By Bob Hicks
We’ve arrived at a time when many of the bright figures of 20th century art are slipping away into that final blankness that artists seem to anticipate better than the rest of us. Maybe it’s because artists begin each day with a blank canvas or paper and understand that the void is both an opportunity and an inevitability.
In the past week two fine West Coast artists, both based in San Francisco but well-known in Portland art circles, have died. Nathan Oliveira, who died last Saturday, was 81. Beth Van Hoesen, who died on Tuesday, was 84.
Both were figurative artists, although in very different ways and with very different outlooks and techniques. Oliveira, who is represented in Portland by Elizabeth Leach Gallery, was primarily a painter and sculptor (he also produced a lot of very good prints) and he was very much a modernist, an artist who explored the psychological dark corners. Van Hoesen was primarily a printmaker and an observer of the small wonders of life, a meticulous craftswoman and traditionalist whose skills and approach harked back to the likes of Durer. You can read Van Hoesen’s obituary here.