CULTURE

Art notes: Happy birthday, Hallie

Salem's Hallie Ford Museum turns 20, The Art Gym is unmoored again, Lommasson's "Stories of Survival," Portland Open Studios, Ogawa's kiln.

Salem’s Hallie Ford Museum of Art has had such an impact on art and artists in the Pacific Northwest that it’s a bit of a surprise to remember it’s only twenty years old. But that’s the case: Its official birthday was Wednesday, October 3, and to celebrate (modestly) it extended its hours for the day and served cake and refreshments to visitors.

Olbrantz

John Olbrantz, who’s directed the museum since it opened and set it on its course to becoming a model of a small art museum, gave a lecture on the museum’s birthday, looking back on its beginnings and forward to what’s ahead. In his twenty years in Salem he’s helped build the Hallie Ford into not just an art center for Willamette University, its parent institution, but also the museum for its city and a vital arts player in its region.

More talks are to come:

Dobkins

Rebecca Dobkins, the museum’s energetic and innovative curator of Native American art and an anthropology professor at Willamette, will lecture on Wednesday, October 10, on the museum’s longstanding relationship with contemporary indigenous artists, one of its great strengths: In addition to building an excellent small permanent collection of Native American art, Dobkins and the museum routinely assemble special exhibitions on indigenous art and artists.

Cuno

The following day – Thursday, the 11th – James Cuno, president and chief executive officer of the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles, will lecture on the role of university museums. For Cuno, it’s a homecoming of sorts: He’s a 1973 graduate from Willamette, with a degree in history.

Both lectures are free.

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DramaWatch: Going to the Chapel and we’re gonna see theater

Chapel Theatre Collective makes its debut in Milwaukie, the Red Door Project finds a helpful way to "Cop Out," Red Riding Hood goes Shaking the Tree, and more.

Jason Glick had no intention to run a theater company.

“I’d tried to start a theater company before, in Nashville, when I was in my twenties and I didn’t know what not to do,” he says. “And I was happy with my place in the community here, with the acting work I was getting at Artists Rep and such. Fundraising, worrying about where the money’s coming from for the next show, that kind of stuff was never on my bucket list.”

And yet, here he is at the Chapel Theatre in Milwaukie, a performance space that opened earlier this year, preparing the debut show by  the resident theater company, the Chapel Theatre Collective.

“It really just fell in my lap,” he says, talking before a recent rehearsal of Anatomy of a Hug. “And there was a feeling that we’re in the right place at the right time.”

Jessica Hillenbrand (clockwise from front right) Murri Lazaroff-Babin, Amanda Vander Hyde and Jason Glick rehearse “Anatomy of a Hug” at Chapel Theatre. Photo: Danielle Weathers.

The place is a refurbished church a reasonable drive from Portland proper, not far off of highways 99 and 224. It has 99 seats on movable risers, a small bar for beer, wine and sodas, a computerized lighting board, and a basement eatery called the Secret Pizza Society (a relative  of the Southeast Portland vegan deli Papa G’s). The time is an era of increasing competition for too few performance spaces in the city. (The space also is the regular home of the dance company Trip the Dark., and the company Street Scenes also has plays scheduled there later this year.)

The origins of the Chapel Theatre Collective can be traced back to Milagro’s 2016 production Davita’s Harp, whose cast included, among others, Glick, Danielle Weathers and Illya Torres-Garner. Later, after Torres-Garner, who owns a construction company, had purchased the old chapel near his home, he also happened to be doing work on Glick’s house and talked about wanting someone to produce theater in his new space. Glick, a former Theatre Vertigo member,  joined on as artistic director, with Weathers, who’s been leading the Reading Parlor series at CoHo, and Torres-Garner as associate artistic directors.

The company will present three productions for its inaugural season, with Anatomy of a Hug looking like a very promising start. The script, by Kat Ramburg, concerns an awkward, TV-obsessed young woman trying to cope with the unexpected attentions of a sweetly enthusiastic co-worker and with an uncomfortable reunion with her mother, released from prison as she’s dying from cancer. Glick directs, with Jessica Hillebrand in the central role, plus Jacklyn Maddux, Murri Lazaroff-Babin and Shareen Jacobs.

