“OR’s Painted History” visits the PDX Center for Performing Arts

Division of Vices

Division of Vices

Division of Vice  |  oil on canvas, 30” x 24”
From the early 20th century through the mid 50’s, vice and sin were big business in Portland. Young men working lucrative timber, mining and trapping jobs had money to burn on good times—but even pinball was illegal. Vice operators, however, didn’t let laws stop them. They simply greased the palms of the police and their bosses in city hall who happily took the money and allowed almost open operations. The arrangement made Portland the go-to city for illegal alcohol, narcotics, prostitution and gambling. In this painting, enterprising vice officers stake their claims of parts of downtown while a police hat fills with money.

Oregon’s Painted History” enjoyed a great reception and audience while showing at the Architectural Heritage Center. The show has been taken down and a number of the pieces are on display for the month of October at Muse Art & Design (4220 SE Hawthorne Blvd). The full shebang will be showcased in the lobby of Portland’5 Centers for the Arts from November 6 – January 30.

Join me for:
First Thursday Artist Reception, November 6. 5-8PM
Portland’5 Centers for the Arts
1111 SW Broadway, Portland, OR

For a refresher, here is what the Press release says about my project:

Portland artist Anna Magruder loves painting people from the past, going on vintage treasure hunts, and is always on the lookout for striking images and stories from bygone days. Her recent project, “Oregon’s Painted History” brings those interests together. Funded in part by the Regional Arts and Culture Council, this series of historic surrealist paintings portray some of the hidden stories and people behind Oregon’s history.

The idea for the project emerged after Magruder did a painting titled Métis, for a group show at The Robert Newell House Museum in St Paul, Oregon. Métis refers to children of French Canadian men in the fur trade and Native American women. The family portrait of mother and father with their daughter between them, sharing a braid of hair, alludes to the struggle for identity between two cultures. After receiving overwhelmingly positive response to the painting, she realized that there was more history to explore and show through her art. “Our city is influenced by what has gone on before and I wish to honor this history as well as the courage and resilience of the people who have paved our way,” says Magruder. She wonders what remains the same, what has changed for the better, or what is worse.

Rather than recreating exact scenes of events, Magruder uses historic surrealism that relies on symbols and metaphors to capture emotional impact and broader implications of the topics. Some paintings in the series use identifiable figures, such as Beatrice Morrow Cannady, editor of Oregon’s largest African-American newspaper, civil rights advocate and first black woman to practice law in the state. The painting shows her spilling tea into a sea of white while behind her stand a variety of African-American supporters. Other paintings will show individuals who represent larger groups and concepts.

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