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Photo by Christopher Dibble, Portland Monthly.

Evening With An Artist: Ellen McFadden '49

Oct 19 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM


Ampersand Gallery & Fine Books

Please RSVP via the form to the left.

Patron Events

2916 NE Alberta Street
Portland, OR, 97211   [map]

Please join us for a special reflection by gallerist Myles Haselhorst of Ampersand Gallery & Fine Books on new works by Ellen McFadden ‘49.

Ellen McFadden ‘49 began taking classes at the Museum Art School in 1939 and enrolled full-time in the mid-1940s. Now in her late 80’s, McFadden has returned to painting after a long career in graphic design. Her paintings, like her design work, incorporate the pattern and vibrant colors of the 1960s Constructivist design movement, an aesthetic she brought back to Portland. “I relate to Ken Kesey and his novels,” says McFadden. “I really am, deep down, a provincial from the Pacific Northwest: the landscape and the Pacific Ocean.” Join us for a wandering conversation about design, legacy, and the Northwest with one of Portland’s pioneering graphic designers.

This Evening With An Artist is presented with support from Ampersand Gallery & Fine Books.



Born in 1928 in Portland, Ellen McFadden has been working in design her entire life, both as an instructor and as a freelance graphic designer in the Northwest and Iowa. Coming of age during the time when WWII veterans were returning from the war, she attended the Museum Art School in the post-war years and took classes with Doug Lynch and Lloyd Reynolds, among others. At the time she also set up a “cubby-hole” office in downtown where she did pre-press mechanicals for other designers and free-lance calligraphy. Influenced in the early 1960s by Constructivist and New Graphic Design movements in Europe, she and her husband, Irwin McFadden, assimilated new styles and typefaces into their own practice at a time when clients were more comfortable with traditional approaches. Today, she works full-time on paintings that incorporate pattern and vibrant color, their titles alluding to the Northwest geography and native tribes that are so ingrained in her personal history, one that she tends to dismiss by ending a conversation with “now back to the drawing board.” She is equally matter-of-fact when describing her work: “I see the two dimensional surface as the basis for tension and interaction with shape and the four outside edges. Color is a part of that interaction. Perhaps that vision comes from my years of graphic design, working with a defined two dimensional space and its restrictions.”

Ellen McFadden graduated from the Museum Art School (now PNCA) in 1949. She has shown her work most recently at Ampersand Gallery & Fine Books, Hoffman Gallery, Wieden & Kennedy Gallery, and Portland International Airport. She was recently profiled in Portland Monthly.


Throughout Portland, you can see the influence of Pacific Northwest College of Art’s student, alumni, and faculty artists and designers on the cultural landscape of the city. You can encounter their work in galleries and artist-run spaces, in exhibitions and permanent collections, and as public art on streets and along transit corridors.

In this new event series, PNCA presents intimate conversations with emerging and established artists who share a deep connection with PNCA. We hope you will join us for an Evening With An Artist this fall.