Chapel Theatre Collective’s “Anatomy of a Hug” deals with the difficulty of getting close when you’ve become a wooden character in your own life story.

February will bring Stephanie Alison Walker’s Friends With Guns, with Torres-Garner directing Glick and Weathers, then sometime in the spring, Weathers will direct Torres-Garner and others in Rachel Bonds’ Curve of Departure.

Regardless of the choice of the scripts and the talent on stage, fledgling theaters can have a rough go of it. Is this a scary thing to be doing?

“Not when I’m in the rehearsal hall, ‘cause that’s my jam,” Glick says with a smile. But he’s approaching it all seriously. “We have to run it like a business, not like a bunch of theater kids having fun. It’s about not having egos but working together toward a collective goal. And I’m not in this for one season, My hope is that we’re doing this for long-term prospects.”

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“America’s Librarian” to talk books in Nehalem

Author Nancy Pearl appears Oct. 20 in a fundraiser for the Hoffman Center for the Arts and the North Tillamook Library

I’ve never met Nancy Pearl, best-selling Seattle author, librarian, and literary critic, yet we do have something of a history. I chaired the first Newport Reads (inspired by the internationally recognized program, If All of Seattle Read the Same Book, created by Pearl) and years later my novel, Wander, won the 2017 Nancy Pearl Literary Award for fiction. (A friend also gave me the Deluxe Nancy Pearl Librarian Action Figure at a book signing.)

In June, I was all set to meet Pearl at a fundraising luncheon in La Conner, Wash., but our plans were dashed when Amtrak’s guaranteed connection from Albany to Portland turned out to be not so guaranteed. Still, when I talked with Pearl by phone about her upcoming Oct. 20 appearance in Nehalem as part of the 10th year anniversary celebration of the Manzanita Writers’ Series, it was like chatting with someone I’d known for years. She was friendly, forthcoming, knowledgeable, and clearly a generous spirit.

Nancy Pearl of Seattle considers herself first and foremost a reader.

Pearl, who has been hailed as “America’s Librarian,” is a regular contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition and hosts a monthly Seattle television show called Book Lust, on which she interviews authors, poets and others in the literary world. Book Lust is also the theme of her series of recommended-reading books. Here is an edited version of the conversation she and I had about books, reading, and life in general.

You’ve worn a few hats in your life. Which most defines you these days?

Pearl: I guess “reader,” because reader encompasses all the other things. All the other things wouldn’t have been possible had I not been a reader all my life.

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News and Notes: Climate change edition

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival deals with climate change's smoke, Jeff Goodell on the water

This year’s slate of plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I decided after my visit to Ashland in mid-July, has to be my favorite. I loved the mix of new plays and the new approaches to classic, and I thought that the company had begun to reap the benefits of its inclusive approach to casting and play selection. The shows were beautifully produced (as usual), smart with a nice edge, and surprising. I thought I had truly entered the theater of the future. Or maybe the lobby to the theater of the future: The future is a long time, after all.

The week I was in town was hot, but it wasn’t smoky. I’ve been in Ashland when forest fires nearby had filled the streets with that gross particulate haze, and it wasn’t pleasant. The effects of the vast fires in California earlier in the summer hadn’t reached Ashland, and it looked like clear sailing, knock on wood, for the three shows in the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre—”Romeo and Juliet,” “The Book of Will,” and the brilliantly conceived “Love’s Labor’s Lost.” I knocked on wood, but I failed to spit for luck.

Katharine (Tatiana Wechsler), Princess of France (Alejandra Escalante), Rosaline (Jennie Greenberry) and Maria (Niani Feelings). Photo: Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

The subsequent outburst of forest fires in northern California (creeping into Oregon) and Washington started filling up the Rogue Valley with smoke later that month—the source of the smoke alternating with wind direction—and continued into early September. As a result,
the festival had to cancel or move (to a much smaller indoor theater) 26 productions from that 1,190-seat house—more than the past five years combined.

The company figures that the cost of all that smoke is in the neighborhood of $2 million, which has been widely reported. I would add the phrase, “at least.”

