Isabella Chappell: a good life

Farewell to Portland Civic Theatre's legendary longtime guiding light, who has left the building at 95

Among the many things I remember about Isabella Chappell, the onetime prime minister of Portland theater who died on February 1 at the age of ninety-five, is the antic wit lurking just below her formidable managerial prowess. You could be talking with her about serious stuff – ticket sales, budgets, the need to upgrade facilities at the old Portland Civic Theatre building, the difficulty of selling any show that wasn’t a musical or a comedy or preferably both – and she would rat-a-tat facts and figures and drawbacks and contingencies and possibilities like an economics advisor to the White House. Then, at some point, the edges of her mouth would twitch as an irrepressible thought struck her, something comic and absurd yet also somehow to the point, and she’d giggle and blurt it out. Well, this about sums up the situation, her laughter would suggest, and you would realize that, no matter how tough the situation appeared to be, at some level she was enjoying it.

By the time I met her, in the late 1970s or early ’80s, Isabella had long been established as a significant player, even something of a legend, in the tight circle of Portland theater. She was housemother to the clan, the one who had the knowledge and wisdom and warmth and who knew how to make the decisions and wasn’t afraid to be blunt when being blunt was what was called for. People admired her and loved her and, as several have confessed in the days since her death, were a little in awe of her. She had taken over as general manager of Portland Civic Theatre, at the time the big player in town, in 1969, and steered it straight into the churning cultural waters of the time, protecting its roots in old-fashioned community theater at the same time that she reached out to new voices and more countercultural talents, greenlighting projects by the likes of Storefront Theatre’s Ric Young and others. Comfortable in the West Hills culture that had long supported Civic as its own, she also extended the theater’s reach into rowdier, more proletarian realms.

Isabella Chappell inside Portland Civic Theatre, 1988. Photo: Marian Wood Kolisch (American, 1920-2008), gelatin silver print, Bequest of Marian Wood Kolisch, © Portland Art Museum

By the time she announced her retirement in 1984 she had come to seem a civic inevitability, a landmark you might find on a city map. Isabella retiring, I wrote in The Oregonian, “seemed a little like Admiral Hyman Rickover deciding he was going to quit the Navy or Broadway Joe Namath announcing he was giving up on the Big Apple and moving to Omaha. This is no fly-by-night administrator. In a hard-work, low-pay field where people come and go like pop tunes on an AM radio station, Chappell has been an anomaly. She has been at the Civic’s helm for the past 14 years, a long time in the high-burnout field of arts management. ‘Sometimes I think the best preparation I had for running a theater was raising seven kids,’ Chappell said with a laugh during an interview several days ago. There’s nothing like dealing with the squabblings of a big family, she added, to teach the skills a theater manager needs.”


TaiHei Ensemble: garden reflections

New music by University of Oregon composers inspired by Portland's Lan Su Chinese Garden premieres in Eugene and Portland concerts


A new day at Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden begins. The morning’s multi-hued sky reflected in a koi filled pond is accompanied by the sounds of birdsong and the gentle trickling of a waterfall hidden in a bamboo alcove. This walled-in botanical oasis of Chinese native flora, art, architecture, and calm — one of the most authentic Suzhou-style gardens outside China — was the destination last October of a cadre of University of Oregon graduate students beginning a year-long music composition project.

Organized by Eugene’s student-managed TaiHei Ensemble, the “One Day in a Chinese Garden” project immersed ten invited composers from the Oregon Composers Forum in a day of Chinese art and culture. The highlight was a 45-minute docent-led walking tour of the garden that ended at the teahouse, where composers heard a program of traditional Chinese music performed on authentic instruments by members of the Portland Wisdom Art Academy.

Lan Su Chinese Garden Reflective pond with Moon Locking Pavilion. Photo: Jared Knight

After a full day of sensory exposure to a multitude of cultural experiences, the participants composed, based upon their garden visit and further individual research into Chinese culture and music, a 5-8 minute piece for TaiHei Ensemble, known for exploring and enacting international dialogs across the Pacific Rim through music. On Tuesday, TaiHei performs the music in the first of three 2019 concerts. Like the image of the sky in the garden’s reflecting pool, their compositions reflect aspects of the garden’s physical attributes as well as the ideas it signifies and other notions gleaned from their experience in the garden.


