Published: May 24th 2012August 17th 2011
Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
The museum of art on the University of Oregon campus
I got my car back today!
After two days in one place, I finally had the freedom of the open road, wind in my hair and scenery passing by.
That was the longest non-deliberate break on the trip, and driving once again is a rush.
The road trip has really sunk in by this point.
I have to hope the desire leaves again before the end, or going home is going to be really painful.
Today’s main objective is to make up the damage that break did to my schedule.
In the original plan, I would spend days driving down the coast to the very southern part of Oregon.
Instead, I had to cram it all into one long day, barreling down the interstate.
The first part goes through the Willamette Valley.
Except for the views of mountains in the distance, it’s as flat and dull as anything Nebraska [see Interesting Things in a Dull Landscape
] has to offer.
Slowly the mountains moved closer to the highway.
Eventually I hit the southern tip of the valley in Eugene
University of Oregon
Eugene is the home of the University of Oregon
I had a bit of time, and wanted a break from the road, so I saw their art museum, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
It’s a comprehensive regional museum
with rotating thematic shows.
A typical example was a show on birds in art.
The description talked about how artists use birds as symbols, and how their meaning has changed over time.
Like much post-modern curating, I found all this a little much.
The work itself covered a wide range of time and art movements, which at least made it interesting.
Better was a show on the career of Morris Graves
, one of the most famous painters to ever work in Oregon.
He started his career as part of the Portland School [see Art of the Pacific Northwest
], painting pictures of birds with expressionist line and color.
Over time, he incorporated Japanese design ideas to create canvases of landscapes, animals, and flowers filled with personal symbolism.
Some of his canvases border on abstraction.
Like Hudson River School landscapes, these pictures use recognizable images of the natural world for highly symbolic ends.
Most sports fans know that the University of Oregon mascot is “the mighty duck”.
Where did THAT come from?
Most universities choose something (animal or otherwise) rather more aggressive.
One of the museum staff had the answer: in the 1940s, the university’s athletic director was a huge fan of Walt Disney, and used Donald
as the mascot!
(It also refers to the original name for the team, the webfooters, named for pioneers who had soggy shoes from walking the Oregon Trail).
The other worthwhile Duck news was an article in the local newspaper on the football team’s latest uniforms.
Always boundary pushing
, they are designed by Nike, which was founded by Oregon alumni.
This wouldn’t mean much outside the state, except that Nike won the contract
to supply uniforms to the NFL last year.
Very soon, every team in the nation’s most popular league could be wearing outfits every bit as noticeable (and as controversial) as the Ducks.
Fans may revolt.
[LATE UPDATE] When Nike unveiled their new uniforms, fans found them surprisingly tasteful
Back on the highway, the scenery finally changed from valley to mountains.
The road got curvy, and in places it got steep.
Pine trees appeared on the hillsides.
The road went through passes alternating with little valleys.
Eventually, it reached a bigger valley surrounded by mountain ranges.
This valley belongs to the Rouge River, a major population center in this area.
It followed the river for a while, and then crested another pass.
On that pass, the scenery abruptly changed.
What had been a sea of pine trees became a sea of grass and bushes.
This area gets less rain then further north, and the vegetation reflects it.
This valley, right against the California border, is home to Ashland, my base for the next few days.
I found my lodging and fell asleep.