Around 65 percent of the festival’s revenue comes directly from ticket sales, according to Julie Cortez in the press office, and the company’s $2 million estimate included losses from the canceled or moved performances, losses from canceled trips (and tickets), and the low demand for tickets this summer, especially August, from people who hadn’t already purchased tickets but who usually show up to catch a show or three. The festival is pretty good at estimating its attendance by this time.

The $2 million number doesn’t include the likely lower summer demand in future years due to the severity of the 2018 wildfires. These are theater fans who don’t want to risk the trip, given the risk of smoke inhalation. It doesn’t include the donations that the people who canceled this year (or never came at all) would have made to the festival (another steady rate that the festival has a good handle on). And it doesn’t account for the direct costs of smoke mitigation by company, according to Cortez.

It also doesn’t reflect the hours of planning and consulting the company will have to do to figure out a way to deal with future cancellations due to smoke. Is 2018 the new normal in the Rogue Valley or is it an outlier, not likely to be repeated? It’s another way of asking, do we have to start taking climate change into our considerations? Or, do we have to change our forest practices to prevent (what we consider to be) the worst from happening every year? The answer to both is probably yes, though the festival can only deal with the first—directly.

Whatever mitigation plans the festival institutes will cost money, maybe lots of money if it arrives at solutions that involve something like a retractable dome over the Elizabethan Theatre, which is crucial to the festival’s economic model because it’s so much bigger than the festival’s other two theaters. That would protect audiences during the shows, maybe, but not when they walk the smoke-choked streets of Ashland. The problem really isn’t smoke in the Elizabethan—it’s smoke in Ashland, in Oregon, in just about every West Coast city.

It would be understandable and laudable if you wanted to help the festival figure this stuff out with a contribution. We are at the beginning of this sort of thing, and the festival’s process and solutions might help guide us going forward. The easiest way is to click this link and make a donation directly. Or, if you’re in town to see shows in October (my favorite time to go!), you might buy a ticket to a special production of Robin Goodrin Nordli’s take on the women in Shakespeare, “Virgins to Villains,” 7 pm Monday, October 15, in the Thomas Theatre.

*****

Wasn’t I JUST talking about climate change?

Coincidentally, I’ve been reading Jeff Goodell’s “The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World.” Goodell’s concern here isn’t smoke, but in his carefully researched and argued book, he suggests that we are woefully unprepared, especially in the US, to deal with the coastal flooding that will occur with increasing frequency and ferocity as climate change affects sea levels and the intensity of big storms.

Mercy Corps is bringing Goodell to Portland for a lecture, “Resilience in the Age of Climate Change,” at 7 pm Thursday, October 4, Revolution Hall, 1300 SE Stark Street. Portland-based Mercy Corps is already dealing with climate change, both in its emergency relief efforts and its economic develop projects around the world, and the proceeds from Goodell’s talk will help support those activities. Tickets are reasonable ($15-$20 plus $50 patron seats) and available at the door. Maybe I’ll see you there.

VizArts Monthly: Big shows on tap

Around the galleries this month: James Lavadour, Judy Cooke, Chris Rauschenberg, Terry Toedtemeier

October is here, and the arts calendar isn’t slowing down. The Portland Biennial has announced its curatorial team, featuring Portlanders Yaelle S. Amir and Ashley Stull Meyers, and Seattlite Elisheba Johnson. Meanwhile, Nationale has added Francesca Capone to its stable of artists, and the Stumptown artist fellowship (curated by Nationale director May Barruel) has opened a new show (see below).

If you’re thinking that fall is a great time to review what the Portland art scene has to offer, you’re in luck – the latest edition of the Grapefruit Juice Artist Resource guide has just been released. This un-editorialized compendium of local venues, organizations and other resources for and by artists is available for free at many locations, including Passages Bookshop, Nationale, Ampersand, and Monograph Bookwerks. A noteworthy addition to the shows listed below is a group show opening at PCC’s North View Gallery. The Work Continues features six Portland artists including OCAC Dean Jiseon Lee and the prolific and talented Samantha Wall.