Oregon College of Art and Craft terminates its degree program

The future of Oregon College of Art and Craft is in doubt as its board decides to shut down its degree program

The Oregon College of Art and Craft board of trustees has announced it will “terminate all degree programs” at the college at the end of this academic term. “May 19, 2019, will mark the commencement ceremony for the final graduating at OCAC,” according to a statement released by the college.

The college has hired a commercial real estate broker to begin the process of selling the 8.6 acre campus on Southwest Barnes Road, which is valued at $13,840,620 according to its Washington County Tax Assessment. But the board is still “actively considering” various alternatives for the organization going forward, including selling the campus, leasing it back and continuing its legacy of craft education that goes back to 1907. Those alternatives, however, won’t include a future as a degree-granting arts college.


Marginal Consort: sound and silence

Japanese ensemble’s Portland performance focuses more on improvisatory process than musical product

Photos by Taz Coffey, courtesy of PICA

The performance began simply enough, with Marginal Consort’s Kazuo Imai using a giant sheet of paper to break the silence and commence the one-night-only concert at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), like a gun fired to set off a race.

Kazuo Imai playing the paper snapper at Marginal Consort’s January concert at Portland Institute for Contemporary Art.

In a workshop the previous night, Imai taught the simplicity of creating what they’ve dubbed “the paper snapper” out of mundane craft paper. Once built, we were all asked to “snap” our instruments unabashedly. The cacophony that this produced, the varying tones based on the strength and speed of each snapper built up to an eruption like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Opening the January 23 concert with this definite sound subdued any conversation, and focused all attention on the four members of Japan’s renowned musical ensemble.


Happy Lunar New Year and welcome to DanceWatch Monthly! We’ve decided to switch from a weekly to a monthly format for awhile to see if we like it better. (If you have an opinion on weekly vs. monthly, let us know; we’re here to serve you.) We’re still writing about Oregon dance performances and related events, but we’re organizing them by genre now, to help you more quickly find what interests you. February’s plentiful dance performances, 17 in total, offer celebration, cultural exploration, romance, joy, comedy, and deep dives into a variety of concepts. We hope you enjoy our new monthly edition: remember to check back with us on February 27 for the March DanceWatch.

February Performances

International cultures and dance styles

Feeling lucky? White Lotus Dragon & Lion Dance Team perform at the Lan Su Chinese Garden Lunar New Year celebration. Photo courtesy of White Lotus Dragon & Lion Dance.

New Year Lion Dance/Chinese New Year at Lan Su Chinese Garden
February 5-19
11am, 1pm, 3pm February 9, White Lotus Dragon & Lion Dance Organization
11am, 1pm, 4pm, February 10, Viet Hung Lion & Dragon Dance Team
11am, 1pm, 4pm, February 16, Portland Lee’s Association Dragon & Lion Dance Team
11am, 1pm, 4pm, February 17, International Lion Dance Team
Lan Su Chinese Garden, 239 NW Everett St.
Ring in the 2019 Lunar New Year with a lion dance, traditionally performed in China as well as in other Asian countries at cultural and religious festivals. The dance, an important part of new year celebrations, is meant to ward off bad spirits and bring prosperity and good luck in the upcoming year. The lion dance is performed by two people (not to be confused with the dragon dance, which is performed by 12). It imitates a lion’s movements or displays martial arts agility, depending on the style. The performance is accompanied by drums, symbols, and gongs, and is one of the many ways to celebrate the new year at Lan Su Chinese Garden. There are 12 chances to see a lion dance performed by four different Portland lion dance teams.

Bharatanatyam dancer Mayurika Bhaskar shows how it’s done in a one-night-only concert. Photo courtesy of Sweta Ravisankar.

Bharatanatyam dancer Mugdha Vichare, with Mayurika Bhaskar, performs in a Hillsboro-area concert. Photo by Sarathy Jayakumar.

