Michael Brophy

Here’s the funny thing about Michael Brophy’s landscapes in “South of Twenty.” His larger works are standard Western vistas of scrub and sky, all very accomplished, rendered in oil, and sized large enough to respect the arid terrain (or your living room). Strong horizon lines and bulging clouds tend to dominate; the only sign of humanity is an orange tent or two, glowing small and centered—and dangerously close to Thomas Kinkade—like the sun or moon in other canvases on display. All very well-rendered, and priced accordingly. Yet they utterly fail to move me; they’re car-window familiar. Then there’s his small, nearly postcard-sized series of outdoor details called “Pacific Wonder,” which I love. The great outdoors becomes modest, desanctified, almost whimsical: little tourists, roadside flaggers, an outhouse, a golfer, chainsaw carvings, Smokey the Bear… the random memories of a childhood road trip, the things your parents didn’t consider scenic enough to photograph and file in a shoebox or slide carousel. The Portland painter is likely aware of that dichotomy: There are things you’re told should impress you (the Kodak moments); then there are the fleeting impressions recorded only in your mind’s eye. Decades later, with kids of your own, you can always drive back to the Grand Canyon. But that roadside tourist trap with the scary taxidermy bear is gone forever. BRIAN MILLER

Tuesdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Starts: Jan. 7. Continues through Feb. 13, 2010

 
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