Oaks Park Pentimento: Portland's Lost and Found Carousel Art

Jim Lommasson, Inara Verzemnieks, Prudence Roberts

Oaks Park Pentimento records the blurring of past and present, a moment when two generations of paintings collided to create remarkable new images. Over two days in 1982, Jim Lommasson photographed the strange and beautiful paintings that decorated the center column of the historic carousel at Oaks Amusement Park in Portland, Oregon.

The original carousel images were an exotic assortment of Edwardian pastoral scenes—western explorers, Native Americans, Arabs, idealized women—painted by anonymous German and Italian immigrants in the 1920s. In 1944, two itinerant painters, brothers from Vashon Island, Washington, painted over the eighteen panels. Their paintings featured Oregon landmarks from the coast to the Columbia River Highway and from Mount Hood to Multnomah Falls. After years of wear, the new images began to flake and fade away, revealing parts of the original imagery in strange and unusual ways. The double exposures or “pentimentos” include a ghostly sailboat gliding through a forest, an Indian chief looming over the Columbia River Gorge, and a parasoled woman with the road to Crown Point emerging from her loins. Each new image created a completely accidental, even surreal, story about the juxtaposition of two generations of paintings. Just three years after Jim Lommasson captured these images on film, the original paintings were restored and the mysterious doubleexposures disappeared. Oaks Park Pentimento preserves Lommasson’s haunting photographs and also includes an appreciation by art historian Prudence Roberts and a look at Oaks Park, past and present, by Oregonian reporter Inara Verzemnieks. Native Oregonians who grew up visiting Oaks Park, newcomers interested in the city’s quirky, offbeat culture and history, readers interested in folk art and art photography, and carousel and amusement park buffs alike will enjoy these remarkable photographs.