PAM: Good Shows/Dismal View

I finally got to the Portland Art Museum to see In Passionate Pursuit–The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Collection and Legacy and Blue Sky–The Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts at 40.  These are very important exhibitions, both for the quality of work presented and for the great contextual information for those who haven’t been living in the Portland area for several decades.

But while the works were great to see, I was disappointed.

Both shows look gloomy. Example number one:


What is the point of the tan walls for the Schnitzer exhibition? This gallery always feels stuffy and keeping the walls medium dark just makes it worse.

And for Blue Sky, the walls are gray.


While my friend Chris Rauschenberg says that you should avoid bright white walls because, by contrast, they can make your white mats seem dingy, the gray here keeps the whole show from being bright.

When I went up to the contemporary northwest galleries, I saw bright spaces that let the exuberance of the works speak.


Spaces don’t need to be museumey. Let the work breathe.

John Cage on what Art does

I recently came upon these quotes from interviews with John Cage in Dancing Around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg and Duchamp. To me these anecdotes could be very useful when someone asks, “What is art for?”

“In the case of Duchamp, I was at this exhibition of Dada, and his work acted in such a way that my attention was drawn to the light switch on the wall, away from–not away, but among–the works of art. So that the light switch seemed to be as attention-deserving as the works of art. In the case of [Mark] Tobey I left the gallery and went to catch a bus on Madison Avenue when it still ran both ways, and I happened to look at the pavement, and–literally–the pavement was as beautiful as the Tobey, hmm? So the experience of looking at Tobey was instructive about looking at the pavement.”

“Art is said to be involved with ideas–relationships–and also with a certain sensuality. It appeals to the sense of looking. When you look, your mind goes into a state of finding relationships. Your heart goes into the field of the emotions. In Germanic thought these are supposed to come together. There’s supposed to be some sort of marriage–of form and content. When you find that… that it’s “satisfying”–another word frequently used in the arts – when it’s satisfying you get stuck! So that the art seems to be an end in itself.”

Blue Sky 1980

Blue Sky Gallery is almost 40, and there’s a big show at the Portland Art Museum celebrating that.

Thirty-four years ago Blue Sky had it’s first BIG birthday celebration.


Back when Blue Sky Gallery turned 5, I wrote an essay for the celebratory exhibition catalog.BSCAT 1980

Recently, prompted by a Facebook post by Alberta Mayo, I was rummaging through my Blue Sky file, and I came upon the transcription of an interview that I taped on April 30, 1980 with some of the Blue Sky board. I was writing for Willamette Week and at the time the arts and entertainment section was called Fresh Weekly. So “FW” is Fresh Weekly. I don’t seem to have a published version of this. Here is is the direct transcript from the tape, done on my manual typewriter—Blue Sky thinking from almost 35 years ago.






Minimum Wage vs. Tuition

When I began at Portland State College in fall term 1967 (Portland State became a University in 1968), I was working part-time as a stock clerk at Leed’s shoe store in downtown Portland. I was paid the federal minimum wage, $1.40 per hour. (There was no state minimum wage then.)

Tuition for my first year at Portland State was $123 per term. So I had to work 88 hours to pay my tuition.

Nowadays, federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. PSU tuition is $1740 per term.

A student working at the federal minimum wage would need to work 240 hours to pay for a term’s tuition. Luckily, if they live in Oregon the minimum wage is $9.10 per hour, so they only need to work 191 hours.

But wait! When I was a student, $123 covered tuition for 12 credits or more per term. I often took 16-18 credits per term for $123! (Or more in later years, but still, tuition was based on a fee for 12 credits or more. I think you could take up to 19 credits without special permission.)

Sixteen to eighteen credits at PSU now costs $2,320-2,610, so that would be 255-287 hours.

If Oregon minimum wage were keyed to state university tuition, then the minimum wage should be $19.77–so that 88 hours of work would pay for tuition, like in the good old days.



Lowell Darling in Portland 1977

Recently  (August 20) I published Getting my MFA, about my Master of Finds Art degree conferred by Fat City School of Finds Art founder Lowell Darling. I was thinking that I might have some more info about that time, and in my files I found these items:


The announcement for all of the events that Darling had scheduled. And this article by Jack Eyerly about Lowell Darling:

Eyerly Darling 1

Eyerly Darling 2

I also found a draft of an article I must have written for Willamette Week, but I don’t have a printed copy.


