Elizabeth Woody

Joe Feddersen

Joe Feddersen

I went to the opening of Joe Feddersen’s current show Extended Family at Adams and Ollman in Portland. The main gallery space features Charmed, Canoe Journey, a fused glass installation comprised of individual symbols that we have seen him develop over the many decades we’ve followed his work. Visual symbols culled from his vocabulary of traditional Plateau designs  and layered with signifiers from contemporary living, images that we all experience daily. A variety of signs often overlooked but brought to the forefront by the artist: parking lot lines, electrical transmission lines, radioactive signs, railroad crossings, various animals, and signs for peace. This fused glass installation floats in front of the wall, gently moving as the air in the gallery changes, as visitors move in the space; simultaneously, the light dances on the individual elements casting a maze of delicate shadows. The subtlety and delicacy of this work is rewarding, with cross cultural references to graffiti culture and marks found in the distant past on rock cliffs and underground walls.

I’m reminded of the first Charmed installation I saw about ten years ago at the Gorman Gallery of Native American Art. The gallery is named in honor of emeritus faculty member Carl Nelson Gorman, at the University of California at Davis. That exhibition titled “Together Again” featured four artists, Rick Bartow, Joe Feddersen, Lillian Pitt, and Gail Tremblay.

Joe Feddersen is a highly respected artist, colleague, collaborator, friend and member of a community to all who know him. At first, I was aware of Feddersen as primarily a studio artist, and as I became more knowledgeable about his entire oeuvre, I learned of his involvement in a far-reaching community, and the importance to him of contributing to and sharing with that community. Around 25 years ago, Joe gave a presentation to a university seminar and was accompanied to the lecture by friend and collaborator Elizabeth Woody. During that era, they were both faculty members at The Evergreen State College in Olympia. They had recently been featured in a show in Atlanta; the slide show featured a collaborative work where text was etched on glass shelves; because of the height of the shelves, it would have been difficult “to read” the text. In this case the objects, the shelves, weren’t as important as the content. When illuminated, the text was revealed, ephemerally, on the wall below as the light passed through the glass shelves.

For the current exhibition in Portland, in addition to another glass artwork that uses illumination symbolically as well as physically, Joe has created many intimate scaled collages, abstract in nature, loaded with personal meaning that reaches out to touch all of us. These collages speak to the importance of family and community and were created from his collection of papers amassed over decades of working in print media. Several are reproduced in Shannon Lieberman’s excellent review in Oregon Artswatch. In the smaller gallery are a sampling of symbol laden basket forms, in glass or hand-woven linen.

The exhibition continues through November 25th.

Posted by Thomas Alix Johnston in Blog, 3 comments