Henk Pander

The oil painting of Dorothy Hirsch is by Henk Pander, donated to the Central Library through her estate. (Thanks Peggy!) Ms. Hirsch served on the boards of the Multnomah County Library for many years, the board of trustees of the Oregon Institute of Literary Arts and the Friends of History of Portland State.

It’s found a new place to hang, the second floor of the Multnomah County Central Library.

The reasons I love the Central Library are too many to ever count. But it’s getting a bit tight for easy use, serving too many functions in too small of a space. Albert Doyle made an elegant structure in 1913, which was considerably improved upon by a major renovation in eleven years ago.

But I recently visited Rem Koolhaus’ library in downtown Seattle, which should be the foremost destination for visitors. The building is a tremendous gong-bang for city planners, for bookworms, and for library planners. It serves a hundred functions at once.

Notably, the smell and grime of wet, sick humans was absent. It was a fine, clear spring day in Seattle, but easily half of the city’s chronic homeless were inside, burrowing into books or taking naps. But at over 360,000 square feet, everyone had sufficient space to stretch out and feel comfortable.

The Multnomah County collection is of better quality (not larger, Seattle is 2.4 million compared to about 2 million). Our patrons are nicer, circulation is higher, and our library is probably the county’s most laudable act. Nobody’s going to give Ted Wheeler and company more money to put people in jail, but a bond measure to build a world class downtown library would win easily.

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I got stuck for ten minutes with nothing to read but the PADA brochure for the upcoming month. I knew as my fingers brushed its deary surface I would be both sad and forlorn within three of those ten minutes. But this is Portland and I can pick up a wifi connection and complain about it to you.

The twelve art galleries which make up the Portland Art Dealers Association are, in alphabetical order, Augen, Blackfish, Bullseye, Butters, Froelick, Elizabeth Leach, PDX Contemporary, Pulliam Deffenbaugh, Quintana, Laura Russo, Mark Woolley, New American Art Union. A carefully maintained variety, collegial I imagine, and usually somewhat dull. Each has a specialty area, I guess, and market to the well-divorced Pearl District matrons with more wall space than brains.

But the walls of Laura Russo were made for the big watercolors of Henk Pander and a new show of Pander’s work will open January 3. Dutch-born, Dutch-trained, Pander came to Oregon in the early 70s, just as the late 60s were arriving, with young family in tow and a feverish mind for paint.

Pander’s vision for things-on-the-precipice has maintained through his career. His subjects are anticipating imminent death, a ship aground, a crumpled wall, flowers askew, fire on the horizon, the stare of a lone bombardier and his looming fate. Beautifully rendered, alternately wide and detailed, teabag colors moist and penetrating.

At that moment, Portland was still one of those dark places of the earth. Imagine the feelings of finely trained artist, such as a Childe Hassam of 1904, Imagine him here – the very end of the world, a sea the color of lead, a sky the color of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina–and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sand-banks, marshes, forests, savages – precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, nothing but Willamette water to drink.


The slide show above is poor – my apologies. A better, larger version from the newish Viewbook is HERE.

If you have a beautiful Pearl District wall – a large large off white wall and a good high ceiling where excellent strip of lighting instruments can be installed, and you would like to live with a powerful, complex, feverish image – a still life of dahlias or terra cotta bricks – you’re in real luck. In recent years Pander has shown just once a year, and this is it.

This snapshot from today’s Oregonian holds high and fantastic irony. From the worst – to the best.

The people in this photo, taken in the Salem state capital, are stupid horrible tobacco lobbyists. The painting of former Governor Tom McCall is by Henk Pander. It is, perhaps, one of the great paintings made in Oregon, of a great Oregonian, made by a master artist who found Oregon his true home.

Henk was experimenting with forced perspectives at the time this painting was made. The frame starts about four feet off the floor (and set in the weirdest room in Oregon where vertigo is just a step away), and McCall’s extended hand to you is both a handshake and an offer to help lift you off the floor and up to his level. His hand is an invitation to join, to be an Oregonian. More irony? Perhaps truth.