As Far as I Can See From Here, James Lavadour

James Lavadour: All That I Can See From Here

October 3 – 27
PDX Contemporary, 925 NW Flanders

New paintings by Northwest favorite James Lavadour. Lavadour’s trademark style – wild, rich, and full of precise accidents – plays with material and representation to capture some of the mystery and majesty of landscape while never denying their paintfulness. If you’ve somehow never seen Lavadour’s work, this is a good chance to see some fresh samples. If you’re familiar, you’re sure not to be disappointed.

Waterpark Second Thoughts, Ralph Pugay

Stuck on the Ride

October 6 – November 30
Open Signal, 2766 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd

If you’ve ever felt that the subject matter of exhibitions in Portland is hard to figure out or repetitive or vague, then you can’t miss this show full of waterparks and rollercoasters. Ryan Woodring, an interdisciplinary artist and former special effects instructor at Open Signal, has curated an exhibition that examines amusement parks place in American culture and media. Artists Ralph Pugay, Erin Mallea, Kristin Lucas, Claire Hentschker and Yaloo explore the subject matter through projection art, virtual reality, video and painting.

Painting by Anya Roberts Toney, photo by Mario Gallucci

Anya Roberts Toney

Through November 26
Downtown Stumptown, 128 SW 3rd

The show marking Anya Roberts-Toney’s awarding of the Stumptown Artists Fellowship features an arresting and beautiful set of détourned still-lives. Roberts-Toney “play[s] with this idea of flowers representing the female body, and by incorporating moments of rupture and fantasy, I seek to consider a counter-femininity that is powerful, self-possessed, and disregarding of the viewer’s satisfaction.” These impressive, self-possessed paintings command the space of the flagship Stumptown location downtown. If you go to see them, pick a quieter time for the cafe so you can spend some time with them.

Indian Cove, Terry Toedtemeier

Terry Toedtemeier: Sun, Shadows, Stone

October 20, 2018 – February 17, 2019
Tacoma Art Museum
1701 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma WA 98402

Self-taught photographer and curator Terry Toedtemeier (1947–2008) is best known for his monumental, haunting photographs of Oregon’s iconic natural features – the coast, the Columbia River Gorge, and the high desert. Beginning with snapshots from a moving car, he went on to become an accomplished photographic craftsman, influenced by the photographic traditions of the American West and the evidence of its geographic history. TAM remarks that “Toedtemeier often sought to capture the most dramatic images of places that have been shaped first by catastrophic geological events, then by the imprint of humans.” Part of the Northwest Perspective Series, this exhibition runs through mid-February, with a members celebration event on Saturday, November 17.

Hoi An – by Chris Rauschenberg

Chris Rauschenberg Photographs

October 4 – 28
Nine Gallery, 122 NW 8th St

A new set of photographs taken in Vietnam by Rauschenberg will be on display in the Nine Gallery space in the back of Blue Sky Gallery.

 

Painting by Judy Cooke

Judy Cooke: Conversation: Aluminum, Oil, Rubber

Through October 27
Elizabeth Leach Gallery, 417 NW 9th Ave

Subject of a recent Artswatch interview, Judy Cooke has become one of the Pacific Northwest’s most established abstract painters. For the past 30 years, she has explored abstraction and the structures of painting, working with formalism, color fields, and specific materiality.“ Her new series ”Conversation: Aluminum, Oil, Rubber” verges on the sculptural, embracing rubber and aluminum as both painting supports and materials.

Also opening at Elizabeth Leach this month are Portland-based artist Mark Palmen’s small, intricate embroideries, “influenced by his diverse interests ranging from art history and fashion to metaphysical investigations surrounding the cosmos.” An exhibit of Malia Jensen’s sculptural works, which opened last month, will also be on display, including a re-firing of a sculpture started decades ago.

 

Stills from Post Analog

Post Analog: Paloma Kop and Sara Goodman

Through October 21
Grapefruits Art Space, 2119 N Kerby, Suite D

New media artist, poet, curator, VJ, and teacher Sara Goodman and electronic media artist Paloma Kop have packed a remarkable amount of analog video synthesis and glitch art into the small warehouse Grapefruits gallery. This is a show for anyone who gets excited when they see a Sony Trinitron in a gallery. These pieces of original video synthesis come out of a community of artists working with technology that was once considered cutting edge but now refers to a very specific – and fading – moment in technological history. Citing “an increased resurgence of analog tools to create and distribute newly created video content,” this movement is drawn to pre-digital means of making video precisely because of its imperfections and technical demands on the creator. Bonus: some work was created using a device called a Wobbulator.

