One Henk of a talent

Good News in oil on linen by Dutch-born, Portland, Ore. based painter Henk Pander whose art will be featured in an exhibit at The Albany Museum of Art.

Good News in oil on linen by Dutch-born, Portland, Ore. based painter Henk Pander whose art will be featured in an exhibit at The Albany Museum of Art.

Jim Hendricks


ALBANY — One thing is certain — Henk Pander’s work makes an impression.

Whether it’s because of the grand size of the works, the interplay of light and color, or the sometimes uncomfortable subject matter, the works prompt a little soul searching on the part of the observer.

“I believe Southwest Georgia will find Henk Pander’s work very appealing and thought provoking,” Albany Museum of Art Curator Merritt Giles, who hung the show last week, said. “On a basic purely visual level, people will be drawn to his use of color, light and the monumental size of some of the artworks. Other viewers may be drawn in by the strong narratives and painful subjects depicted.”

What’s unlikely is that a Pander won’t evoke some type of emotion from viewers of his works, which seem to reach inside a person to evoke a feeling of vulnerability, uneasiness or introspection that is shared with the subject of the work.

“I think everyone can relate to having struggles in their own lives, and Henk uses his childhood struggles to guide his painting,” Giles said. “He grew up during World War II in Nazi-occupied Netherlands, and he experienced some very traumatic events as a child — some are depicted in the paintings on exhibit here at the Albany Museum of Art.

“Pander’s painting titled ‘The Floor’ portrays Nazi militia searching for Jews in his neighbor’s home. These scenes illustrate events from our recent world history and are still emotionally stirring.”

Pander was born in Haarlem, The Netherlands, in 1937. The son of a Dutch artist, he witnessed the tribulations of the Nazi war machine as a youngster. His education acquainted him with both modern art movements and Dutch artistic skills that date back to the 17th century. A 28, he immigrated to Portland, Ore., a year after marrying Marcia Lynch, an art student from Oregon. That move, which Pander intended to be temporary, was instead permanent, even after his marriage ended.

For the last half-century, the artist who describes himself as a “reluctant immigrant” has been a force on the American art scene, painting scenes that range from erotic fantasies to deaths of friends and from Portland skylines to Ground Zero.

Except for a brief period early in his time in the United States during which he taught college, Pander’s livelihood has come from his brushes, oils and watercolors. He has produced pieces that are commercially successful and popular with collectors, but he also has sparked controversy. A 1969 show at Portland State University that included works he produced during the height of the Vietnam War that captured the protests and sexual revolution that were under way at the time were attacked as pornographic and depraved.

According to Pander’s website, his work is included in many collections, including those of the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), Museum Henriette Polak (Zutphen, The Netherlands), city of Amsterdam, city of Portland, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena), the Portland Art Museum, the Frye Art Museum (Seattle), the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (University of Oregon), and the Hallie Ford Museum of Art (Willamette University). His public commissions are at Oregon State University, Oregon Public Safety Academy (Salem), Portland Center for the Visual Arts, and other locations.

Giles said that most of the works on display at the Albany Museum of Art for this exhibit focus on social commentary.

“The works on exhibit are aimed towards both social and societal commentary,” he said. “We do have one or two pieces that are just nice paintings, such as his ‘Self Portrait’ and a piece titled ‘Delores and Mary Alice.’”

Giles said that when he saw Pander’s work, he was immediately attracted to it.

“I received material on this artist from his representation, and I was immediately drawn to his work after viewing his paintings,” Giles said. “Being a curator as well as an artist, the works jumped out at me due to his interesting compositions, along with his use of light and color to create such depth within the pieces.

“His portrayal of war, combined with strong human emotions and the classic technique used to accomplish the paintings, really struck a chord with me.”

Pander works in oil and watercolors and also does drawings. Giles said the AMA exhibit is primarily oils.

“There are 21 artworks in this exhibition; most are oil paintings on linen, but we do have two works that are ink on paper,” he said. “The works in ink are smaller than the paintings, and I believe that they are preliminary studies for larger works included in the show.”

Visitors to the main gallery will notice that the size of the works exceed what they’ve seen in recent exhibits.

“It has been a few years since we have displayed any artwork of this size,” Giles said. “Paintings this large are a real treat as well as difficult to hang. Pander’s style would be interesting to me on smaller scale, but they have such visual impact when pieces are this grand in scale.

“To be honest the show almost arranged itself due to the size of the artworks. The size of the work dictated where I was able to hang them. As always, it was fun for me to lay out this exhibition, but it did have its challenges. With each new exhibition I have new problems to solve and I always feel very lucky to be the one to have this ‘burden.’”

The AMA, located at 311 Meadowlark Drive just east of Darton College, is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Admission is free. For information, contact (229) 439-8400 or info@albanymuseum.com, or visit www.albanymuseum.com.