Throughout downtown Portland outdoor public artworks enliven the spaces we walk through. The Regional Arts and Culture Council, a sponsor of Portland’s public art collection, has published a guide to artworks along the Transit Mall, available in the downtown Trimet Ticket Office in Pioneer Square. If you are interested in learning more, Central Library's collections of books, exhibition catalogs, and online sources, such as the Oregonian, offer more in-depth background information and stories about these works and the artists who created them.

"Ring of Time" Bronze sculpture by Hilda Morris Standard Plaza at 1100 SW Sixth Avenue Portland OR photo: Beverly StaffordFor example, “Ring of Time" is a monumental sculpture along the Transit Mall, at the entry to the Standard Plaza building, 1100 SW Sixth Avenue.

The Central Library book Hilda Morris, published by the Portland Art Museum, includes full page color plates of many of her sketches and completed works, with biographical commentary and essays by Bruce Guenther, Susan Fillin-Yeh and David C. Morris.

Quote: “Introduced to the mathematical figure of the continuous one-sided surface of a Möbius strip by her son David, as she was developing the various maquettes for the project, Morris recognized a perfect way to animate the sculpture while creating a work of great visual stability and weight.” p. 24 from the book Hilda Morris - by Bruce Guenther, Portland Art Museum, c. 2006

 

Felt Swan from the Hermitage MuseumThe felt swan shown here, on display in the Hermitage Museum, dates from the 4th-5th centuries BC.  An object made of felt and deer hair with the figure supported by wooden stakes, it was part of a burial mound in the Eastern ranges of the Altai region in Russia. This image is from the book Felt, by Willow G. Mullins, an account of the many uses of felt over spans of centuries to contemporary times. It is an example of a type of book in the library that can serve as good starting points for your imagination, beginning with raw materials.

When experimenting with various types of media and processes associated with them, another type of book that is useful to remember about are the books about art hazards. As many people know from studying art, it's easy to forge ahead and forget that some of the properties of materials may be less than benign for health.

 

The books in the Library about the art of Maori people and other groups from the islands of the South Pacific provides us with  "a sense of awe, the admiration for arts that are both beautiful and profound, with a history that commands our respect both for what we can know of it and what we cannot." - Arts of the Pacific Islands by Anne D'Alleva. This summer, the Library added a new book published in 2012, titled Art in Oceania: A New History, that spans art of the Pacific Islanders from the remnants of thousands of years ago to contemporary artists of this decade. Chapters describe by centuries the impact of political and social changes upon art of these islands, with effects of trade, war, and globalization of culture.

Many of the sculpture and other objects of wood, stone, and textiles historically were created for ceremonial uses, with elements of design and representation of human form that far exceed the merely practical. The wood carving shown here on the cover dates from 1896, by Tene Waitere, a master woodcarver and teacher, who during his lifetime created many commissioned works such as this panel. It is an example of the powerful sculpture and other forms of art in this book, interspersed with photographs, poetry, and stories from master craftsmen, artists, tribal leaders, travellers, and historians.

View an excerpt from this book from the publisher, Oxford University Press.

Looking for more books about the art of this region of the world? There is a good selection at Central Library. Find them collectively in the Library catalog with a search by subject heading: Art- Oceania.

This new book accompanies a recent exhibition of works by Chinese-American artist Hung Liu at the Oakland Museum of California.  Hung Liu and the Rene de Guzman, Curator of Art at the Oakland Museum, have created a set of interviews on YouTube, so that not only can you read the artist's quotes in the book, but listen to her voice as she describes her approaches to paintings and other works. It's an interesting way to experience a book, to hear the voice of the artist along with her paintings, that portray people in China from the time of the Cultural Revolution forward to the present. Often in a political context, the paintings and mixed media works use photographs, some faded, to "make history and memory materialize in the present." - p. 82 Summoning Ghosts: The Art of Hung Liu.

Authors: Liu, Hung, 1948-
Title: Summoning ghosts : the art of Hung Liu
Publisher: Berkeley : University Of California Press, 2013
Notes: Catalog of the exhibition Summoning Ghosts: the Art of Hung Liu, organized by René de Guzman on behalf of the Oakland Museum of California and presented March 16-June 30, 2013

Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons The author of this biography, Thomas Nast The Father of Modern Political CartoonsFiona Deans Halloran, has written a fascinating book about the complex and controversial work of Thomas Nast, whose cartoons portrayed the political and social events of 19th century America. "Nast’s work marked an important transformation of political cartooning. Before the Civil War, cartoonists’ work relied on dialogue rather than imagery. To Nast, the picture became the message: text commonly was relegated to a caption or appeared in the picture as a broadside. Many historians call him the father of modern American political cartooning. His work remains in the first rank of that genre, expressive and passionate." -from: Simpson, Brooks D. "Thomas Nast." American National Biography (2010):  Biography Reference Center.

An interesting sidenote in the American National Biography is that there is no complete collection in a library or archive of the papers of Thomas Nast other than three volumes of "scrapbooks" of his cartoons in the New York Public Library. The most complete record is in the periodicals that originally published his cartoons.

Infinite Jest; Caricature and Satire From Leonardo to Levine
Infinite Jest: Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to LevineThe drawing for this bookcover is part of a series titled Collection of Grimaces, lithographs from 1823-1828 by the french painter Louis-Leopold Boilly, who began the set with exaggerations and contortions of his own face. Infinite Jest is the catalog of an exhibition last year from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, featuring works of the Museum's collections from 1590 to the present.  The book explores the varieties of intent of these images: as simple caricatures and forms, as visual satire, and as weapons to mock the political and social power of celebrities and political leaders. The website for the exhibition features an interesting short introduction about the history and artists whose works are included in the catalog.

For more on caricatures and political cartoons in art,  take a look at the booklist sampler of titles from Central Library. You can place holds for delivery to your closest neighborhood branch. 

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