Venus, Mars – Paul X. Rutz

Paul X. Rutz and Amanda Hampton Wray: Into A Study

October 27
Ford Gallery, 2505 SE 11th Ave

The opening for this show is a one-night event that the artists refer to as “both an art installation and a carefully planned neuroscience study.” An ambitious and unusual project for the Ford Gallery, which has curated the atrium of the Ford Building since Gallery Homeland left, this exhibition is a collaboration between painter Paul X. Rutz and neuroscientist Amanda Hampton Wray. Sparked by Rutz’s questions about how people view new paintings, they have created an interactive exhibit in which viewers neural activity will be measured by Wray while they view Rutz’s paintings, which interrogate the history of the “female” and “male” symbols seen everywhere from bathroom doors to tarot cards.

Warm hug from (and for) a giant

"If it's good, they will like it": The late, great Arthur Mitchell left a lasting imprint on dance, and a Portland writer recalls the man.

“Thank you, thank you. Now go home and do your homework,” Arthur Mitchell told 1,500 or so cheering children in the Keller Auditorium, his voice descending from the first balcony, sounding like the voice of God.

Dance Theatre of Harlem, the company he founded in 1968, was here on tour, probably sometime in the mid-1980s, and had just performed Glen Tetley’s Voluntaries, a plotless ballet set to music by Poulenc that is definitely not the usual school-show fare. DTH did have more conventional school show ballets in its repertoire at that time—John Taras’s Firebird, set in a tropical jungle rather than a Russian forest, comes readily to mind, as well as a Giselle re-cast in a Louisiana bayou. In Voluntaries, moreover, the dancers were costumed in skin-tight, dappled unitards, which could well have elicited some snickers. They didn’t. The kids were so enthralled you could have heard the proverbial pin drop.

Arthur Mitchell shortly after joining New York City Ballet, 1955. Photo: Carl Van Vechten. Columbia University Libraries Online Exhibitions: Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer

I was astonished by their response, and said so to Mr. Mitchell (as people often addressed him), who had insisted I sit next to him for the performance. “If it’s good, they will like it,” he told me firmly, and indeed, the dancers had torn through Tetley’s blend of classical and modern movement with so much athletic energy and technical finesse, it’s doubtful the kids even noticed what they were wearing.

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Art Harvest Studio Tour of Yamhill County reaps as it sows

The art, in many media, is for sale, but the real bounty lies in the dialogue between artists and visitors about the creative process

Given the confluence of autumn colors and great art, it’s tempting to employ hyperbole when talking about Yamhill County’s Art Harvest Studio Tour, but I’ll spare you a Thesaurus Drop and just lay out the facts.

The 26th annual event includes 40 artists, working in virtually every medium imaginable: watercolor, oil, acrylic, bronze, copper, steel, glass, stone, pastels, charcoal, silver, wood, paper, clay, fiber, tiles, beeswax, digital, and mixed media. It kicks off Friday and runs six days over two weekends. You can visit one, a dozen or all 40 artists if you have time. They’re concentrated in Yamhill County’s two largest cities, McMinnville and Newberg, but you’ll also find artists in Amity, Dundee, Carlton, Yamhill, Sheridan, and Willamina.

The cost to jump into this self-guided tour of local color and creativity? Eight bucks.

Sure, on any weekend, you can spend a day visiting galleries and exhibitions, but this is the one time of year when local artists invite the public into their studios (which often are also their homes), where they answer questions, educate, do demonstrations. Yes, you can buy stuff, but that’s not ultimately the point.

Last week I reached out to a handful of participating artists, both new and returning, to get their take. Of those, none illustrated the point quite so well as paper carver Doug Roy. He’s been working his magic with paper for more than a quarter-century and has participated in Art Harvest for two decades.

Paper carver Doug Roy cuts colored paper into impossibly tiny pieces and turns them into intricate pictures such as this one, titled “Reefers.”

He told me this story.

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