FAMILY

Recognizing the artist’s journey

A show at Newberg’s Chehalem Cultural Center by developmentally disabled adults illuminates the idea that all art is art therapy

As the curtain opens on 2019, I’m reflecting on an unexpected awakening of sorts that has played out several times now in my encounters with visual and sculptural art around Yamhill County.

Let me explain.

When Oregon ArtsWatch brought me aboard last summer, I made it clear to the editors that theater and film were my specialties (to the extent I have any), but I lacked the training, experience, and even the language to “review” exhibitions of painting, drawing, and sculpture effectively and intelligently. That was OK, they replied. I wasn’t expected to produce criticism with a capital “C,” and I surely never will. I was relieved that the mission was simply to report.

The “Histories Take Form” show includes Marc Roder’s untitled acrylic-on-paper painting.

So it’s odd that visual art has spoken to me most meaningfully in the past six months or so. I’ve been fortunate enough to drop by shows alone when the exhibition space is empty, or nearly so, and discovered that if one spends even a few minutes of quiet time with a painting or sculptural piece — if you simply let yourself be with it — it will open up to you in some fashion. Regardless of the artist’s intentions, the thoughts and feelings you bring to the experience settle and coalesce as you let the image or sculpture into your head. Given the right conditions and the proper frame of mind, epiphanies can happen.

That’s what happened a few days ago when I found myself alone at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg. HEATWAVE still occupied the Parrish Gallery. That was a terrific exhibition of fiber art made by artists who obviously have spent many years at their craft, perfecting their skills and techniques to a point where they are arguably among the best at what they do.

The Parrish Gallery is what you see straight ahead when you walk in. At the west end of the sprawling lobby you’ll find another, smaller installation. It’s called Histories Take Form, and it features drawings, paintings, and mixed media created by artists who do not have same level of training and skill as the HEATWAVE artists.

Yet this show helped me understand that even making that distinction — creating categories for art based on objective criteria — is to miss the point of what art is, what it’s for, and whom it’s for.

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End of the trail

After 27 years and hundreds of shows, The Oregon Trail Band has decided to hang up its violins and pennywhistles after a final performance in Cannon Beach

It’s sure to be a bittersweet night at the Coaster Theatre Playhouse in Cannon Beach when The Trail Band takes the stage Dec. 26. It’s the last performance of the eight-piece ensemble, which has been together since 1991, when it formed at the request of the Oregon Trail Coordinating Council to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the trail in 1993.

“It’s going to be a crying session,” said Robert Necker, co-owner of North by Northwest Gallery in Cannon Beach and a longtime fan of the musicians. “They are amazing musicians. It is going to be a wonderful but sad event.”

Members of The Trail Band include (back row, from left) Marv Ross, Eddie Parente, Phil Neuman, Mick Doherty, (front row, from left) Dan Stueber, Rindy Ross, Cal Scott, and Gayle Neuman. Photo: Keith Buckley

The band, which has been compared to town-square brass bands of the last century, decided to end it now largely because the members are all of a certain age, and it’s time to slow down, said Marv Ross, co-founder with his wife, Rindy, of both The Trail Band and nationally famous Portland rock band Quarterflash.

“The best way to put it is we are just exhausted from producing 13 Christmas shows over two-and-a-half-weeks,” Marv Ross said. “It’s sort of like running a marathon. As the years pass, it just gets harder to run that marathon. It was just time, both physically and mentally, to make our life simpler and have more relaxing time.”

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Ballet dreams: stage for students

Young stars shine at Oregon International Ballet Academy and The Portland Ballet. Look for more in Oregon Ballet Theatre's "Nutcracker."

This is the season of visions and dreams and hope, whether symbolized by Hanukkah candles, Kwanzaa feasts, Christmas trees, fairies in snowy or summery forests, or budding dancers who stand at the barre in their various schools, doing their pliés and tendus and frappés over and over and over again as they dream of performing grand jetés and multiple fouettés while the audience gasps and cheers.

The young dancers get their first crack at this in ballet school shows: the littlest in roles made just for them, the most advanced in the same principal roles that, if they succeed in becoming professional dancers, they will one day perform in New York, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, you name it.

