past exhibitions

Lena McGrath Welker
Navigation [chime]

November 7 - January 9, 2011

Portland artist Lena McGrath Welker has spent the last six years toiling on her exhibition that will fill the galleries of the North Dakota Museum of Art. In 2004, the artist showed four bodies of work from her on-going Navigation Series in the Museum. At that time, Museum Director Laurel Reuter invited her to return with the final installation in this, the artist’s major, lifework. Twelve years in the making, the Navigation series concludes with [chime].

The overarching theme of the Navigation series, both in the 2004 exhibition and in the current show, addresses ways of thinking about the accumulation and transmission of knowledge and wisdom. What gives written language its power? In what ways does language fail us, and in what ways does it allow communication to take place?

Moving through her studio during these intervening years have been hundreds of pounds of alabaster waiting to be carved, recently-cast porcelain scrolls, weavings perpetually rolling off two looms, fabric collages, huge pastel and silver leaf paintings, stacks of glass, and on and on. Since returning home in 2004, Welker has learned to carve alabaster, to add the making of soft-ground etchings to her repertoire of printmaking skills, and to master historical bookbinding techniques including traditional Coptic, longstitch, tackets, accordion methods. And always, her work is interwoven with drawing.

In the exhibition, Welker deals with uncertainty in an abstract and liminal way. She invites people to move through silence. She suggests the accumulation of experience through the physical massing of repetitive objects and motifs, and, finally, emptying out, as colors fade into transparency and words disappear. The transitions from gallery to gallery are equally subtle and connected. Because she uses mostly translucent materials, people are able to experience the work privately, while being aware of the community of others.

In Gratitude and Recognition: a list of all the people and organizations that helped to make this project come to life.

Thank you more than I can express!

Lena Welker

Financial Backers

Pollock Krasner Foundation

Regional Arts and Culture Council

Oregon Arts Commission

Ucross Foundation Fellowship

Testfabrics, Inc. Tom and Finley Klaas, and supplier Ernest Iskowitz, of Arthur R. Johnson Co.

EM Space Artist in Residence


Jim Schmidt Art and Design

Helen Hiebert Studio

Skye Blue Can Sew: Skye, Tiago DeJerk, Jackie Homoki

Classic Enterprise: Phuong Ho

Technical Assistance

Karl Burkheimer, J.P. Reuer, Judilee Fitzhugh, Jim Schmidt, Jiseon Lee

[flight]  stitchers: Judilee Fitzhugh, Lisa O’Brien, Jeanette Meyer, Heather Cavallieri, Amanda Pentzak, Isaac Yoder, Pamela Johansen, Cecilia Shukwit, Laura Hodgdon, Debrah Spencer.

bookbinders: Moe Snyder, Rory Sparks, Carla Schultz, Beth Robinson, Devon Malling, Rachel Fish, Warren Buss, Alisa Walton. printmakers: Ryen Welker, Peter Nichols, Marian Paul, Abra Ancliffe. metalwork: Carole Salisbury, Tia Sommer, Saskia Moes, Rebecca Scheer. ceramic work: Hsin-Yi Huang, Tom Beardman.

[stillness]  stitchers: Tracey Taylor, Judilee Fitzhugh, Skye Blue.  alabaster finishers: Laura Hodgdon, Ryen Welker, Brendan Holden.  alabaster toolmaker: Liza Mahar. ceramic work: Miles Spadone, Nick Vietor.

[affinis]  printmakers: Ryen Welker, Peter Nichols.

[chart]  deep sky nebulae scanned and prepared for blueprint: Matt Kidder

[sea change]  ceramic work forming and firing: Tom Beardman.