COAST

Coos Bay’s Everybody Biennial

The Coos Art Museum's big biennial of Oregon art is a come-one come-all affair, with no gatekeepers. How's that work? You'd be surprised.

COOS BAY – What if they gave a Biennial and invited everyone to join in?

That’s not, of course, the way biennial art shows ordinarily work. From Venice to São Paulo to Shanghai to Sydney to Istanbul to Havana to Berlin to the Whitney in New York, biennials tend to be ambitious, careerist, elbow-throwing affairs, intent on one-upping the art world with the biggest names, the newest trends, the deepest scent of money, and the even deeper desire to shape the next chapter in the shifting story of global contemporary art. Competition is fierce, and acceptance into one of the big-name biennials can make an artist’s career.

Coos Art Museum’s Biennial 2018. In the center: Alan Bartl’s funkified bike trailer “Pork Slider.” Photo: Laura Grimes

Or you could just invite any and all artists in the state of Oregon to drop by with up to three works, and then fit them all onto your museum’s walls. That’s the way it works at the Coos Art Museum on the southern Oregon coast, where since the 1990s a “come one, come all” approach to its biennial has prevailed and, perhaps astonishingly, largely succeeded. In a way, it can’t get more daring. The show has no gatekeepers. Museum officials don’t know who or what’s going to walk in the door. You trust that it’ll be good, or at least not embarrassing. And what you get, you show. If ever there was a People’s Biennial, a purely democratic approach to the state of the art, this is it.

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The ultimate gift for your family

Upcoming Coast events include a workshop on writing your own obituary, as well as "It’s a Wonderful Life," Irish fiddler Kevin Carr, and the Gearhart Art Walk

Aging and dying may not usually be considered art, but you could argue that aging well – and perhaps dying, too — calls for a creative touch. And there’s no doubt that writing an obituary — at least an engaging, memorable obituary — is clearly an art. That’s the topic Wednesday afternoon at Manzanita’s Hoffman Center for the Arts in the ongoing The Art of Aging & Dying series.

Writer Kathie Hightower will lead the two-hour workshop beginning at 3 p.m. Nov. 14. Like many of us, Hightower likes to read obits.

Writer Kathie Hightower will teach a workshop on obit writing in Manzanita.

“No, not to be morbid, but as an honoring and out of curiosity,” Hightower said in a press release, which continues: “You know there is a wide variety. Many are pretty darn boring, just the facts in response to the template most funeral parlors ask you to fill in. Others capture the life and spirit of the individual, the true person who lived between the lines of roles like career, parenting, volunteer work. Which would you rather have represent you when you are gone? Boring or spirited?”

Hightower will share advice from professional obituary writers, as well as examples to inspire your own obit, and get you started writing it. It can be your gift to those who will write your obit when it’s time. (Or your way of ensuring it’s already done to your liking.)

“This exercise can be a true celebration of your life,” Hightower’s release adds. Participants should bring pen and paper or a laptop. They’ll leave with a start and questions to fill in additional details after the session, Hightower notes, as well as an assignment of choosing a favorite photo they’d want attached to their obit.

The Art of Aging & Dying series is held the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, alternating topics on aging and dying. The Nov. 28 program features a conversation on the humor and wisdom of spiritual teacher Ram Dass. Admission is $5. Check out future programs here.

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Nye Beach banners mark 10 years of flying their freak flag

The project, begun to address the Newport community's identity problem, nearly didn't get off the ground because of one controversial offering

Organizers can smile about it now, but 10 years ago, few involved in the fledgling Nye Beach Banner Project saw the humor. It all came down to one banner, the work of Rowan Lehrman. The front featured a topless woman painted in the style of bathing suit model Bettie Page, cavorting in the ocean waves, arm reaching up, ending not in a hand, but a crab claw. On the opposite side was the legend: “Nye Beach is 4 Freaks.”

Eileen Hearne created this banner, part of the “10 x 10” show, in 2015. All banners are 22-by-44-inch canvases. Photo by: Tom Webb, Newport Visual Arts Center

“I wanted to make a statement on inclusivity and beauty standards and the way our culture twists things,” said Lehrman, chef at Tables of Content restaurant. “That was the first year of the project, and it really got off to a shaky start. People took offense. They thought a man painted it and it was pornographic. Someone said the word freak bothered them. It was very tense in the beginning. There was talk about not proceeding with the project.”

What few knew was that the work had been inspired by a tale about Lehrman’s birth, when she was treated like a freak.

That was 2009, the kick-off of a project that this month is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a show commemorating its most prolific artists, as well as its annual auction this weekend.

The Nye Beach banners were envisioned as a way to help the little oceanside neighborhood with its perceived identity problem. It was a time of change — both welcome and not. Once known for its blocks of tumbledown cottages and boho spirit, Newport’s Nye Beach was transitioning into a place of multi-level condos, upscale gift shops, and newcomers, some of whom seemed intent on changing Nye Beach into whatever town they’d left behind. It went from being a place once described as not feeling very safe at night, to one touted as having the economic potential to become the next Carmel, which few residents would have considered a good thing.

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Forecast: Rain likely with a strong chance of fine art

This weekend's 31st Stormy Weather Arts Festival draws visitors to Cannon Beach to tour galleries, hear music and shop, no matter the weather

I first attended the Stormy Weather Arts Festival in 2002, and from the start, the name amused me. Stormy Weather. Who called attention to the one variable that might well keep people away?

