Sunday, February 17, 2008


I know Portland isn't on a par culturally with Berlin, Shanghai, New York etc. But when international cultural figures come here, we really turn out for them. A more appreciative crowd there cannot be.

And generally, artists and thinkers of a high caliber are more accessible when they are in Portland, partly because the venues and vibe are low key and less crowded, and the audience less star struck.

So it was that over this weekend I was able to hear jazz great Ornette Coleman and even get a few hours' chat with him, and hear James Turrell speak for a couple of hours at PNCA.

Turrell is an artist of light, and as he put it himself an artistic descendant of Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Monet and others who have created progressive art theories around light. However, Turrell is certainly one of the most scientific, with a degree in perceptual psychology and with a knowledge of the retinal and ocular that surely would stump most of the rest of us.

And it struck me listening to his talk how much science informs really great art today. Ornette Coleman's music is about ideas of sound, ergo, his "Sound Grammer" theses. It's not an original thought to point out that there is beauty in science, but these artists do it with a divine touch.


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