CULTURE

Vanport Mosaic: story comes home

The Mosaic's citywide exhibits and events bring the many stories of Vanport back to life 70 years after the flood changed Portland history

“Stories need to be freed to do their work.” — Laura Lo Forti

*

Memorial Day, 1948, was a seminal moment in the evolution of contemporary Portland. On that day, the city of Vanport, hastily constructed to house workers at the Kaiser Shipyards during World War II, was wiped out when a dike gave way at 4:05 p.m. The swelling Columbia River came crashing through the breach, and by nightfall, there were at least 15 dead. Vanport, at one point the largest housing project of its kind in the United States and the second largest city in Oregon, was under water and some 18,500 people were left homeless.

A few of the fasces of Vanport. Photo: The City of Portland Archives

This Memorial Day week – Wednesday-Monday, May 23-28 – the Vanport Mosaic will commemorate the 70th anniversary of that cataclysmic event with a four-day festival of “exhibits, theater performances, a reunion/celebration of former Vanport residents, documentary screenings and recordings, poetry, tours of the historic Vanport City area and community engagement activities.” You can see the full schedule here.

Continues…

FilmWatch Weekly: Queer Docs, fat Buddhas, and more

The week's notable films also include the latest from French star Juliette Binoche

As American society has taken steps—some halting, some confident—toward recognition and acceptance of a wider variety of gender and sexual identities, compelling true-life tales reflecting a previously stifled panorama of experiences have emerged. Each year, the Portland Queer Documentary Film Festival presents a thoughtfully curated selection of those stories, and its 2018 iteration, which runs from Thursday, May 17, through Sunday, May 20, at the Hollywood Theatre, is no exception.

The opening night selection looks to the past while providing hope in the face of a fraught future. “50 Years of Fabulous” examines the oldest gay and lesbian charity group in the country, The Imperial Council of San Francisco, which was founded in 1965 by José Julio Sarria, the first openly gay candidate for public office in American history. The film functions as a tribute to Sarria, who died in 2013, as well as a testimony to the group’s accomplishments and a recognition of the challenges it faces to remain relevant today.

“Fifty Years of Fabulous” leads off the Portland QDoc Film Festival.

Other highlights include “Every Act of Life,” an affecting and admiring portrait of four-time Tony Award winner Terrence McNally (“Love! Valour! Compassion!,” “Kiss of the Spider-Woman,” “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune,” and so many others). Testimonials pour in from titans such as F. Murray Abraham, Angela Lansbury, and Rita Moreno. Audra McDonald, who was in the original cast of McNally’s “Master Class” and, coincidentally, will be appearing with the Oregon Symphony at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Tuesday, May 22nd, has some very nice things to say. And Nathan Lane, naturally, is irrepressible.

Continues…

Chris Coleman: The exit interview

Chris Coleman, now the former artistic director of Portland Center Stage, talks about lessons learned during his long tenure here

When people leave Portland for jobs in another city, all good journalists understand that they have just opened a door, not just on a new future for themselves but on the past. Or at least a more candid view of the past they shared with us while they were here. Nothing like putting a city and a job in the rearview mirror for loosening the tongue about the place they are leaving.

Not that anyone leaving Portland for Denver these days—as Portland Center Stage artistic director Chris Coleman announced he was doing last November after 17-and-a-half years here—can feel entirely unrestrained in conversation with a journalist. The more “dynamic” parts of such an interview will inevitably cross the Rockies. But still, at the very least, the leave-taking interview, the exit interview, can lead to a reflective state of mind that can be very valuable for those of us left behind.

Chris Coleman. Photo: Portland Center Stage

Coleman’s time here was marked by two overlapping events: The opening of The Armory’s two theater complex in the Pearl District and the Great Recession of 2008, which affected all the city’s arts organizations in dire ways. That Coleman led the company through both of those events is perhaps the major achievement of his time here. He also helped devise and pass a city Arts Tax, which has bolstered arts education in Portland and helped stabilize Portland’s biggest arts organizations. And he programmed and directed a series of important productions in the theater history of the city, including an “Oklahoma!” set in an African American town.

