What motivates us?

Sunset at Rockaway Beach, 7-27-15

Sunset at Rockaway Beach, 7-27-15

Waves, patterns, blues and grays, wind and sea: the immediacy of nature is compelling. What could ever match the enthusiasm of a run on the beach at sunset? What motivates us to do art, to want to be enveloped by it? Two recent art shows can help us to think about that.

At Things You Know but Cannot Explain, Rick Bartow’s show at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, his animal/man archetypes confront you in vivid color, in grand gesture, and with human eyes that make the space between you and each painting feel electric. These paintings reveal the inner self and harness the power of lucid dreams. My favorites include Minotaur 3, Fishmother, and Little Hawk’s Spirit. Of his wood sculptures, I love the salmon with fin-hands and Man Acting Like Dog. This exhibit will travel for three years, but you can see Bartow ‘s work at the Froelick Gallery.

The Portland Art Museum exhibit, Fotofolio – Adams, Strand, Weston, Weston, White – delves into how these artists chose images for portfolios. Ansel Adams’ photographs are “ends in themselves, images of the endless moments of the world.” Minor White’s sequences evoke emotion and a “better understanding.” Paul Strand included “the spirit of his subjects in the very body of the photo.” Edward Weston felt art was “a living thing which depends upon full participation.” Both he and son Brett pursued closeups of nature in the abstract – Brett called them “elegant bits.” Of all these, my favorites were Strand’s images of the lives of ordinary Mexicans, perhaps because they each tell a story (and are very fine photogravures). Here one might ask, “Do my images have a unifying theme, and what kind of story might they tell?”

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