On the gray, cloudy afternoon of February 10, while the rain poured down wet and cool outside, the warm and stimulating subject inside was art as premier landscape artist Michael Gibbons and Portland Art Museum Director, Brian Ferriso chatted happily about their common enthusiasm. The meeting took place in Gibbons studio in Toledo, the result of communication begun when Gibbons responded to an article written by Ferriso titled “Around the Galleries” published in a recent issue of Portal, a publication of the Portland Art Museum (P.A.M.). In the article, Ferriso cites his own history as a painter and highlights five pieces from the museum’s collection that “trigger [his] senses and affirm [his] inherent love of art and the landscape.” Among these paintings was one by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. As it happens, fifty-four years ago when Gibbons was just a sixteen year old art student, his art teacher took him to visit the Portland Art Museum. There, for the first time he saw Corot’s “The Ponds of Ville d’Avray,” the same painting, one that so impressed him that it became the touchstone of his career.
Gibbons, whose paintings are now in museum collections, wrote to Ferriso of his dramatic response to the work and how ,now, after all these years of dedicating himself to painting landscapes, he hoped that someday a student might stand before one of his works and be so inspired. Ferriso’s response was enthusiastic, so much so that he made the three hour drive from Portland to the small town on the Oregon coast to see Gibbons’ work. The two spent the afternoon sharing their love of art, technical strategies, challenges, and also, beloved works and artists.
Following lunch with Gibbons and his wife Judy in Gibbons’ studio, the two toured the campus of the Yaquina River Museum of Art (YRMA) established by Gibbons and his wife in 2002. Ferriso was impressed with the preservation of and compatibility with the existing historic architecture found on the property. Ferriso was eager to view Gibbon’s art both in the gallery and upstairs in the Vicarage, the Gibbons present home and future house museum. Ferriso and Gibbons shared their histories as painters, their training, and their habits of mind when standing in front of a canvas. Later in the afternoon, they were joined by Board member, Jill Lyon, for a brief discussion of the work of the museum. Ferriso acknowledged the hard work of establishing and maintaining such an institution. Lyon proposed that the Portland Art Museum follow the model set by The Oregonian which has established a system through which they engage and collaborate with local news entities. Her suggestion was to have P.A.M. reach out to smaller art museums within the state to share expertise, information, and, perhaps, exhibition items. Thus, the stage was set for exploration of the idea.
Though the purpose of the day was to have two artists talk about their work, the public nature of the institutions with which both artists are connected was a natural extension of the meeting. YRMA is in the process of creating a new strategic plan which will expand its programs and invigorate its value to the community. Ferriso was enthusiastic about the project observing that small regional museums are very important components in and for the regions they serve. He affirmed the wisdom of the choice to keep the focus of the museum narrow, namely the high quality objective work of artists representing the land, people, and industry of the Yaquina River Watershed. Ultimately, whether one is speaking about the Portland Art Museum or the Yaquina River Museum of Art, this is about history and the humanities, the foundation of the arts through the ages.
Gibbons’ Gallery is located at 140 NE Alder Street and the Yaquina River Museum of Art is located across the street at 152 NE Alder Street in Toledo, Oregon. If you would like more information about activities at YRMA please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (541) 336-1907.