Bharatanatyam Margam by Mugdha Vichare and Mayurika Bhaskar
Students of Sweta Ravisankar (Sarada Kala Nilayam)
5:30 pm February 24
Hindu Education and Cultural Society of America, Portland Balaji Temple, 2092 NW Aloclek Dr., Suite 522, Hillsboro
Bharatanatyam is an ancient style of South Indian dance that interprets Hindu mythology and spirituality and traces its roots back to Natya Shastra, the ancient Sanskrit text on the performing arts written sometime between 200 BCE and 500 CE. The dance is characterized by a fixed torso, angular arms, bent knees, complex rhythmic footwork, and a sophisticated vocabulary of gestures for the hands, eyes, and face.

Portland Bharatanatyam dancers Mugdha Vichare and Mayurika Bhaskar, students of Bharatanatyam and Nattuvangam performer, teacher, and choreographer Sweta Ravisankar, will perform four dances (Alaripu, Varnam, Padam, Abhang) from the Bharatanatyam repertoire, accompanied by a live orchestra composed of Portland-area musicians.


The panel discussion Ballet Outsider: Gender Politics and Power explores issues in the ballet world. Photo by Erin Zysett.

Ballet Outsider: Gender Politics and Power
A panel discussion hosted by Eugene Ballet Music Director Brian McWhorter
Noon February 6
University of Oregon, Berwick Hall, Tykeson Rehearsal Hall, 975 E 18th Ave., Eugene
Inspired by the #MeToo movement, challenges to age-old ballet narratives, and questions surrounding race, gender roles, sexism, equality, eating disorders, and abuse in ballet, Eugene Ballet Music Director Brian McWhorter hosts a panel discussion exploring the state of ballet prior to the Eugene Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet. (The event is part of the ongoing Ballet Outsider series). Guest speakers include Lara Bovilsky, an associate professor of English at the University of Oregon whose work focuses on early modern British understandings of group and individual identity; Jamie Friedman, an assistant professor of English at Linfield College, who specializes in identity politics in 14th-century English literature; and Shannon Mockli, a University of Oregon associate professor of dance and choreographer known for provocative, individualistic work.

The next Ballet Outsider panel takes place at noon April 10. It will feature Eugene Ballet resident choreographer Suzanne Haag, who is choreographing an updated version of The Firebird that puts the story in a contemporary context.

Eugene Ballet celebrates the season with doomed romance and family drama in Toni Pimble’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Photo by Aran Denison.

Romeo and Juliet
Eugene Ballet/Orchestra Next
February 9-10
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
Eugene Ballet’s 40th anniversary season continues with Shakespeare’s tale of youthful romance and family feuding in a ballet choreographed by artistic director Toni Pimble. Orchestra Next, conducted by Brian McWhorter, plays Prokofiev’s rich score for the drama. “Prokofiev’s score to Romeo and Juliet is so ridiculously full of color and drama” McWhorter said in a statement, “it often sounds to me like the score itself is bursting apart at the seams.”

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (here in “Stars and Stripes Forever”) do ballet their way. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Presented by White Bird
7:30 pm February 13
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway
For one night only, the 14-member all-male ballet company known as The Trocks graces Portland for a fifth time, thanks to White Bird. Founded in 1974, The Trocks skillfully perform classical ballet on pointe, dancing both male and female roles, all with a hilarious comic flair that parodies balletic conventions while also paying homage to the famed Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. (For background, see Rebels on Pointe, the 2017 Trocks documentary)

Xuan Cheng, dancing the title role, keeps it clean in Oregon Ballet Theatre’s production of Ben Stevenson’s “Cinderella.”  Photo by Yi Yin.

Oregon Ballet Theatre/OBT Orchestra
Choreography by Ben Stevenson
February 16-23
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St.
Cinderella suffers at the hands of her cruel stepmother and stepsisters, as we all know, but British choreographer Ben Stevenson’s choreography emphasizes the courage, hope, love, and magic in this tale. A sizable cast of dancers wearing fanciful costumes performs to Sergei Prokofiev’s lush score, played live at all shows by the OBT Orchestra.

