The Pheromone Art Gallery— A Downtown Salem Activity

Kate Twitchell, Guest Author
January 19, 2012 (Updated April 25, 2012)

If you’re in Salem and you don’t like the weather, whether it be too hot or too cold, one fun thing to do is gallery hop.

Map out a short list of art galleries in the downtown area. Then find a parking spot at a meter, a free parking garage like Marion Parkade or Chemeketa Parkade, or a Park and Ride with a public bus connection, and walk the many-covered sidewalks of Downtown Salem. (Here’s something else to help with parking.)

My favorite gallery so far is The Pheromone Art Gallery. The artist, Christopher Marley, has preserved brilliantly-colored insects and interestingly-shaped bugs into fascinating layouts. His work looks a little like a bug collection, of pinned things to white blocks, except there are no pins and he arranges them not in rows, but in clusters or spectrums.

One piece might contain several dozen species of bug, all the same shape, but each a different color. There are no labels, so if you just want to look without reading art plaques to learn more about the bug, you can.

He’s got other stuff other than insects, like crystals and shells, but my favorite is the bugs. That’s weird for me to write because I hate spiders and wouldn’t touch a live beetle if you paid me. I’m good with ladybugs and roly-polies, but those are not what Christopher makes art with.

It helps if you read the second paragraph of his ‘About’ Page: he tells us that he was just as squeamish about them as we are until he saw them as a designer and decided to show us just the bugs on a clean, white surface, behind a sheet of clean, clear glass. In the art gallery, they’re fascinating– huge stick bugs that I’ve never seen close up because I can never see them. Giant morpho butterflies of lots of brilliant blues and indigos. I’m even fascinated by the beetles with the huge horns because they’re not surrounded by dirt and dung and other bugs.

My favorite part about the art gallery is the knowledge that kids in the area often have field trips to this white-filled space. There’s a three-seater coloring table at the back of the gallery with walls that are plastered with completed coloring pages.

There are copies of a matching game made with Christopher’s art around the gallery for sale, but there’s another open copy that the kids can play with while they’re in the gallery. There are sets of markers and crayons out for kids to freely reach for. There’s great music playing while they color and you continue to absorb. Sounds like a great family vacation activity.

It’s clear Christopher has kids and that he’s a kid himself. He’s a small geek with his exciting bug collection, and you can tell by his tone in the placards next to his pieces. He’s excited about the color and form in the natural world, and he’ll have you walking away, feeling awed as well.

Kate is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico. As much as she’s learned to seek out the subtle colors of the desert, Kate has found that she really is a tree girl at heart. She posts on parents’ tips for kid-friendly traveling havens from a curious newcomer’s perspective; Kate is a very recent resident of Salem and thrilled to be here. Kate writes personally and with just as much enthusiasm here.