A Life’s Work: Mike Van at the White Lotus
This is Sandy Brown Jensen, and you’re listening to Viz City, KLCC’s arts review program. I’m getting in on the tail end of the Mike Van show at the White Lotus Gallery, but it’s still up through October 3rd. If you can find a moment to take it in, the art itself will reward you.
A lot of listeners are going to recognize the name of Mike Van from their art classes with him at South Eugene High School. At age 89, Mike and his art still have the power to school me with visual lessons in the emotional scope achievable with ink, watercolor or oil if attention is paid to light and dark values or to contours or to fleeting expressions on human faces.
The painting that stopped me in my tracks was “Octopus and Moon Rising,” which is pencil, ink, and watercolor. This is a very large painting with the moon on the top right, very textured with its cratered surface.
The head of the octopus is superimposed over the bottom half of the moon with its sharp, focused eye shared by both moon and octopus. With a similar texture as the moon, the mantle and tentacles trail across the page. I couldn’t stop looking at this sentient creature staring back at me from two very otherworldly spaces--the ocean depths and outer space.
This moon and octopus said to me that there are wonderful correspondences between seemingly different realms; yes, I see now the relationship between the curve of the moon and the curve of the octopus’s bulbous head. They have a similar texture, those suckers on the tentacles and the craters on the moon. One eye is shared by both worlds, and neither world is mine--and the eye is so actively intelligent.
I am carried away not only by the skillful execution of the painting but by its depth and suggestiveness. Some awe stirs in me. I remember the intelligence and emotional range of the octopus and the millennia of myths and magic the moon evokes.
Do try to make it downtown to the White Lotus at 767 Willamette in the next few days if you can.
Viz City is co-produced by Terry Way and Sandy Brown Jensen.