Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln

In Bellevue, Honest Abe in green and black

Sonya Clark, Afro Abe Progression. Photo: Abigail Volkmann

Thanks to Art Daily Newspaper for bringing this to our attention: Just east of Seattle, the Bellevue Arts Museum is taking a fresh look at the art of portraiture in a new show called UberPortrait, running June 16-Oct. 18. No Oregon artists are among the 30 featured in the show, but Darrel Morris, whose excellent exhibit of big, representational embroidered pieces ends Sunday at the Museum of Contemporary Craft, will have stuff there.

Like Portland’s Museum of Contemporary Craft, the Bellevue museum specializes in that loosely designed genre of the art world known as craft, so don’t expect Thomas Gainsborough or Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun. The show’s artists, Art Daily says, work in “a broad range of media such as sculpture, ceramics, photography, fiber, performance art and film.”

Fiber piles on fiber to make up that impressive ‘do above on Sonya Clark’s 2008 Afro Abe Progression (one of three), made from a five-dollar bill and thread. It’s 3 x 6 inches, and the photo is by Abigail Volkmann. Nice.

Go ahead, admire it. Spend some time with it. Just don’t try to spend it.

Happy 200th birthday, Abe — honestly!

A bouquet for Abe/Laura Grimes

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday, and as you might have noticed, he’s been getting a lot of press lately.

Books, books, books about him. Revisionist theories, counter-revisionist theories, bunkings and debunkings and outright frivolities such as Christopher Buckley’s spoof of Lincolnmania at The Daily Beast.

We don’t mind. We like Abe.
(I know, I know: We’re supposed to like Ike. He’s looking better these days, too.) And we especially like the little private celebration that occurs every year on this date at the Lincoln statue in downtown Portland’s South Park Blocks, near the Portland Art Museum. That’s where Friend of Scatter Laura Grimes discovered this bouquet of thanks this afternoon and quickly commemorated it with her cell phone, a year to the day after one of our very first posts, also on the subject of Ms. Grimes’ encounter with this selfsame statue. Thanks, Laura.

And happy birthday, Abe. Thanks for the guidance. We’re still trying to get it right.

The inauguration: a high-flying day to remember

Our neighbor Barb had a bunch of people over this morning to watch the inauguration ceremonies, and the mood was festive: Coffee and bubbly for breakfast will do that.
But it wasn’t just the refreshment. There was relief, and anticipation, and — OK, yes — hope. A sense that, as another neighbor, Karen, put it, “now we can have our flag back.” And indeed, she and her husband Ted had hung theirs on their front porch. Inspired, my wife followed suit. Beats all those years we’ve had the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag folded in the bedroom drawer.

What struck me most during this long but compelling (and by the looks of it, very cold) morning was that the power of language has reasserted itself at the center of our national conversation.
Like Franklin Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr. and his model, Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama speaks with a plain but lofty straightforwardness. He assumes a certain level of intelligence on the part of his listeners, an ability to follow an argument. He was gracious in victory, which might be a tougher task than being gracious in defeat. He talked down to no one, but encouraged everyone to look up. When he spoke to a particular constituency it was not, as is usual with politicians, with an air of pandering or cynical duplicity but with a measure of inclusiveness and respect. And he melded, as no other politician I can think of since John F. Kennedy, the descriptive and inspirational aspects of language: a vision, yes, but also a caution that realizing a vision requires hard work. Obama’s pie is not in the sky. It’s grounded, practical, sustaining. And if it’s his recipe, it takes a lot of cooks.

I have no illusion that miracles will be worked. Barack Obama waves no wands, and he will make mistakes — probably a lot of them. He is only, it seems prudent to remind some of his more fervid followers, human. But he represents in so many ways the best of what being human means. And by loving and respecting language — by being able to articulate both his own goals and his vision of what our vast and intermingled culture can and ought to be — he helps all of us articulate our own roles in the body politic.

I’ve long believed that Abraham Lincoln is one of the tiny handful of genuine literary geniuses the United States has produced.
In the beginning was the word, and it created reality. Oratorically, Obama is is no Lincoln, at least not yet: For clarity and conciseness and passion tethered to intelligence, nothing can match the Gettysburg Address. But clearly, from a literary point of view, Obama is in the Lincoln grain. He has the gifts to be, in the Lincolnian sense, a citizen artist. And it’s been a long time since the White House has seen the likes of that.

So, let the flag fly. Maybe this time, we can look at it as a promise and not a provocation.