Portland art blog + news + exhibition reviews + galleries + contemporary northwest art

recent entries

Early September Links
Labor Day Weekend Picks
Museumy Links
Wendy Given at Vernissage
Mid August Links
Grace Kook-Anderson in Conversation
Portland Art Adventures
Early August Art News
August must see picks
End of July News
Alia Ali's Borderland at Bluesky
Mid Summer Reads

recent comments



Book Review
Calls for Artists
Design Review
Openings & Events
About PORT

regular contributors


Tori Abernathy
Amy Bernstein
Katherine Bovee
Emily Cappa
Patrick Collier
Arcy Douglass
Megan Driscoll
Jesse Hayward
Sarah Henderson
Jeff Jahn
Kelly Kutchko
Drew Lenihan
Victor Maldonado
Christopher Moon
Jascha Owens
Alex Rauch
Gary Wiseman



Guest Contributors
Past Contributors
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005

contact us


Contact us






powered by


Movable Type 3.16

This site is licensed under a


Creative Commons License

Tuesday 10.25.05

« Ellen George at the Archer Gallery | Main | Deliver »

Mutatis Mutandis: New Work by Pat Boas

The name of Pat Boas's new show, Mutatis Mutandis is a repetition of a single latin word in two different tenses. The Latin muto means change or transformation. The suffix atis identifies who witnesses the change, meaning essentially "you all see, or you all are seeing." The single word Mutatis has all the grammatical structure of an entire English sentence: You are all witnessing change.


Mutandis is another permutation of the root word muto, possibly referring to a singular subject as the witness of change. Unlike mutatis, I could find no legitimate Latin suffix that changes muto to mutandis. This suggests the word mutandis is simply an invented complement, a lyrical reiteration. The phrase Mutatis Mutandis functions as a spell or charm, its meaning welded to the musicality of its phrasing.

Substituting a spell for a show title is appropriate to Boas's new work. The acrylic and ink paintings on paper explore themes of alchemical recombination. Boas scrutinizes animal physiology with the discerning eye of a field biologist and then mutates and combines observed details into recombinant geometric objects. Not recombinant animals, objects.


The objects have animal aspects that do not give them life. They appear animated, alive, and even sentient, but their inherent animal life force is redirected into semiotic resonance. The objects are not simply visual abstractions; they are phonemes. Perhaps they are the letters of the language of spells. They are sigils, components of a language of great semiotic power; a language that reveals the secrets of disrupting the coherence of biological life. They appear to convey a meaning so significant, that it causes the letters themselves to burst into sudden, disorganized, animal life and crawl over the page, serifs gone to tentacles. And the phonemes are not flat, they are round and exist in a shallow space on the blank backgrounds.


Alchemy itself, while laying the foundations of an organized study of chemistry and especially processes of refining minerals in the Middle Ages, was primarily a complex system of semiotic mysticism. Central to the discipline was the principle of sympathetic magic, a rejection of coincidental similarity. Sympathetic magic meant that all of nature was encoded with semiotic significance. If a certain tree's branches looked like the horns of an elk, the leaves of that tree in a tincture would imbue the essential properties of the animal to anyone who drank it. If an organ in the body also looked like an elk's horns, that organ could be restored to health by drinking the tincture. To the alchemist, all of reality was encoded as a language, which by degrees, through constant study, could be translated. Every object, every animal, every plant was a hieroglyph. Sympathetic magic created meaning by recombining and distilling the disparate forms of the natural world. Art theorist Jeanette Winterson's novel, Sexing the Cherry, explores alchemy as a process of semiotic encoding.

Some of the pieces are clearly calligraphic letter forms, while others seem to have devolved into writhing tentacular labyrinths. The two most dimensional pieces are composed of interlocking rings and seem more like dynamic, spatially imagined diagrams than letter forms. One piece in particular, composed of three interlocking rings symmetrically and radially arranged immediately brings to mind the simplified diagrammatic model of the atom. Diagrammatic pieces bring another level of complexity to the work as a whole. While the other pieces seem to represent incomprehensible phonemes, these two communicate meaning as pictographs. The difference between these two pieces and the rest of the show, while pronounced, is not schismatic. This work has all been culled from the same alchemical spell book, much of the text, some of the diagrams. One wonders what we're being instructed in.

The level of craft and scrutiny in this work are nothing short of astounding. Boas paints in acrylic ink with the precision of a scientific illustrator or a field biologist. Think of combining the sensibilities of John James Audubon and Nicholas Flammel. This work depends almost entirely on the illusion of texture and tactile response in the viewer; the rigidity of an alligator scale, the physical strangeness of an octopus tentacle emerging from striped ocelot fur. These textures are rich and detailed and luminous, Boas differentiates every hair from every other hair, allowing the viewer's eye to follow the detailed transitions from one animal type to another while tracing the arabesques of the larger forms.

It would be interesting to see this work generate a book of some kind. With more pieces it could grow into an alphabet, each object could be further developed as a component of a larger, magical grammar structure.

Mutatis Mutandis • through October 28th The Northview Gallery
Portland Community College • Sylvania Campus
12000 Southwest 49th Ave • Portland • OR • 97219
Monday through Friday • 8:00 am - 4:00 pm • 503.977.4264

Posted by Isaac Peterson on October 25, 2005 at 8:47 | Comments (0)


Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Remember me?

s p o n s o r s
Site Design: Jennifer Armbrust   •   Site Development: Philippe Blanc & Katherine Bovee