Lucinda Parker, Alden Mason and a Research Road Trip

A couple of weeks ago we hit the road to Seattle with stops along the way. I had mending, R drove and we zoomed north along with scary log trucks, heading to Longview, Washington.

R is deep into the manuscript he is preparing for a monograph on Portland painter Lucinda Parker, which will be published in conjunction with a show of her work at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art here in Salem in January of 2019.

We stopped in Longview at the Lower Columbia College to see a mural painted by Lucinda in 2007 and installed in the performing arts building in 2008.  We had seen the mural in her studio “back in the day”, but that was then and now is now.

The Mural is called “Where Water Comes Together With Other Water” and was inspired by a Raymond Carver poem, of which this is an excerpt:

“But the big streams have my heart too.

And the places streams flow into rivers

the open mouths of rivers where they join the sea

the places where waters come together

with other water.  Those places stand out

in my mind like holy places.”

the painting is huge, like most of Parker’s paintings it is filled with raw energy tamed by a refined eye, and an artist’s skilled hand.  Under the painting is a photo montage of the making of the painting…interesting to any viewer, but most especially to researchers…

this was my favorite image…ahhh the beginning…

The very nice woman working in the center directed us upstairs to see a charcoal drawing made after the fact and presented to the college…

and where we also got a killer view of the mural, feeling like we were falling into the confluence ourselves…

The woman proudly said the mural is lit at night and is “spectacular”…by day…nearly invisible…

I found a small “poem” at lunch break, in the bushes…

 

Smoke from forest fires hazed the Seattle area as we came in…

making our coffee stop at Shilshole Bay Marina a bit mysterious as the boats appeared and disappeared into the smokey haze…

We were lucky to spend a couple of nights with my brother Bruce and his wife Lee Ann and had a few hors d’oeuvres…

and several great meals including  one at the Cafe Munir…Lebanese and wonderful…

the talk was lively…

and luckily they had paper on the table for the obsessive-compulsive among us…

Bruce is a photographer and on his fridge was a photo from “back in the day” showing that he got an early start…the house we grew up in in suburban Chicago..

We left the peaceful Ballard house and headed downtown…

marveling as we do each trip about the familiar and the changing landmarks…

R was meeting Phen Huang, owner of the Foster White Gallery in Seattle, to look at some work by the Seattle painter Alden Mason (1919-2013).  Phen knew Mason all of her life and was his dealer when he was alive, and now is the dealer for his estate.  Phen Huang in conjunction with gallerist Greg Kucera (The Greg Kucera Gallery) and a group of others are publishing a book on Alden Mason with an art historical/critical essay by Roger Hull and contributions from other writers who knew Mason.  Though knowing a bit of Mason’s work over the years R needed to see more and as much as he could.  It was agreed that the gallery would get some things out for us to  look at (this is where I get lucky, readers…).  When we arrived at the Gallery there were maybe 15 paintings at the back arranged for the art historian…

a few early things…

and on…with a fascinating discourse from Phen about Mason’s work methods and how they changed as he aged and lost mobility…

file materials were produced and we left with a big box of research “stuff”.  We stopped at the Greg Kucera Gallery as there was a show of Gee’s Bend Quilts there that I wanted to see…

and Greg came in while we were there.  In addition to the quilts there are a series of prints made in conjunction with the Paulson Press in Berkeley, CA.  The printers developed a process where by a transfer was made…from an actual small scaled sampler quilt to an etching press coated with a thin layer of wax and then treated with acid to create the printable image.”  (From the Greg Kucera Gallery website)

He described the quilters at their sewing machine in the print studio making small samplers on the spot for the printers to use, a notion I really liked…here’s Louisiana Bendolph’s

and Mary Ann Bendolph’s

so bidding farewell to Seattle for a bit, we headed south to Centralia…to visit the library…now site of two big Alden Mason murals.

These two are located in the library at the college…they were commissioned by the Washington State Arts Commission in 1980, along with two others by Washington artist Michael Spafford for the Washington State House in Olympia.  Spafford’s murals were to be in the House and Mason’s in the Senate.  All four murals were constructed in odd semi-circular shapes to fit the space in the building.  Washington State Legislators found Spafford’s murals (the “Twelve Labors of Hercules”) obscene and had curtains made to cover them, and found Mason’s abstracts to be “out of place in the ornate, traditional marble chamber ” and that Mason’s murals “didn’t go with the new paint selected by an interior designer.”  All four murals were removed and put in storage in 1987.

Centralia College then-president Henry Kirk set about trying to get the murals for the college, including building a performing arts center with two spaces scaled to fit the Spafford murals…but I digress.  We arrived at the library and immediately found the Mason murals, looking rather beautiful…

(note the special shape Mason cut out to fit around a clock in the WA Senate chamber)

on our way into the library Roger spoke to a man asking how to find the murals and this was the VP in charge of Finance for the college who made a few calls and the performing arts center was opened for us to see the Spafford murals as well…which are just stunning…lucky lucky Centralia College!  These were installed in 2003, where I suspect they look a bit more elegant than they would have in Olympia.

By now we were hot and tired so after noting a few choices for dry gardening…

we headed to Portland for dinner at the P’s & Q’s Market

5 x 3’s on my brother Doug’s porch…

happy for an adventure and happy to be home…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Comments

  1. Wow. The murals and paintings are really powerful – visceral, even here thousands of miles away. Thanks for the introduction – will stay tuned to see what the Great One cooks up re: Parker and Mason (!!). And that picture of Bru, and the wee Doug: oh my.

  2. oooh, this is a splendid chapter in your blog, bonnie! loved it all, even the found poem. roger goes to the source and looks with his own eyes. his writing is 1st person not the usual 3rd person reporting of what others have written. we can hardly wait for his next monograph. you two are the killers. sleuth on!

      1. Good grief, Bonnie! What an art “insatiable appetite” Roger has. What a mind!
        BTW, we lived in Washington when the Spafford murals were briefly hanging in Olympia and were knocked out by them. Prurient indeed? Happy to see that they found a home, and that you two got to see them.

  3. My son lives in Longview and got his start at the Lower Columbia College! My sister used to work in Seattle, in that very tall building (the view was great, but OMG, when the wind blew or a plane came by…..way too scary for me). So, I as glad to see the familiar!
    But the rest was all new, and all so exciting! Loved all the paintings and the quilts. Once again you have opened my eyes to new wonders….thank you.

    1. Hi Shirley…since I navigate by landmarks I can get pretty confused in either Portland or Seattle these days when the landmarks disappear and are replaced month to month almost. As usual I appreciate Roger’s work and all it allows me to be able to see…xo

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