Modern and contemporary: local

Film genres inspire BodyVox’s collection of contemporary dance pieces in “The Cutting Room.” Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

The Cutting Room
February 8-9
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
Multiple movie genres (action, comedy, drama, sci-fi) and memories of favorite films inspire BodyVox’s cinematic, virtuosic dance performance The Cutting Room. Former BodyVox dancer Jonathan Krebs returns to perform with the company; look for new company member Jessica McCarthy and apprentice Coltrane Liu as well.

Heidi Duckler Dance will brave the chill during a performance at the Portland Winter Light Festival. Photo courtesy of Heidi Duckler.

Sleepless Like Light
Portland Winter Light Festival/Heidi Duckler Dance
February 7-9
West Riverfront Art Experience, 1000 SW Naito Pkwy.
In venues all over town, the Portland Winter Light Festival celebrates art, technology, and the season with events designed to draw Portlanders out of their homes and into the wintry night. This year’s festival features work by choreographer Heidi Duckler, founder of Heidi Duckler Dance. Duckler is interested in art that reshapes our vision of ourselves and our world; to that end, she has worked on redefining audience-performer relationships by staging dance in unusual locales. She presents the duet Sleepless Like Light, created in collaboration with fabric artist Mimi Haddon, in which two dancers perform in wearable cages illuminated by disco balls.

PDX Dance Collective dancer/choreographer Zahra Garret performs in the group’s swan song. Photo courtesy of PDX Dance Collective.

The Gift
PDX Dance Collective
February 8-10
The Headwaters Theater, 55 NE Farragut St., Suite #9
This is the last performance from PDX Dance Collective, which, ironically, was founded after a group of friends lamented the lack of performance opportunities for dancers who also have day jobs. The company will present an evening of original choreography by April MacKay, Zahra Garrett, and Rachael Singer. The work is loosely based on Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver, which explores contrasts between conformity and individuality, safety and sterility, passion and pain, asking how we, as fallible humans, can manage our differences.

Beth Whelan and Trevor Wilde share new work on the double billing “Two of a Kind.” Photo courtesy of Beth Whelan.

Two of a Kind: A Shared Evening of Dance
Beth Whelan and Trevor Wilde
February 15-16
Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
Choreographers and recent Portland transplants Beth Whelan and Trevor Wilde present the double bill Two of a Kind: A Shared Evening of Dance. Whelan’s Georgia is inspired by the life, art, and writings of American artist Georgia O’Keeffe; it’s set to minimal, classically styled piano music. Wilde’s three-part piece Anotherwom(e)n delves into trauma and transformation. Whelan is a movement-based artist, choreographer, teacher, and dance writer for Oregon ArtsWatch. Wilde is a dance artist, performer, and choreographer who co-founded Dillon & Wilde + Artists and dances with Shaun Keylock Company. (For more on recent Portland dance transplants, see Whelan’s story “Is Portland the Newest Dance Destination?” here.)

See why Anya Pearson’s “Made to Dance in Burning Buildings” earned her a $10,000 grant. Photo courtesy of Shaking The Tree Theatre.

Made to Dance in Burning Buildings
Written by Portland playwright Anya Pearson
Directed by Jamie Rea with choreography by Jeff George
February 15-March 16
Shaking The Tree Theatre, 823 SE Grant Street
Made to Dance in Burning Buildings is a fusion of poetry, theater, and violent-visceral contemporary dance that poses this question: How do we heal from trauma? The story, performed by a multi-ethnic cast of 10, follows a young black woman who is raped, develops PTSD, and metaphorically fractures into five different women as a result. It’s from these five points of view that the story is told. Based on a true story, and inspired Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, the work earned Pearson the inaugural $10,000 Voice is a Muscle Grant from the Corporeal Voices Foundation.

Minh Tran & Company samples Vietnamese Buddhist rituals in “Anicca/Impermanence.” Photo courtesy of Minh Tran.

Minh Tran & Company
February 21-24
Reed College Performing Arts Building, Massee Performance Lab, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
Longtime Portland choreographer Minh Tran explores Vietnamese Buddhist rituals surrounding death and mourning in this new 49-minute work, which was inspired by the recent loss of his parents. A native of Vietnam, Tran immigrated to the United States in 1980 as a political refugee; he choreographs pieces that fuse traditional Asian performance techniques with contemporary Western dance. His work reflects an unwavering commitment to breaking down cultural and racial barriers.

