150 Years of Oregon Art

Take a look at the art of Oregon

By Kyle Odegard
Gazette-Times reporter

Oregon Art: Statue of Lincoln Oregon Art: Harry Bennet Oregon Art: Wayne Taysom

In celebration of Oregon's Sesquicentennial, Benton County Historical Society presented 150 Years of Oregon Art, an exhibition of art from the Museum's collection. The exhibition was open January 6 through February 28, 2009.

Paintings and sculpture by Oregon artists were the emphasis of the exhibition. Some of the Oregon art that was exhibited was commissioned by the Federal Works Project Administration during the 1930s, including Conrad Pedersen's painting, "Portland Landscape" and Duck and Beaver statues carved by Robert E. Harbison in 1934.

"Joe Harrod" by Harry R. Bennett

After several years working as a commercial artist, Harry Bennett switched to painting covers for books such as the Ross MacDonald mysteries, and gothic romances by Mary Stewart and others. After over 800 covers, he tired of the work and moved to Oregon - first to Corvallis (1986-1989) and then to Astoria. His style became even looser, more abstract, and more spontaneous.

"Waiting for Berkeley" by Wayne Taysom

Wayne Taysom earned a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) degree from Utah in 1948 and an MA from Columbia University in 1953. He taught art at the University of Oregon for two years and then joined the OSU faculty in 1951, where he remained until retiring in 1984. Taysom created works for local institutions such as St. Mary's Church in Corvallis, OSU's Valley library (the fountain on the Jefferson Street side and the metal gates at the entrance) and the Lane County Courthouse. In the catalogue for its centennial exhibition, the Portland Art Museum noted that he "works mainly with welded metal, a medium which he considers especially adapted to the long, attenuated forms he favors. Often employing literary themes, which he treats with considerable romanticism, he sometimes employs a barbed and pungent humor."

PHILOMATH - Sharon Goldstein strolled through the upstairs gallery at the Benton County Historical Museum, pausing at each artwork. A bold painting of a farm scene caught her eye.

"We live in Kings Valley, and this sort of represents that," Goldstein said, gesturing to the Edward Sewall painting.

The museum's new art exhibit, 150 years of Oregon Art, includes captured images of the coast, Columbia River Gorge and countryside and wildlife sculptures.

"These are really nice," Goldstein said.

Her husband's favorite artwork didn't automatically scream "Oregon," however. "Waiting for Berkeley," by former Oregon State University faculty member Wayne Taysom, is a whimsical but energetic metal sculpture of a seated woman.

[150 Years of Oregon Art museum exhibition photo by Andy Cripe/ Gazette-Times]

Andy Cripe/Gazette-Times

David and Sharon Goldstein of Kings Valley look at the Benton County Historical Museum's new art exhibit, 150 years of Oregon Art, Thursday afternoon. 

The exhibit, which ran through February 28, 2009, celebrates Oregon's sesquicentennial. It was nearly 150 years ago, on February 14, 1859, that Oregon was admitted to the union as the nation's 33rd state.

Most of the pieces in the exhibit were created by artists with Corvallis connections, such as William Ball, who founded Ball Studio in Corvallis, said Irene Zenev, executive director of the Benton County Historical Society and Museum.

Many of the artists featured were connected with Oregon State University, including

  • John Leo Fairbanks, for whom Fairbanks Hall is named, was a professor of art and architecture. He chaired the art department at Oregon State College from 1923 to 1946, when he died.
  • Gordon Gilkey, an internationally recognized art luminary whose 30-plus years on the OSU faculty included service as chairman of the art department and dean of the liberal arts program. Gilkey Hall is named for him. He died in 2000.
  • Paul Gunn, a prominent artist noted for his "Northwest School" of artistic style and a professor of art at OSU for 43 years. He served eight years as chairman of the department, retiring in 1991. He died in 2002.

The museum has collected the work of Benton County artists since the early 1980s, but the acquisition of the Horner Collection gave it a treasure trove of artwork from throughout the 20th century, Zenev said. That collection was part of a museum at OSU, but was mothballed in the 1990s due to budget cuts.

Several paintings aren't owned by the museum but are federal property. They were created during the Great Depression through the Public Works of Art Program within the Treasury Department, Zenev said. The Horner Museum received the items to curate them.

The museum also presented a series of lectures that explored what Oregon was like in 1859. They were scheduled to begin Monday, February 23.

This year also marked the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. From 7 to 9 p.m. on February 10, the museum held a town hall. An actor portraying Lincoln presided over the meeting.

David and Sharon Goldstein of Kings Valley look at the Benton County Historical Museum's art exhibit, 150 years of Oregon Art. The exhibit celebrating Oregon's sesquicentennial ran through February 28, 2009.

Oregon Art: David and Sharon Goldstein

150 Years of Oregon Art Museum Exhibition
Photo by Andy Cripe, Gazette-Times Reporter