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PEOPLEText: Ryan Bukstein

Storm Tharp is a painter and sculptor living in Portland, Oregon. He enjoys distant, unfettered landscapes – and the sound of piano. He is 37 years old and his favorite color is hot pink.

Storm Tharp
Mister Wisher, Kisser Winner, 2001, Ink and gouache on paper, 24″ x 18″, Courtesy of PDX Contemporary Art

Could you tell us about yourself including your background?

I was raised in Ontario, Oregon. It’s a small, agricultural town on the Snake River border between Idaho and Oregon. Adolescent and teenage years were typically difficult – however the region is one of the most beautiful that I have ever encountered. So I frequently return.

I went to college at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York where I studied fine art. I chose an academic program over a traditional art school – because I needed to learn more about reading and writing in addition to instincts I had about painting and sculpture.

My intention was to move to New York, but in 1992 – the Northwest had so much going on culturally, I decided to move back. Portland seemed like a new place again. I think it was the most important decision I have made.

It’s been 15 years in Portland. I have worked consistently on my artwork and have made good friends and remain inspired. I have been represented by Jane Beebe and PDX Contemporary Art for 10 years and I paid off my college education working in advertising.

Storm Tharp
The Prince’s Theatre, Ceramic, wood, wax, gouache, acrylic, yarn, grosgrain, 20″ X 11″ X 10″ Courtesy of PDX Contemporary Art

Could you tell us your recent activities or projects?

My recent work came out of an exhibition in January of 2007 called “We Appeal to Heaven.” The show was comprised of 8 large portraits on paper. I am working on a new series of drawings called “Silent Movie” which should inform a solo exhibit at Galerie Bertrand et Gruner in Geneva Switzerland – tentatively planned for November 2008.

Storm Tharp
Einstein, 2006, Ink, gouache, colored pencil on paper, 59 1/2″ x 48″ framed Courtesy of PDX Contemporary Art

What do you think of the current design/art situation in the city?

It’s intense. The cultural demographic of the city has changed so much in the past 5 years. At times I have really hated it – but I realized I was just being sour and old fashioned. It required a new mind set that I wasn’t really keen on – but in turn I have found the new vitality of our town to be kind of exciting. . . And the opportunity to live as an artist in this town has remained possible. It’s worrisome because what I liked about this place is changing and I don’t want to see it evaporate into something transparently cosmopolitan. If it becomes an art capital, I might have to move back to the Snake River. We’ll see.

The design community is really strong. We are building some interesting buildings and making some good products. And the graphic arts are thriving. Exciting work is being done with small presses and independent publishing. Designers can fluctuate between big advertising initiatives and more grass roots endeavors. Portland is very open in this regard, and the on-going facelift creates the gambit for design opportunities.

Portland has an obvious, independent spirit. Its evident in the way people eat, what they read and how they get around town. For all the new development going on, there is the counter culture that challenges the reasoning. I love it.

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