A Failure to Communicate

A couple years ago, when I was staying at Captiva, Florida, my brother-in-law came down to visit and stayed at South Seas Island Resort—which looked like a big motel, but since it was on the water, I guess it is a “resort.”

As we were sitting around one evening I looked up to see this event, and took the picture:

Captiva VENTI just recently came upon the picture again. It shows an example of a construction error that many would  not notice, and because many would not notice, they decided not to fix it.

I’m just wondering about what the finish carpenters thought and said when they were running crown molding and came upon this vent inserted just a few inches too high.

Somebody wasn’t coordinating the trades (HVAC and finish carpentry). And, when the problem presented itself, it had to be decided that fixing it correctly would just cost too much.

They figured nobody would notice or care, not anticipating a nitpicky guy like me.

A real life absurdity—maybe it’s art.

Getting my MFA

Recently I was talking with Alberta Mayo, founder of the Manitoba Museum of Finds Art, who gave me a membership card to her venerable institution.

If you had visited the waiting area of the directors’ offices at SFMOMA between 1975 and 1978, you would have encountered an exhibition not advertised on the museum’s official schedule: one of the 23 shows organized by Alberta Mayo under the auspices of the Manitoba Museum of Finds Art (MMOFA). Mayo, then assistant to Director Henry Hopkins and Deputy Director Michael McCone, directed her own museum within “the other museum,” turning her administrative space into the venue for a range of solo and group exhibitions by artists who — with a few exceptions, like Sol LeWitt — were largely under SFMOMA’s programming radar.

Manitoba photo 1

I guess I should fill in my name.

I told Alberta that I had received a Master of Finds Art (MFA) from Lowell Darling in 1977. Our conversation led me to go to my file cabinet and dig out my diploma:


Darling was handing out diplomas at the Northwest Artists Workshop (that rose was a NWAW rubber stamp). According to Wikipedia:

 Lowell Darling is an American conceptual artist most notable for a series of performances in the 1970s that included nailing cities to the earth, conducting “urban acupuncture” by placing oversize needles in the ground, and stitching up the San Andreas Fault. His art includes a run for public office in the 1978 California gubernatorial election, when his primary challenge to Governor Jerry Brown received some 62,000 votes.[1] He is the creator of the “Fat City School of Finds Art,” an unaccredited institution that grants free Masters and PhD degrees to arts students.[2]

Another reference:

Using the psuedonym “Dudly Finds”, Lowell Darling Founded the Fat City School of Fine Arts. in 1969.

According to one of the big department Heads, Dana Atchley, the school’s motto is ” We don’t makes art, we finds it!”
Legend has it that the inspiration to found this institution occured when Mr. Darling walked off the street into a hotel lobby and, before he could inquire as to the location of certain porcelain hardware of which he had an urgent need, a lady behind a card table covered with blank name tags asked, ” What college?”
Mr. Darling glanced around and saw a bar, buffet tables full of free food and a banner announcing a convention of college art departments. He said, “Fat City!”
The lady wrote it on a name tag, added his name, and pointed him in the direction of the facilities. The rest is history.
“Art in America” magazine names this conceptual, tuition-free art school as the largest in the nation.  It has over 50,000 alumni. There are no graduation requirements for the masters diploma from the Fat City School other than the graduation ceremony itself. No classes. No tests. No papers. No required exhibitions. No Nothing!
Simply step up, shake the hand of the granting Head with one hand and with your other, receive the handsome diploma suitable for framing. This certificate automatically confers on the recipient a tenured appointment to the faculty of the Fat City School of Finds Art. In fact, if the graduate so desires, they are promoted to Head of their own department, vested with full authority to graduate others and awarded a lifetime sabbatical leave.

Thus, the Fat City alumni have an advanced college degree, a job in which they are their own boss, and time to pursue what’s important. Making a living is one of the few life problems not immediately solved by this degree.  []

In the file folder I found my tuition receipt:

RCPT photo 3

Wow, college does cost a lot more nowadays!

AND that I am a member of the fatculty!

FATCULTY photo 3

I also see now that I got all this on April Fool’s Day—just a coincidence, I think.

But as I recall, the buzz that evening was, from folks with transistor radios, that the Blazers had just made the playoffs! For the first time! And of course they went on to win the NBA championship.