Neal Harrington, a visiting artist from Arkansas, has completed his woodblock carving symbolizing The Dalles. The piece is part of a larger, collaborative work called the Exquisite Gorge Project, a 66-foot steamrolled print led by Maryhill Museum of Art with submissions from 10 designated regional sections throughout the Columbia Gorge.
Harrington stayed in The Dalles area from June 9-22, gathering feedback from local residents and artists, surveying the city and researching its history. His carving was showcased around town at different events, including the Farmer’s Market on June 15. The Dalles Art Center held a public meeting on June 11 for anyone wishing to contribute ideas to Harrington about the project, an event that the artist appreciated in reflection.
“I’m not from here, and I thought it would be important to come in and see what the local people thought about it,” said Harrington. “I had my ideas from research, but some major components wouldn’t have been included had I not met with people—it really helped.”
The piece was carved onto a 4’x6’ block and contains a scene of dozens of symbols that form what Harrington believes represents The Dalles. Most noticeable is a flying osprey, dubbed a Riverhawk by Harrington, with a computer mouse clutched in its talons. The bird alone makes up one fourth of the entire work and is a striking image. It’s inspiration came by chance, when Harrington witnessed an osprey catch a fish from the Columbia on his first night in The Dalles.
“You just bank the experience,” said Harrington. “You don’t sit around waiting for inspiration, you react to what happens. You have to be willing to improvise.”
The piece will be unveiled and on display at the art center on Aug. 1. All the pieces of the Exquisite Gorge Project will be collected at Maryhill and printed on Aug. 24; Harrington hopes to return for the final printing, and hopes residents can appreciate his work.
“I hope it makes them smile and I hope they enjoy the content,” said Harrington. “I hope they find humor in it and that it represents their area. I’m happy with it, which isn’t always the case.”