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Bunnies in OIBA’s “Nutcracker,” hopping to the tune of Mother Ginger. Photo: Jingzi Zhao

I THOUGHT ABOUT ALL THIS as I watched three school show performances last month, all three at PSU’s Lincoln Performance Hall. The first was the Oregon International Ballet Academy’s The Nutcracker, staged after Petipa by Ye Li, former Oregon Ballet Theatre dancer, and his wife, Xuan Cheng, currently OBT’s prima ballerina, on Saturday, November 17.

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Craft or art? Who cares? HEATWAVE fiber art is amazing

The show at Newberg's Chehalem Cultural Center demonstrates that fabric art is so much more than "just quilts"

I have an embarrassing confession, but that’s actually a good thing, because it goes straight to the heart of an important artistic question that is raised — or perhaps I should say, is powerfully answered — by an exhibition at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg.

It’s an occasion for a teachable moment.

“Hot Flash!” A collaboration by Sherri Culver and Mary McLaughlin. Commercial cotton and silk fabrics, threads. Raw edge, fused, machine appliqué; machine quilting; hand embroidery; fabric paint and inks (for eyes). 37 x 35.5 inches. Photo by: Hoddick Photography

HEATWAVE is a themed exhibit produced by High Fiber Diet of the Columbia FiberArts Guild, which has been around for nearly half a century in the Portland area. What I must confess is that when I clicked my way to the page for this exhibition on the center’s website and saw that it’s a show of “art quilts,” I felt … well, a little underwhelmed.

“Oh,” I thought. “Quilts.” A bias that I wasn’t really conscious of was triggered, one perhaps based on distant, faded memories of being bored as a child while my mom took forever in a fabric store. I was mildly disappointed that this exhibition in the Parrish Gallery was just quilts — not painting, or sculpture. Not, well, art.

Sheryl LeBlanc’s “Fire in the Log Yard.” Disperse dyed polyesters, silk chiffon, trupunto. 29.5 x 32.5 inches. “Like a storage of ordinance, I have often wondered what a fire in a full log yard would look like on an extremely hot and dry day … perhaps during a severe drought, when the logs have not been recently sprayed with water.” Photo by: David Bates

Then I went and saw it.

I’ve seen it three or four times now, marching in on each occasion to look specifically at that exhibition, to spend a few more minutes with this piece or that. I am repeatedly drawn to the intense crimson, yellow, and green in Diane English’s Remembrance, which uses the imagery of blooming poppies as a “symbol of remembering those who have passed in the heat of wars.” Sheryl LeBlanc’s Fire in the Log Yard is, quite simply, one of the most extraordinary images I’ve seen in any medium recently.

Detail from “Fire in the Log Yard.” Photo by: Jon Christopher Meyers

The work is astonishing and beautiful and, occasionally, mysterious. One afternoon mid-November I had my 9-year-old son with me. Anything but bored, he ran around the Parrish Gallery, exclaiming, “Look at this one, Daddy!” Then, darting around a corner, “Look at this one!”

Back at home, I dived into a study of the Arts and Crafts movement and, specifically, an inquiry into what I quickly came to regard as an artificial and mostly semantic divide between art and craft, this idea that the two are somehow separate, that “craft” does not rise to the level of “art”. When I suggested to an ArtsWatch editor that he dispatch someone with a deeper background in visual arts to cover the show, which runs through Jan. 5, he kindly advised, basically, I do my job.

“I think there’s some explaining to be done about how people approach it, how it fits into the world of ‘fine’ art, which so often treats it like a stepchild,” he said. He pointed to the historically sexist and even classist attitude about this — one that I, perhaps, had at some level internalized, one that was surely at the root of my “Oh … quilts?” moment. Fabric and other non-painting and sculptural forms are too often seen, somewhat dismissively, he added, as “women’s art” or “folk art.” Or a “craft.”

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‘Miss Julie’ still challenges the chains of convention

If Strindberg's classic, at The Verona Studio in Salem, is too intense for the holidays, head to Gallery Theater for "It's a Wonderful Life"

The Verona Studio in Salem will do some heavy lifting in the Willamette Valley’s theater scene this month. The company, based in the Reed Opera House Mall, is mounting a production of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie, where the Darwinian theory of “survival of the fittest” is put to the test with a romantic encounter that crosses class lines.

The show opens a three-weekend run on Nov. 29. While the show was in rehearsal last week, director Gregory Jolivette exchanged a few emails with me. That interview is below, but first, a bit about the play, for the uninitiated.

