Gaylen Hansen, Dog and Bird,
acrylic on paper
Based on both historical and contemporary art about animals, this exhibition is curated by Lee Musgrave for the Maryhill Museum, a castle-like mansion overlooking the Columbia River Gorge about a hundred miles east of Portland on WA Scenic Route 14. This location on the grassy northshore bluffs (sometimes dubbed "Horse Heaven") is also an ideal destination point for a day's outing that can significantly combine nature and art.
By juxtaposing the works of two dozen contemporary Northwest draftsmen, painters and sculptors with those of historic artists in the museum's permanent collection, Musgrave has skillfully demonstrated not only mankind's changing relationship to wild and domestic animals, but also the changing interpretive and philosophic attitudes of artists then and now.
Reaching "beyond the opportunism of beauty and sentimentality" (the central objectives of much 19th-century art) the featured contemporary artists "embrace the pleasure, confusion and apprehension found in human relationships with the animal world." Their images "touch upon the mythological and metaphorical attitudes modern society places on animals and explore the profound and redemptive relationship between human and animal realms."
From the stylistic standpoint, Beauty In The Beast provides a broad survey of the changing methods and materials utilized to make visual statements. No doubt it will once again bring to mind the altered objectives of art in our time, whether in graphically documenting or psychically profiling a given animal.
This exhibition is certain to establish, among other issues, the positive shift from animal exploitation to animal kinship.
© Ted Lindberg