Alembic artists in residence present their perspectives in the Alembic Artists Showcase. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NorthWest.

Alembic Artists Showcase
Presented by Performance Works NorthWest
February 22-24
Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
Friday night reception and a talk-back after the Sunday matinee.
After working in the Performance Works NorthWest studio for the past year, Alembic resident artists Olivia Camfield, KT Kusmaul of Body Home Fat Dance, and Fernanda D’Agostino, Sophia Emigh, and Jaleesa Johnston of IN/BODY and are ready to share their work.

Camfield, a member of the Texas Hill Country Muscogee Creek Tribe, performs a contemporary piece about indigenous people reclaiming their narratives; she’s joined by dancers Kayla Banks (African-American, Choctow), Celeste Camfield (Muscogee/Creek), and Victoria Perez (Mexica/Indigena). IN/BODY uses a marriage of technology and movement to explore trauma and healing. KT Kusmal/Body Home Fat Dance, which describes itself as “a fat-celebrating dance collaboration,” examines the emotional terrain and cultural meanings of fatness in its work.

A-WOL Dance Collective, just hanging out in “Left of Center.” Photo courtesy of A-WOL Dance Collective.

Left of Center
A-WOL Dance Collective
February 23-24
Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NW Alberta St.
A-WOL Dance Collective, a 13-member company combining aerial arts and dance, offers Left of Center, in which dancers wearing Victorian-era costumes perform in the round to a haunting soundscape. A-WOL describes the work as “a fantastical tale suspended between reverie and reality … enveloped in a dream state free of the limitations of the waking world.”

NW Dance Project celebrates 15 years of working with dancers (pictured here: Julia Radick) in “Trip the Light Fantastic.” Photo by Michael Slobodian.

Trip The Light Fantastic
NW Dance Project
February 28-March 1
Gala and performance March 2
Expensify, 401 SW 5TH Ave.
Limited capacity
In this 15th anniversary event, NW Dance Project performs pieces by artistic director Sarah Slipper, resident choreographer Ihsan Rustem, and Oregon Ballet Theatre founding artistic director James Canfield in and around the 40,000-square-foot former First National Bank building, now the headquarters of tech company Expensify. The event celebrates the company’s artistic achievements: work with more than 1200 professional and pre-professional dancers (including four Princess Grace Award winners) and the performance of more than 280 original pieces by nationally and internationally known choreographers. The evening will include a dance-cooking skit between Portland actor Susannah Mars and company dancer Andrea Parson, music by Pink Martini pianist Hunter Noack, and a post-performance dance party in the basement vault, hosted by former NW Dance Project star Viktor Usov.

Modern and contemporary: imported

Beijing Dance Theater makes its West Coast debut with three contemporary works. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Beijing Dance Theater
Presented by White Bird
7:30 pm February 20
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway
Beijing Dance Theater makes its West Coast debut through White Bird with three works from award-winning contemporary Chinese choreographer Wang Yuanyuan, set against striking visual designs by Tan Shaoyuan and Han Jiang. The company’s 13 highly skilled dancers perform Farewell, Shadows, inspired by a book of poetry by Chinese literary giant Lu Xun; Crossing, an ominous journey in which individual dancers struggle to mark their paths along an empty stage, and Hamlet, a balletic take on Shakespeare’s melancholy prince. Yuanyuan, who founded the company in 2008 after completing an MFA in dance at California Institute of the Arts, prides herself on creating innovative contemporary dance steeped in Chinese cultural traditions.


Fierce and fabulous: Compagnie Hervé Koubi returns with “The Barbarian Nights or The First Dawns of the World.” Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Compagnie Hervé Koubi
Presented by White Bird
February 28-March 2
Newmark Theatre, 111 SW Broadway
French-Algerian choreographer Hervé Koubi and his company of 13 male street dancers from Algeria and Morocco present The Barbarian Nights or The First Dawns of the World. Set against the musical backdrop of Wagner, Mozart, French composer Gabriel Fauré, and traditional Algerian melodies, the dancers, dressed in Swarovski crystal masks and long dark skirts, use capoeira, martial arts, and urban and contemporary dance to explore the idea of otherness. The barbarians of the title come from the term that Greeks and Romans used to describe foreigners who did not speak their languages or understand their customs.

