The Fussy Eye: Roadside Mementos

Michael Brophy’s handmade postcards.

Here's the funny thing about Michael Brophy's landscapes in "South of Twenty" ("twenty" being Highway 20, east of the Cascades). 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 occasional orange tent, glowing small and centered—and dangerously close to Thomas Kinkade—like the sun or moon in other Brophy canvases on view. All very well-rendered—and priced accordingly—but too car-window familiar. Then there's the Portland artist's small, nearly postcard-sized series of outdoor details, "Pacific Wonder." Here the great outdoors becomes modest, desanctified, anecdotal: gawking tourists, roadside flaggers, a lonely outhouse, chainsaw totem poles—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. There are the places you're taught should impress you (the Kodak moments); then there are the fleeting impressions recorded only in your mind's eye. Not kitsch. Brophy's delicate, gouache-on-paper panels aren't elevating their subjects above buttes and canyons. These are the mundane-yet-memorable footnotes to his large, pristine scenes, not jackalopes or giant potatoes. Decades later, with kids of your own, you can always drive back to the Grand Canyon. But that tourist trap with the taxidermy bear is gone forever; and SMS has replaced postcards—which Brophy now recreates by hand. (Ends Feb. 13.) G. Gibson Gallery, 300 S. Washington St., 587-4033, ggibsongallery.com. Tues.–Sat. 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

 
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