Little Pastry Cook

Chaim Soutine, 1921

Little Pasty Cook

Rachel Blumberg and Chaim Soutine’s Little Pastry Cook

Rachel Blumberg is a drummer and singer who has performed and recorded with numerous Portland bands, including the Decemberists and M. Ward. She is also a painter.

I’ve been coming to the museum since a field trip in the third grade. But in college, I got obsessed with the period of the early 1900s in Montparnasse and Montmartre. When I first saw this, I was like, “That’s my favorite painting.” The colors and the emotion really resonate. I wish I could transport myself back: all these artists getting together and exchanging ideas. It was a heady time. People were not afraid to band together over ideas. We actually have that a little bit here in Portland now.

I would say I’ve come to see it 10 times. In that time frame, I started painting—and pretty seriously. Before that, I saw a whole thing, but now I get up close and see the frenetic movement of the paintbrush. I see the look in his eyes is really emotive, but I also look technically at what’s over and what’s underneath the eyelids. I had never really noticed the chair is, like, moving. I notice now how the brushstrokes and colors affect that. I was a touring musician for five years, a lot of it in Europe. I’ve seen a lot of art. But this piece is always stuck in my head. I can conjure it very easily. There’s something about that red.

The Oarsmen

Thomas Eakins, circa 1873

Thomas Hacker at Portland Art Museum

Thomas Hacker and Thomas Eakin’s The Oarsmen

Thomas Hacker and his firm THA Architecture have designed and restored civic and university buildings throughout the West, among them branch libraries of Multnomah County and the Mercy Corps World Headquarters.

When I first moved to Portland, I lived on the South Park Blocks. I came to the museum several times a week. It was my living room. Some of the paintings became family: Soutine, Ryder, and Rousseau. But the Eakins became important in a more emotional way. It represents where I came of age as an architect: Philadelphia. I was on the crew. I rowed through this bridge—the Girard Avenue Bridge. I like the painting because it’s a sketch—incomplete—like I was, learning and developing, and filling out the rest of the picture. When I started visiting the museum, it was 1983, in the middle of a recession. I was broke. I felt confident. But everything was in chaos. The painting brought back powerful memories—good memories, rich memories.

What I like about it is the quality of the hand. It’s what I try to do in my art and my architecture: let the hand come through. There’s something really beautiful about that transfer of energy between a human body and a surface. Every time I come back and see it, my own life has changed a lot. I’ve become more analytical. I find meaning in it that goes beyond the actual painting, in what it’s projecting as poetry, as a story.

Paddles

Tlingit, ?Early 20th Century

Shirod Younker at Portland Art Museum

Shirod Younker with Tlingit paddles

Shirod Younker is an artist and the program manager for the A. Susana Santos Journeys in Creativity: Explorations in Native American Art program at the Oregon College of Art & Craft.

I paddle a lot with three canoe families in the Tribal Journeys movement. It began in 1989 as a way for the native people of the Puget Sound to retain their ancestral rights to the region’s waterways. But it also brought back the potlatch and the songs and the dances. The physical action connects us to our ancestors.

When I first laid eyes on these paddles, I was excited. They are more northern style: Tlingit. They are extremely thin and light. When you’re first carving out a paddle, you tend to make the whole thing a big beast. But put in 10,000 strokes over a day canoeing with a paddle that weighs four pounds, and that’s 40,000 pounds you lifted. If the paddle weighs less than two pounds, you’ve lowered the stress on your body. After I saw these, I started taking off a lot more wood from my paddles and making the edges straight. There’s no tool marks on these. I’m using power tools and power sanders, and it’s still hard to get all the marks out.

I’m Miluk/Coquille from Coos Bay. We were one of the first tribes to have contact with non-natives, so really the first to lose our culture by trading things away. For me, making paddles is a conduit to the canoe journey. Things will not go back to the way they were before, but this is a starting point.