Upcoming Performances

March 1-3, The Odyssey, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
March 1-3, Materialize, PDX Contemporary Ballet
March 7-9, Compagnie Marie Chouinard, presented by White Bird
March 8-10, Interplay, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
March 9, Shakti, Sankalpa Dance Ensemble, Sweta Ravishankar, Sridharini Sridharan, and Yashaswini Raghuram
March 9, Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company, Walters Cultural Arts Center
March 10, The Sleeping Beauty, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
March 14-17, Corteo, Cirque du Soleil
March 14-21, Ordinary Devotions, Linda Austin
March 16, A Midsummer Night at the Savoy, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater
March 29-31, New Expressive Works Residency Performance

April 5, Lecture Demonstration with Rosie Herrera and Company, Reed College
April 4-6, Parsons Dance, presented by White Bird
April 4-13, The Pearl Dive Project, BodyVox
April 7, The Golden Age, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
April 9-10, Savion Glover, presented by White Bird
April 11-14, Director’s Choice, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 12-14, Shen Yun, Presented by the Oregon Falun Dafa Association
April 13-14, The Firebird, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
April 24, Philadanco, presented by White Bird
April 25-27, Encores, NW Dance Project

May 9-11, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox and NW Film Center
May 10-12, Shaun Keylock Company
May 10-12, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, Cleopatra (world premiere), Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 17-19, Undone, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 19, Carmen Suite / Petrushka, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
May 26, Derek Hough: Live! The Tour, Eugene

June 7-15, The Americans, Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 7-9, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 13-15, Summer Performances, NW Dance Project

On the bridge: American true tales

Theatre Diaspora's "Here On This Bridge: The – Ism Project" tells six stories of life from the nonwhite side of the national divide

Shareen Jacobs, performing the opening monologue in Theatre Diaspora’s Here On This Bridge: The – Ism Project, takes her audience for a walk on the wild side. The wild side is the sidewalks and streets of Lake Oswego, the small and pretty Portland suburb often cited as Oregon’s safest city to live in, but which, in Josie Seid’s short solo piece Being Me in the Current America, can be very much something else again.

Minutes later, in his own piece See Her Strength, writer/performer Samson Syharath, in the midst of the story of his Laotian-immigrant mother’s fortitude and coming to terms with her new culture and her son’s gayness, lays his head softly for comfort onto Jacobs’ lap. Everything stops: It’s a moment of revelation and grace.

Samson Syharath and Shareen Jacobs in “See Her Strength.” Photo: Alex Haslett

On they roll, these short and telling stories, each its own tale yet all gathering force and strength from their mutuality. Sofia Molina’s firm yet gentle telling of Yasmin Ruvalcaba’s Carmelita, a story of danger and bravery and crossing the Rio Grande to the United States. The tough and sorrowful truth in Dré Slaman’s performance of Heather Raffo’s bone-rattling Lockdown Drills, about slain children and the psychic cost of mass-shooting lockdown drills in America’s schools: “Who grew this boy? This girl?” Shelley B. Shelley’s stubborn, wryly humorous, and sometimes angry performance in Bonnie Ratner and Roberta Hunte’s That Diversity Thing as a black lesbian blue-collar worker who loves her job but not the guff that comes with it: “Twenty years later I still hear that voice. ‘You’re only here because you’re black.’ Or, ‘You’re here because you’re a woman. That’s the only reason you’re here.’” Jane Vogel, in Dmae Roberts’ Harvest, her story of an Asian American woman growing up in rural and mostly white and inhospitable Oregon, and the state and family history of stolen land and incarceration during World War II: “It’s like the harvest was us.”


VizArts Monthly: from vandalism to valentines

There may be snow and ice but there is plenty to see in February in the Visual Arts

We’re looking a great month for painting, collage, and regional artists! Unexpected juxtapositions abound, whether it’s the group show of keepsakes at Adams and Ollman or Jayna Conkey’s photographs of vandalized library books. The Contemporary Northwest Art Awards are relaunched as a new triennial series at PAM, where you can still view the excellent American realism exhibition. Lucinda Parker has a major retrospective at the Hallie Ford museum in Salem, and photographer Leo Rubinfien returns to Reed to exhibit decades of photography.

