Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Geezer Gallery, showcasing art by people over 60, moves to Pearl District

geez1.JPG Amy Henderson, founder of the Geezer Gallery. Behind her is a frieze made by sculptor David Strough. It incorporates part of the terracotta quoin stone from the Hamilton Hotel, now the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse. One of the pieces from Strough's series of friezes is housed at the courthouse.
On display in the Pearl District's newest gallery: a kimono made from recycled oil drums, an exotic and vegetal lamp sculpted from wood and paper, and, on one wall, abstract landscapes in jewel-like colors.

"You think they're landscapes, but they're shipscapes," says Amy Henderson, founder and executive director of The Geezer Gallery, which moved in November from Multnomah Village to a new home on Northwest Naito Parkway. " We're close to so many other galleries. It feels exciting and professional. I'm looking forward to becoming embedded in the Pearl."

The non-profit Geezer Gallery – the name is intended to be provocative - showcases art made by people over 60. Some proceeds from the sale of the artwork help fund art classes for seniors as well as art therapy for at-risk older people.

Henderson is forging new partnerships with organizations throughout the city, and she's excited about the artists whose work she is showing, including Karen Story, who created those shipscapes.

But first: the gallery's new partnerships: In collaboration with Africa House, the gallery is running art therapy classes for older African refugees.

The project is in its infancy, but has taken off, says Henderson. She explains that most of the African elders cannot speak English, and many are illiterate in their native languages.

 "Their art really is their voice," says Henderson.

Henderson, who has a master's degree in gerontology, is also talking with people from Oregon Health and Science University's brain institute about a clinical research study to track the effects of art making and art therapy on aging brains.

"We'll be creating teams and writing proposals in December," she says. As for the current show: The Shipscapes of Captain Bob - a series of photographs and encaustic paintings - will be part of a group exhibition at the gallery through December.

A photograph by artist Karen Story of part of the hull of Captain Bob, an old World War II tugboat. The photo is part of the collection on display at The Geezer Gallery in Portland's Pearl District.
Artist Karen Story takes up the tale. She is a kayaker. About three years ago, on a morning paddle she came upon Captain Bob, an old World War II tugboat, about 150 feet long, anchored in the Multnomah Channel, which branches off the Willamette River. A striking discovery, and as an artist she was fascinated by the ships mottled surface, so she paddled over for a closer look. She was thrilled by the myriad colors on the boat's hull. On her next visit she brought her camera.

"I went once a month for two and a half years," she says. "I enjoyed it so much, seeing the boat in different weather, different light."

 Its surface was a rich source of inspiration: the many colors and layers of peeling paint, all eroding at different speeds, the effects of time and weather, the patterns of rust and moss.

"The line where the water meets the ship had this beautiful look of a landscape."

She used some of her photographs as inspiration for encaustic paintings – a form of painting that uses molten wax to which pigment is added – to depict the colors, shapes, and play of light where the water met the aging surface of the ship.

One morning in early spring of this year she paddled over to visit the boat but it had vanished. "My heart was broken," she says.

"The boat had gone to Longview, Wash., to be scrapped," says Matt Stein, who is now the proud owner of the military tug, which he believes spent many decades mothballed on the East Coast.

He rescued it from its fate as scrap metal at Longview, and it is currently moored in St. Johns. Also it has a new paint job - all black.

"We're slowly refurbishing it," he said. "It's a five-year project."

 What does he plan to do with it?

 "It'll be some sort of public venue: an event space, a hostel, a culinary school. Or some combination of those."

Stein and Story both plan to be at the Geezer Gallery for First Thursday this week.

Story says that the Gallery is very supportive of its artists.

"It's very community-oriented. And they really use art as a tool to enhance lives."

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