Oregon art collector shares his trove at Lightcatcher exhibit

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 22, 2014 

I spoke with Jordan Schnitzer, whose exhibit, "Radical Repetition: Albers to Warhol, from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation," runs through Aug. 17 at Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher.

Schnitzer's love for art began when he was a first-grader in Portland, Ore., and his mother, Arlene, opened Fountain Gallery in 1961, one of the city's first major galleries. She was also an important donor to the Portland Art Museum (and yes, it's THAT Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall).

"That's when I began the wonderful, magical art journey," he says.

Later, as a board member of the Portland Art Museum himself, he started collecting art when he was in his early 30s. In the early 1990s, the University of Oregon (his alma mater) asked him to borrow prints for a show at the museum there.

He says it was so exciting to see the works on the wall -"like walking into a room of friends ... it doesn't get any better."

"Then people came in, and they started smiling, or frowning, and it hit me really hard."

A young boy, about 8, came in with his father to see the art, and Schnitzer scooted down to talk to him about one of Robert Longo's "Men in the Cities" photographs. Longo, Schnitzer explained to me, threw tennis balls at his subjects and rapidly photographed their reactions.

"What do you think that man is doing?" Schnitzer asked the boy.

"I think he's dancing," the boy said.

"Whatever he says would have been right," Schnitzer says enthusiastically, because it's what the viewer brings to the art that's important.

Although Schnitzer's day job is as, in his words, a "real-estate magnate," it's his passion for sharing the arts, and his emergence as one of the country's leading collectors of postwar American art, that will benefit the Bellingham art scene for a few months.

He wants to make his collection accessible to many communities, so he has taken some of the works to about 90 museums.

Schnitzer has not been to the Lightcatcher, but he's familiar with architects, Olson Kundig, and he looks forward to seeing the space. He plans to attend the members' opening Friday, April 25.

SWORDFISH CAPTAIN LANDS NEW STORY AS ADOPTIVE MOTHER

Linda Greenlaw, who is best known for her career as a swordfish boat captain featured in the book and film "The Perfect Storm," is the guest author at Chuckanut Radio Hour for her latest book, ""Life-Saving Lessons: Notes from an Accidental Mother." It's the true story of how she came to adopt a troubled teenage girl.

Greenlaw lives on Ile au Haut in Maine, so I wondered how her island community supported her through the various stages of her relationship with her daughter.

"The island family/community - lines that distinguish the two are fuzzy - was and continues to be very supportive of my daughter's and my relationship," she says. "'It takes a village' has never been so meaningful."

The idea of "home" is important in her book, and I wanted know how her ideas of happiness and home were impacted by her daughter's sudden appearance in her life.

"I have always had a unique sense of home, as I have always been most at home at sea," Greenlaw says. "So I have come to realize that home is not a place. It is a feeling. I suppose the same goes for the concept or definition of 'family' ... This belief that family doesn't necessarily mean blood relative became stronger when the stork left 15-year old Mariah on my doorstep."

Greenlaw is devoted to her life at sea, so I asked her how her love for fishing was affected by her daughter's constant presence in her life.

"This is a tough one," she admits. "Having spent most of my life at sea, my identity was more fisherman than anything else. 'Seaworthy' was the most coveted attribute I could attain for myself. So at first I was kind of pissed off to have this kid keeping me tied to dry land.

"Fortunately, we were able to work things out for both of our best interests, which really was imperative for the eventual successful growth of our relationship."

I asked Greenlaw if she had advice for parents considering adopting older children.

"Although I don't consider my taking on Mariah heroic or brave," she says, "I do believe that parents who adopt children of ANY age are very special. I simply did what needed to be done.

"That is totally in my nature. Just do what needs to be done. That comes from my life of fishing. ... Advice? If it needs to be done, do it. Life is full of sacrifice. Doing anything requires sacrifice something else to some degree.

"Compromise is not actually one of my strong suits," she says. "My life as a captain did not allow for anything close to a democracy. Being totally unbending has not been my best parenting skill. Quite the opposite. But we survived my shortcomings."

COMING UP

- "Radical Repetition: Albers to Warhol, from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation," shows through Aug. 17 at Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher, 250 Flora St. Details: whatcommuseum.org.

- Linda Greenlaw appears on the Chuckanut Radio Hour, 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 25, at Heiner Center Theater, Whatcom Community College, 231 W. Kellogg Road. Tickets, $5, are at Village Books and Brown Paper Tickets. Details: 360-671-2626, .

Behind the Scenes focuses on the people who make the arts and entertainment world of Whatcom County happen. It appears in Take Five, The Bellingham Herald's entertainment section, each Thursday. Margaret Bikman is the Entertainment News Coordinator at The Bellingham Herald. Reach Margaret at 360-715-2273 or margaret.bikman@bellinghamherald.com

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