In art world news, Butters gallery has announced that it will be an online-only gallery, effective February 1, and Converge 45 has announced Lisa Dent as their new director.

If you’re out for First Thursday you can catch the second-to-last Night Lights event downtown as part of RACC’s outdoor public art series. If you can’t get enough light at night, the Portland Winter Light Festival starts that night too.

Lucinda Parker, “Star (in the Winner’s Circle),” (1979) acrylic on canvas, 44 x 48 in., collection of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Willamette University, Salem, OR, Gift of Marilyn and Robert Shotola, 2008.047. Photo: Dale Peterson.

Force Fields: Lucinda Parker

Through March 31
Hallie Ford Museum of Art
Willamette University
700 State Street
Salem, Oregon

Don’t miss this 50+ year retrospective by the “premier Portland painter of her generation” according to Artswatch’s Paul Sutinen. Roughly 40 paintings span more than 50 years of her career, starting with a self-portrait painted when she was 16. Read Sutinen’s review for full comments on this vibrant show by an important local figure.


Elliott Erwitt, West Germany, Sylt, 1968

Withdrawn: Jayna Conkey

Through February 23
Roll Up Gallery
1715 SE Spokane Street
Portland OR

Jayna Conkey turned a page of “The New Color Photography” by Sally Eauclaire in 1999 at the Multnomah County Library only to discover a vandalized image. A previous reader had cut a very particular section out of photo of a nude figure reclining on a bed. Below the window, which revealed the text on the following page, the words “Can’t Believe it!” were written in red ink. Since then, Conkey has documented mutilated books from around the country in great detail using a large-format camera. This exhibition is the first time she’s shown this series in Portland, and looks to be full of unexpected and entertaining accidental compositions.

Maria de Los Angeles In the-Garden of Hope and Freedom

From Ignorance to Wisdom

Through March 16
Schneider Museum of Art
555 Indiana Street
Ashland, OR 97520

A vibrant and eclectic group show curated by Disjecta’s executive director Blake Shell. Each artist is reacting, in their own way, to the theme of exploration – “through their practice–instead of exploring expansion and personal gain, they explore ideas, materials, and new approaches to art-making. America’s land is beautiful and vast but now overused, damaged, and known as sites for past and current atrocities,” according to Shell. Artists include Robert Arellano, David Bithell, Cody Bustamante, Miles Inada, Robin Strangfeld, Ryan Kitson, Maria de Los Angeles, Adam Batemen.

Ryan Kitson – sculpture

Suds Ur Duds: Ryan Kitson

Through March 16
Schneider Museum of Art
555 Indiana Street
Ashland, OR 97520

While you’re at the Schneider Museum of Art, check out this show by Kitson, currently participating in the Visiting Artist and Scholar in Teaching (VAST) program at Southern Oregon University. This exhibition is Kitson’s direct reaction to the experience of returning to the Rogue Valley after living on the East Coast for 17 years. Operating on the principle “absorb all aspects of the experience and react almost passively, letting every day be your guide”, Kitson has created fun, lively assemblages from materials and images gathered from the activity of the SOU campus. Gathering unused clay from students, he threw slabs onto the buildings and trees on campus. These impressions were supplemented with materials “according to the ensuing adventure,” including aluminum, lead, resin, harvested redwood, a tie-dye t-shirt, commercial kombucha bottles, a vacuum sealed cast of a locally harvested blacktail buck heart, and maps of Oregon.


Leo Rubinfien, On Nathan Road, Hong Kong, 1995

Eyehold to Eyehold: Leo Rubinfien

Feb 7 – April 28
Cooley Gallery
Reed College
3203 SE Woodstock

Accomplished American photographer Leo Rubinfien grew up in Japan, coming to Reed College from Tokyo in 1970. While at school, he continually traveled back and forth for the holidays. The constant shifts instilled in him a strong awareness of the differences and similarities between post-war Japan and America. After a stint in New York in the early 1980s he returned to Asia, where he spent eight years photographing his way through Japan and many other countries including Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. This exhibition is a happy return to Reed for Rubinfien and is a look back across his extensive catalogue. Curated by Cooley director Stephanie Snyder from the extensive archive of photos that have come out of his many travels, several of which have never been published or exhibited before.


