PORTLAND, Ore. — This year marks 40 years since the power of Mother Nature rocked the Pacific Northwest as Mount St. Helens erupted. The Portland Art Museum is marking the anniversary with a special exhibit called Volcano!
"People are coming out because they remember the eruption and even people who weren't born at the time … who know the mountain now are fascinated with its history," exhibit curator Dawson Carr said. "It's a really rich show for Portlanders having experienced this great wonder of nature."
That history is presented through a mix of mediums from paintings and photography to glass artworks made from the abundant ash that darkened the sky in 1980.
The displays cover 175 years of Mount St. Helens. The earliest known images are from 1845 and were created by a British spy, according to Carr. Mount St. Helens also erupted in September 1845.
The spy was tasked with finding out if the British could win a war against the Americans for the Oregon Territory.
"He was here incognito, posing as an artist and he certainly was an artist," Carr said. "And he managed to be here during an eruption."
Much of the work on display depicts the 1980 eruption through photographer and artistic interpretation. Many local artists are featured who experienced the eruptions from their own windows. Other images chronicle decades of regrowth that followed the 1980 eruption.
"More recently, artists have examined the renewal of life. The remarkable renewal of life at Mount St. Helens and had begun to look at the future with sure knowledge that Mount St. Helens will erupt again," Carr said.
The museum partnered with Mount St. Helens Institute for programs, tours, and in-gallery experiences at the exhibition. It allows art and science to collide with interactive maps, sensory equipment, and even a breadcrust bomb. (That’s a volcanic rock that was ejected as lava during an eruption.
With the mountain 64 miles from downtown Portland, the exhibit Volcano! makes its rich history much more accessible.
"Maybe some people are never going to visit the mountain, but they can visit the mountain through art," Marty Scott with the Mount St. Helens Institute said.
Volcano! is open now through May 17 at the Portland Art Museum. For a list of events featuring the Mount St. Helens Institute, check out portlandartmuseum.org.