As a travel writer, I was more accustomed to festival organizers exaggerating everything good and downplaying the rest. I quickly came to see, however, that the name actually was very clever. It got your attention. And it celebrated what the Oregon Coast winter (as well as spring, fall, and sometimes, summer) is known for. It also lent itself to some great poster art: mermaids with umbrellas, painters in wellies, wind-whipped waves, and yes, the ray of light through the darkest of clouds.

Brian Blackham’s minimalistic still lifes, such as “Water in Glass” (oil on panel) are at White Bird Gallery in Cannon Beach.

“We’re telling you up front this is a stormy weather season, so expect it,” said Jim Paino, executive director of the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce. “If it does rain — of course in Oregon, it rains quite often — it’s right in the title, so you should expect it. Rain or shine, it is a great event. We have indoor backup, so even if it is raining horribly, you can still get out and enjoy it.”

This year marks the 31st anniversary of the festival that began as a fundraiser for the Cannon Beach Chamber, a celebration of the arts, and a way to draw people to the north coast during months that can be pretty quiet. The festival runs Friday through Sunday, Nov. 2-4.

Artist and gallery owner Jeff Hull recalls the first time he heard about the festival idea. “What I remember is the director of the chamber, Nancy Littell, walked through our gallery door and said, ‘We are thinking about what we can do to have some off-season thing visitors will enjoy. What do you think?’”

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International film fest wanders to the Coast

The Wandering Reel Traveling Film Festival's short films explore gender and equality, overcoming obstacles, and little moments that make life whole

Oregonian Michael Harrington tells people he grew up with the ocean as his front yard and the forest as his back, which, if you know Oregon, must mean he grew up on the Coast. Depoe Bay and Lincoln City, to be specific.

“They are small town communities, you know everybody,” said Harrington, co-founder of the Wandering Reel Traveling Film Festival. “I think I’ve always had a deep appreciation for nature and for that small-town hospitality. Authenticity. People are themselves. There’s a real peace in that.”

A middle-class woman without a husband encounters problems renting a house in Mumbai in “Counterfeit Kunkoo,” one of the short films in this year’s Wandering Reel Traveling Film Festival.

That small-town upbringing also led to an understanding of what is sometimes lacking in those out-of-the-way places — in this case, film festivals.

With Wandering Reel, now in its fourth year and coming to the Coast this week, Harrington is trying to do something about that. He left Oregon to study film at Marlboro College in Vermont, then worked in the film industry in L.A., at one point running a short-film series in Big Sur, Calif. When he moved to Portland, he wanted to continue showing international films, but Portland already had plenty of those.

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Uplifting spirits through clay art

Maori artists from New Zealand visit Astoria to strengthen ties with other Pacific Rim cultures and plant seeds -- both literal and figurative -- for the future

Art instructor Richard Rowland and I had plans to talk Saturday, but the time for our call came and went unanswered. Thirty minutes later, Rowland was on the line, apologetic, but with a good excuse. Rowland, a native Hawaiian and ceramics instructor at Clatsop Community College, had an important task at hand — preparing a pig for a community luau at which the guests of honor were nine visiting Maori clay artists from New Zealand, or in the native tongue, Aotearoa.

Baye Riddell, one of the Maori artists visiting Clatsop Community College, created these “Kaitiaki” or guardians of the environment.

“It is my responsibility to cook in the imu, a traditional way of Hawaiian cooking,” Rowland said. “It is my responsibility that everyone has been fed.”

Rowland expected to see 100 to 130 guests for the meal, after which his Maori friends planned to take the stage to speak, play music, or perhaps tell a story.

The public will have the chance to learn more about the artists on Wednesday, Oct. 17, during a lecture/slide presentation about the work and their home.

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Astoria show features trash-talking artists

Winners of the Coastal Oregon Artist Residency received a stipend, studio space and access to materials to create recycled works of art

On Saturday, when artists Cara Mico, Stephen Shumaker and Wenda Vorce welcome guests to their art gallery opening, they’ll be sharing their interpretations of what it means to truly turn one man’s trash into another’s treasure.

Winners of the Coastal Oregon Artist Residency — Wenda Vorce (left), Cara Mico, and Stephen Shumaker — will exhibit their work made from trash in a show that opens Saturday in Astoria. The residency is co-sponsored by Astoria Visual Arts (AVA) and Recology Western Oregon. Photo by: Agnes Field

The three are this year’s winners of the third annual Coastal Oregon Artist Residency, a collaboration between Recology Western Oregon and nonprofit Astoria Visual Arts to raise awareness of recycling and the creation of art through the use of repurposed and discarded materials.

The artists, who began their work July 2, received a monthly stipend, access to materials and dedicated studio space at Recology’s Astoria Recycling Depot and Transfer Station over three months.

Here, they talk about their passion for making the Earth a better place, one piece of trash at a time.

Cara Mico

Mico is the program director for the Cannon Beach Arts Association. Her show is called Broken Records, a reference, she said, “to all of the changes that have taken place in my lifetime.” It includes nine paintings, four sculptures, an installation piece, and “a bunch of Christmas ornaments.” All will be for sale.

Mico, who lives in Nehalem, describes herself as a “kind of a magpie.”

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