John Oberdorf artwork (three paintings)

ArcheoSpaces: Works by John Oberdorf

The exhibition ArcheoSpaces – organized at the Hatfield Library in collaboration with the Salem Art Association at the Bush Barn Art Center – displays a series of drawings, sketches and studies, together with a remarkable oil painting, created by Salem-based artist, John Oberdorf, in the period between 1974 and 2019.

A graduate of Oregon State University with a degree in Art and a minor in Anthropology, John Oberdorf began his career by making illustrations – in a style that echoed closely the visual vocabulary of Frank Frazetta – for publishers, such as Ace Books, and other magazines specialized in sci-fi stories in 1970s. His imagination, however, was not fulfilled by those enterprises, given the restrictive nature of this typology of visual narratives, in which images are subordinated to the particular story the artist was working on.

Soon enough, John Oberdorf noticed that his capacity of elaborating “worlds of the possible” – to quote the artist’s own words – reached a point of creative saturation. From that moment on, his career will take a decisive turn and move toward the elaboration of autonomous iconographies, exploring the ambiguity of natural shapes and the mystery of cultural traces in order to stimulate the viewer’s curiosity. In these newly conceived images, elements such as rocks and helmets symbolically evoke the ceaseless, unpredictable dialogue between Nature and History, Time, Loss and Memory.

Curator: Ricardo De Mambro Santos (Chair, Department of Art History)
Assistant Curator: Jordan DeGelia (Art History major, 2020)


ArcheoSpaces is part of a larger exhibition project organized by David Wilson, director of the Salem Art Association, and co-curated by Willamette Art History professor, Ricardo De Mambro Santos.

The section currently displayed at the Hatfield Library has been partly sponsored by the Verda Karen McCracken Young Art Exhibition Funds of the Department of Art History.


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