New Work by Holly Osborne

Human Nature: Holly Osborne

February 7 – March 4
Erickson Gallery
9 NW 2nd Avenue

New paintings by Portland artist Holly Osborne explore human relationships – between each other and the environment. Osborne’s arresting paintings shift abruptly between delicate, skillful representative portraiture, abstraction, and empty space. A realistic hand reaches out with a hose to spray water, represented by bare canvas, into a garden of heavy blobs of paint. A clear-cut forest is depicted by a pink emptiness that fades in to the far mountains and the flatness of the panel. This show looks to be filled with satisfying yet haunting imagery.

Keepsake by anonymous 19th century artist

Think of me

Feb 8, 2019 – March 16
Adams and Ollman
209 SW 9th Ave

The visual and traditional styles of keepsakes and mementos runs through this charming group exhibition. The body – both as a physical and a social concept – is explored through collage and assemblages. The work on display crosses the boundaries between two-dimensional and sculptural work. The artists featured range from an anonymous 19th century sailor to contemporary artists. The show’s title is borrowed from the sailor’s valentine: composed of many different kinds of seashells arranged in a radiating pattern, the keepsake implores the viewer, or perhaps a long-forgotten recipient, to “Think of Me.” Joining it are Anthony Campuzano’s abstract compositions made from newspaper headlines, novels and song lyrics to make abstract compositions that function like rhythmic mantras or stutters. Cuban-American artist and cigar-roller, Felipe Jesus Consalvos, contributes a personal body of work based on the tradition of cigar band collage. Other work includes Paul Lee wall-mounted assemblages, Em Rooney’s embellished photographs, and Dennis Witkin’s relief sculptures.

Rock Formations, Study 2, Yoichi, Hokkaido, Japan, 2004. By Michael Kenna

Ice & Stone: Suiseki Viewing Stones from the Huntington & Hokkaido Photographs by Michael Kenna

February 9 – March 24
(Extended display in Tanabe Gallery through April 7)
Portland Japanese Garden
611 SW Kingston Road

“Viewing stones” are small, naturally occurring rock formations that encourage a sustained gaze. Variously known as Suiseki (水石) in Japan, “scholar’s rocks” in China or “suseok” in Korea, this is a robust, traditional, and ancient art of appreciation. The Japanese tradition is distinguished by carefully-considered presentation – usually mounted on a diaza, (a hand-carved wooden base) or set in a suiban, a sand-filled tray. On loan from the the prestigious Huntington Library and Gardens, this elegant exhibition features a selection of suiseki viewing stones from the collection of James Greaves, curated by the Huntington Cultural Curator, Robert Hori. Joining the stones are gorgeous black and white photographs of Hokkaido landscapes by Seattle photographer Michael Kenna – included as part of the Portland Japanese Garden’s celebration of 2019 as The Year of Hokkaido.


Fernanda D’Agostino (American, b. 1950), Borderline, 2018, Still from video projection, 2 projectors, 13 scenes set up in a software to combine imagery in a 169 combinations, Courtesy of the artist, Photo: Brian Foulkes.

the map is not the territory

February 9 – May 5, 2019
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Avenue

Organized by Grace Kook-Anderson in in collaboration with the Museum’s Education Department, this will be the first exhibition in a triennial series that PAM is calling “a reconsidered format to the biennial, previously known as the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards.” By including Alaska and Vancouver, B.C. for the first time as part of the museum’s Northwest Art program, the series hopes to offer a fresh take on how we think of the boundaries and history of the Northwest. The themes of the show center on our connection to the land, the effort of decolonization. It foregrounds indigenous values and is “a celebration of the region’s kinship.” Artists include Annette Bellamy, Fernanda D’Agostino, Jenny Irene Miller, Mary Ann Peters, Ryan Pierce, Rob Rhee, Henry Tsang, and Charlene Vickers.