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.
Henk Pander, Eruption of Saint Helens from Cable Street, 1981.
Henk Pander (American, born The Netherlands, 1937), Eruption of Saint Helens from Cable Street, 1981 (a/k/a View of Portland), Oil on linen, 54 x 64 inches, City of Portland, courtesy of the Regional Arts and Culture Council.
Mathias Van Hesemans (American, born 1946), Eruption, 1983, Mount Saint Helens, 1983.
Mathias Van Hesemans (American, born 1946), Eruption, 1983, Mount Saint Helens, 1983, gelatin silver print, Gift of Stu Levy and Cris Maranze.

Volcano!

Mount St. Helens in Art

Feb 8, 2020 – May 17, 2020

Main Building, Floor 1

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.

Apr
11
Sat
Public Tour: Volcano!
Apr 11 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Public Tour: Volcano!

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art

Apr
18
Sat
Mount St. Helens Institute Saturday
Apr 18 @ 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Mount St. Helens Institute Saturday

On select Saturdays, join volunteers from the Mount St. Helens Institute as they bring their outdoor interpretation skills inside the museum for hands-on activities and informal gallery conversations that help bring to life the history, geology, and natural environment of Mount St. Helens without the drive to the mountain. In addition, MSHI volunteers and PAM docents will be available at 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. on these days to jointly introduce the Volcano! exhibition and offer insights to the art and science of the volcano.

Mount St. Helens Institute
We are excited to partner with the Mount St. Helens Institute on a series of programs, tours, and in-gallery experiences during the exhibition. Founded in 1996, the Mount St. Helens Institute connects people of all ages to Mount St. Helens and the natural world through educational programming designed to enrich visitors’ appreciation and understanding of the Pacific Northwest’s youngest and most active volcano. For more information on the organization, visit mshinstitute.org.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art

Public Tour: Volcano!
Apr 18 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Public Tour: Volcano!

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art

Public Tour: Volcano!
Apr 18 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Public Tour: Volcano!

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art

Apr
21
Tue
Volcano Views & Brews (Vancouver)
Apr 21 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Volcano Views & Brews (Vancouver) @ Water Resources Education Center

Doors at 5:30 p.m.
Program at 6:30 p.m.

Now in its 13th year, Volcano Views & Brews is a popular monthly Mount St. Helens Institute lecture series on Pacific Northwest natural and cultural history. The winter/spring series will focus exclusively on a range of topics related to Mount St. Helens’ past, present, and future. Fascinating subjects and lively speakers, as well as beer and food for purchase, will make for an enjoyable and horizon-widening evening.

The series will alternate between the Water Resources Education Center (4600 SE Columbia Way, Vancouver, Washington) and the Portland Art Museum.

Mount St. Helens Institute
We are excited to partner with the Mount St. Helens Institute on a series of programs, tours, and in-gallery experiences during the exhibition. Founded in 1996, the Mount St. Helens Institute connects people of all ages to Mount St. Helens and the natural world through educational programming designed to enrich visitors’ appreciation and understanding of the Pacific Northwest’s youngest and most active volcano. For more information on the organization, visit mshinstitute.org.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art

Apr
25
Sat
Public Tour: Volcano!
Apr 25 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Public Tour: Volcano!

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art

May
2
Sat
Public Tour: Volcano!
May 2 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Public Tour: Volcano!

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art

May
7
Thu
Volcano Views & Brews (PAM)
May 7 @ 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Volcano Views & Brews (PAM) @ Portland Art Museum

Doors at 5:30 p.m.
Program at 6:30 p.m.

Now in its 13th year, Volcano Views & Brews is a popular monthly Mount St. Helens Institute lecture series on Pacific Northwest natural and cultural history. The winter/spring series will focus exclusively on a range of topics related to Mount St. Helens’ past, present, and future. Fascinating subjects and lively speakers, as well as beer and food for purchase, will make for an enjoyable and horizon-widening evening.

The series will alternate between the Water Resources Education Center (4600 SE Columbia Way, Vancouver, Washington) and the Portland Art Museum.

Reserve tickets

Mount St. Helens Institute
We are excited to partner with the Mount St. Helens Institute on a series of programs, tours, and in-gallery experiences during the exhibition. Founded in 1996, the Mount St. Helens Institute connects people of all ages to Mount St. Helens and the natural world through educational programming designed to enrich visitors’ appreciation and understanding of the Pacific Northwest’s youngest and most active volcano. For more information on the organization, visit mshinstitute.org.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art

May
13
Wed
Midday Art Break: Bury the Hatchet
May 13 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Midday Art Break: Bury the Hatchet

Kathleen Ash-Milby, the Curator of Native American Art

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Bury the Hatchet

Take a break from your workday and join a curator, museum educator, artist, or local scholar for a 45-minute talk in the galleries.

Space is limited. Advance tickets recommended. Program departs from the Main Entrance Lobby.

Purchase tickets
May
16
Sat
Mount St. Helens Institute Saturday
May 16 @ 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Mount St. Helens Institute Saturday

On select Saturdays, join volunteers from the Mount St. Helens Institute as they bring their outdoor interpretation skills inside the museum for hands-on activities and informal gallery conversations that help bring to life the history, geology, and natural environment of Mount St. Helens without the drive to the mountain. In addition, MSHI volunteers and PAM docents will be available at 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. on these days to jointly introduce the Volcano! exhibition and offer insights to the art and science of the volcano.

Mount St. Helens Institute
We are excited to partner with the Mount St. Helens Institute on a series of programs, tours, and in-gallery experiences during the exhibition. Founded in 1996, the Mount St. Helens Institute connects people of all ages to Mount St. Helens and the natural world through educational programming designed to enrich visitors’ appreciation and understanding of the Pacific Northwest’s youngest and most active volcano. For more information on the organization, visit mshinstitute.org.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art

Public Tour: Volcano!
May 16 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Public Tour: Volcano!

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art

Public Tour: Volcano!
May 16 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Public Tour: Volcano!

Explore the Museum with a docent skilled in bringing art to life.

Public tours depart from the Park Avenue entrance.

Tours are free for members or with Museum admission, and free for children age 17 and younger.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art