view at the museum.

This program is free and will be presented on Zoom. Closed Captioning will be available.

Join on Zoom

Sponsors

  • Exhibition Series Sponsors
  • The Ford Family Foundation
  • Dorothy Piacentini
  • Ann Flowerree
  • European and American Art Council
  • Theo and Nancy Downes-Le Guin
  • Carol Ann and Kent Caveny

Partners