Johan August Strindberg was a prolific Swedish writer (in addition to the naturalistic theater for which he is famous, he was also a novelist, essayist, and poet) whose career spanned about four decades — mostly during the latter half of the 19th century. He wrote more than 60 plays, and his 1888 drama Miss Julie is widely considered his masterpiece. It’s performed frequently and has been adapted to film many times — most famously in 1951 by the Swedish director Alf Sjöberg and most recently in 2014 by Liv Ullmann. I haven’t seen that one, which stars Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell, but I have seen Sjöberg’s version, which is available on home video through the Criterion Collection and is well worth your time.

Belladina Starr and Seth Allen tackle the bucket-list roles of Julie and Jean in “Miss Julie,” Strindberg’s searing classic about class, gender, and money. Photo courtesy: Roman Martinez of Roman Films for The Verona Studio

Miss Julie features a cast of three. The title character (played in Verona’s production by Belladina Starr), the daughter of a Swedish nobleman, is drawn to Jean, her father’s valet (played by Seth Allen). Christine (Penelope Bays) is a cook for the estate who finds herself in the thick of it. It’s such a challenging, complex work, so rich in its themes and characters, that I wanted to know something about the person who decided to tackle it for The Verona Studio.

Tell us about your background and involvement in theater.

Gregory Jolivette: I stumbled into the theater during my freshman year of high school and have since been doing it as a hobby. I’ve been involved in over 40 productions, mostly as an actor in both community and professional theater companies. Although I grew up in Northern California, Oregon has been a significant part of my theater journey because of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Seeing plays there as a high school student is what really got me hooked on theater arts. Those formative experiences at OSF also explain my interest in the classics. My interest in directing was piqued around the time I moved to Salem in 2013. I started out by assistant-directing a couple of shows at the Pentacle Theatre, and, in 2017, had my directorial debut with The Verona Studio’s well-received production of ‘Night, Mother.

Do you remember a particular play and/or performance you saw at OSF that showed you what theater can do?

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Having it all: Seven days of art in six Wine Country cities

The week's offerings include lesbians eating quiche, plants eating people, safari-animal art, High Fiber quilts, Russian art song, and "The Barber of Seville"

I’ve looked at the calendar, done the math, calculated driving distances, and something hit me: Over the next week in six cities sprawled across three counties in Oregon wine country, there’s enough going on in the arts scene — live theater, exhibitions, artist receptions, and music — to keep you busy every day. If you do it right, you can hit every single one. There’s some overlap, but we’ll take ‘em in chronological order. Try to keep up.

Andi Moring (from left), Mindy Mawhirter, and Phoebe Medler are three of the “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche” in Western Oregon University’s fall play, which opens Thursday at the Rice Auditorium in Monmouth for a two-weekend run.

WESTERN OREGON UNIVERSITY OPENS THE FALL THEATER SEASON Thursday with a serving of double entendres and quiche in the comedy 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche, by Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood and directed by the university’s Kent Neely. The show follows five women in the midst of Cold War 1956 to the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein Annual Quiche Breakfast, only to discover that they are not widows — they’re lesbians! The show runs two weekends through Nov. 17 and includes matinees and two performances interpreted in American Sign Language. General admission is $14. For more info, click here.

Lorrie Quimby’s paintings and sculptures in the Seufert Winery Tasting Room focus on safari wildlife.

IN DAYTON ON FRIDAY, Seufert Winery Tasting Room is showing off a new art exhibit of painting and sculpture by Lorrie Quimby. Her acrylics and bronze statues feature safari wildlife. Best of all, she’ll be there herself from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. If you need directions, check this out.

PENTACLE THEATRE IN SALEM on Friday night opens Little Shop of Horrors, by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman and based on the Roger Corman film. Directed by Robert Salberg, the show runs through Dec. 1. You can buy tickets here. Be careful making that left turn off Oregon 22 if you’re coming from the west.

MISSED THE YAMHILL COUNTY Art Harvest Studio Tour? Or, do you miss the Yamhill County Art Harvest Studio Tour? No worries. Willamina has you covered Friday and Saturday with the 27th annual Willamina Coastal Hills Art Tour. Artists featured from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the downtown walking tour include Rosemary Heuser, Lorri Maynard, the Grand Ronde Art Guild, Coastal Hills Quilters, William Lindberg, Reflections Photography, and many more.

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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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