In February, just after Coleman’s epic “Astoria: Part Two,” opened, we got together to talk about…well, almost anything Coleman wanted to talk about. The conversation lasted more than an hour. I’ve edited it a bit for clarity and length, but mostly it’s Coleman talking as he spoke on the mezzanine level of the Armory Building.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when you started at Portland Center Stage; the biggest challenge you faced in the middle of your run here; and what’s the biggest challenge your successor will face?

The biggest challenge when I got here was moving the programming. I think the board was hungry for more adventure, the staff was hungry for more adventure, but nobody had checked in with the audience. And so I leaned forward at their encouragement, and I leaned too far forward, I think, initially. (1) If I had to do it over again…Julie Vigeland [who was the board president of Center Stage when Coleman was hired] and I have wrestled with this over and over. If I had it to do it over again, I think I would have been a little more evolutionary than revolutionary, because I think I could have kept more people in the fold longer, and it would have been a less difficult first couple of years. Julie feels like, you know what, we needed to say things have changed and this is where we’re going.

It was painful emotionally. It was painful financially. And it was scary initially. So, it was definitely trying to figure out, where is this community or this audience for this organization aesthetically, and how does that fit with what I want to do and how do we line up a little bit better. That was huge.

And then the organization was tremendously under-resourced for a company that was trying to fill 900 seats [in the Newmark Theatre]. The budget my first season was $3.2 million, and boy, that is a brutal equation. So selling the vision, trying to figure out where the community was, and trying to increase our resources so we could put better work on stage, those were the biggest challenges early on.

Continues…

These Are Not Abstracts

Out & About: Joe Cantrell's photos of the micro-structures of rocks reveal patterns as big as the cosmos. How and why he got those shots.

PHOTOGRAPHS AND ESSAY by JOE CANTRELL

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Portland photographer Joe Cantrell will give a free art talk from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, May 16-17, in the lobby of the Ellyn Bye Studio of Portland Center Stage at The Armory. He’ll speak about his remarkable exhibition of blown-up images of micro-structures of rocks and minerals that has been hanging there through the recently ended run of the play And So We Walked, written and performed by DeLanna Studi, like Cantrell a Cherokee artist.

Cantrell’s images in this exhibition, a few of which are reproduced here, reveal vast-looking “landscapes” so small they can’t be seen by the naked eye. The amplified images suggest the expansive scale of the universe even in its “smaller infinities” ordinarily hidden from sight in what we think of as tiny spaces. In their compressed physical state the images are hidden from the artist, too, until the camera brings them out. “I’m just a valve,” Cantrell comments on the PCS website. “I point the shiny side of the camera at something, push the button, and things pass through so you can see them, too. Often, I don’t even ‘see’ what I’m photographing; rather, I feel it and am thoroughly surprised when the final image appears.”)

*

Why This Is, with the stipulation that I am certainly not a scientist, philosopher, or expert in anything, and I’m probably wrong:

We live on a small, rocky planet orbiting an unremarkable star, among more stars in the cosmos than there are grains of sand on all the beaches on earth. Jist a little bitty thang, in Ozarkian. Yet it is entirely possible that, based on our crude fantasies of “significant differences” – race, sex, financial status, nationality, religion, entitlement – we may willfully destroy life on the planet. What a joke on us! Haha folks. Haha. But you know this.

Continues…

Listen: talking Native arts & culture

In "We Can Listen" at The Old Church, Native artists talk about invisibility, buried history, creativity, and contemporary challenges

“I make art to perpetuate culture,” Portland artist Shirod Younker told a crowd at The Old Church Concert Hall a few nights ago. Of late, he added, he’s been working on building traditional canoes. “Making canoes helps me understand my community. By doing this we learn what’s important to our ancestors and I can apply these lessons to my own life.”