Henk talked with McCall prior to making the painting. I imagine Perspectives of Mount Hood was finished by then.

McCall’s hair is tousled and he’s dressed in a stylish 1970’s light tan suit with smart brown dress shoes, one on sand and one in the ocean. He’s smiling amidst the chaos of the background. A red and white pole is the measurement of the all important Beach Bill of 1967 – the law which made all Oregon’s ocean beaches open to the public. The survey helicopter. The ancient stump. The rocks and trees and wild blue sky.

As we look back forty years, the Beach Bill was the standout innovative Oregon legislative action which made our state beautiful and free. The other firsts, to decriminalize marijuana, the bottle bill, aid in dying, have all had their own struggles for acceptance elsewhere. Now no one imagines an ocean beach can be owned by an individual.

From Choices that Created the Oregon Mystique: Governor Tom McCall’s Foresight and Accomplishments.

This life size portrait of McCall, painted by Henk Pander in 1982, was commissioned by the State of Oregon. It is displayed with portraits of other former Oregon governors in the Oregon State Capitol in Salem. The scene portrays McCall’s highly publicized tour of the Oregon coast on May 13, 1967, when he and a team of surveyors and scientists traveled in two helicopters, touching down on beaches along the coast to demonstrate the threat posed to the public’s longstanding free access to the state’s coastline. Media coverage of the event prompted a huge outcry from the public over the legislature’s refusal to approve HB 1601, and within two months, McCall was able to sign the the bill into law. (81″x 72-1/2″)

Well worth reading is Brent Walth’s Fire at Eden’s Gate, “An impetuous, flamboyant, imposing, and outrageous showman, Oregon Governor Tom McCall fascinated America as a refreshingly candid and forthright politician.”

Henk Pander 1983 watercolor, showing off, about 5′ by 3.2′, tucked in a hallway deep on the 7th floor of the OHSU Kohler Pavilion. Flowers, Big Pink, mirrors, perspective, sheer boisterous talent. Perhaps the most talented artist in Oregon history, his work is everywhere you turn – from Timberline Lodge, to the Visual Chronicle of Portland, to the Performing Arts Center pushing perspective with David Robboy’s giant perplexed bass, the deathbed painting of Ric Young, Perspectives of Mount Hood, New Carissa, Jacob and Arnold, Storefront Theatre, on and on.

Eva Lake’s 60s/80s pings op-art and post-art with glistening bright reds pinks and purples. Longtime Portland artist and now provocateur, Lake balances the business of art with the Chambers Gallery with the making of art, minds history, welcomes newcomers at her radio show on KPSU.

Julie Rall, oil and gold leaf on Plexiglass, bright bright colors but little control. Aside from punching the viewer in the head, I am not certain what the intended outcome is here.

David J McCoyth is listed as the maker of Green and Gold, from 1930. McCoyth may be a pseudonym for Mr. Otis – very early tho. It’s a pretty picture; peaceful, passive, purposeful, of the post “primitive-moderne” style. Donated by Mr. & Ms. Brian Booth.

Cut to the chase: some might say city-treasure Henk Pander is an acquired taste, but his flowers are fantastic and always exquisite. This bunch hangs in a busy hallway, not far from the skybridge connecting OHSU to the VA Hospital. This is the best piece of art in the OHSU collection (which I have found to date).

Paul Sutinen is co-chair of the Art Department at Marylhurst. His Constellation of Drawings-Memory is a 1% for the arts purchase at OHSU, in the center stairwell of the newish Medical Research Building. It’s big, 7′ x 7′ or so, but is just about as interesting in this jpg.

This large untagged painting is nearby the new and luxurious Marion Miller Auditorium on the 11th floor of Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. No idea who made it.

I also don’t know who made this image, which hangs just off the main entrance / wait room. No tag. I like it a lot. It’s a weaving of images, which distorts up close. Nice colors, content. Too bad it has to be behind glass.


Overheard in the University Club library, “goddamn beatnik chislers got my wife drunk on white wine and sold her $1700 worth of shit we’re ashamed to keep in our closet.”