Artist Shirod Younker at The Old Church Concert Hall. Photo: Molly MacAlpine

Younker, a printmaker, illustrator, and carver and a member of Oregon’s Coquille Indian Tribe, was speaking at We Can Listen, a series that has been working to cultivate listening in Portland with a series of free events highlighting the lives of marginalized people. On May 8 the series, now in its second year, presented Native Perspectives on Arts, Culture and Justice, a discussion with native artists about their work, how their identity informs their work, and how their work intersects with social justice.

Continues…

Touretteshero rocks and rolls

Boom Arts hosts a hilarious, stereotype-busting comedian, who joins with Portland disability artists. One last show Saturday night: act now.

This Saturday night, May 12, is the last performance at Southeast Portland’s Echo Theatre of STAND UP, SIT DOWN, ROLL OVER by Touretteshero, a.k.a. Jess Thom – a wickedly smart, scathingly funny comedian from Great Britain. Presented by Boom Arts in a series of performances focused on disability, access and inclusion, Touretteshero’s brilliant performance invites us to rethink our stereotypes of neurological conditions and explores what it means to live with disabilities of all kinds in an environment ignorant at best and hostile at worst to many forms of diversity. You will laugh so hard that there is no time for the tears brimming beneath the surface, tears from realizing the extent of harm caused by prejudice and ableism.

Last night the boundary-breaking folks from Wobbly Dance, who showed their film Waking the Green Sound, and documentary filmmaker Cheryl Green were in attendance as well and provided valuable insights during the post-show discussion. Tonight will showcase another artist tackling forms of illness or disability: Little Clown Big Shoes, plus Lara Klingeman and her show Lara and Levi. I cannot wait to go and see the show.

About

Here are details on Saturday night’s final performance:

STAND UP, SIT DOWN, ROLL OVER

Touretteshero (United Kingdom)

May 12 at 7:30pm
Echo Theater, 1515 S.E. 37th Ave., Portland

ACCESS:

  • All events are “Relaxed”: move or make sound as you need to
  • Wheelchair-accessible venue
  • ASL interpretation provided
  • Scent-free: we request that those attending refrain from using scented body care products
  • Boom Arts, Echo Theater, and Disability Art & Culture Project are committed to creating fully inclusive environments for all attendees. Please contact the Boom Arts team with any additional requests at info@boomarts.org.

And here’s a photo gallery from Friday night’s Touretteshero performance and discussions afterwards:

 

“Touretteshero” Jess Thom in “Stand Up, Sit Down, Roll Over” Friday night at Boom Arts. Photo: Friderike Heuer

Continues…

Sherrie Wolf: The freedom of the still life

Paul Sutinen talks to master painter Sherrie Wolf about her explorations of the still life, which in her hands contains universes

Painter Frank Stella said, “In great art all the relationships sparkle, radiating coherence.” In Sherrie Wolf’s still life paintings there is marvelous rendering of fruits, flowers, reflections in glass and copying of old masterworks, but the key element in her work is the musicality of the relationships among all the objects depicted—the loud, the quiet and the spaces between them. Wolf takes a genre with a 2,000 year history and keeps it fresh and new. Her new paintings are at Russo Lee Gallery through May.

Sherrie Wolf, Self Portrait with Red Drape, oil on canvas, 90″ x 60″ , after Charles Wilson Peale, 1741-1827

You were at the Museum Art School (now Pacific Northwest College of Art) in the early 1970s when minimalism and process art were in fashion. You probably studied with painters steeped in abstract expressionism. Were you planning to be a realist painter when you went to school?
It was hard to be a realist painter then because it wasn’t the thing, except I saw Jim Dine, David Hockney, Wayne Thiebaud, and I went to a huge retrospective of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work when I was a first-year art student. I wouldn’t say it was minimal. It was all abstract expressionism.

Continues…