NEWS & NOTES

Short takes: Broadway to Reed

From Portlanders on Broadway to Reed Arts Week to the Marvelous Stan Lee and power for Native artists, news and notes for a new week

Here, there, and everywhere:

*

BROOKS ASHMANSKAS, the busy Broadway actor who grew up in Beaverton, has a new show in previews, and the New York Times has taken note. The four-hander musical comedy The Prom, which opens Thursday in the Longacre Theater, is a sendup of theatrical egotism, in which “an out-of-work Broadway troupe,” in The Times’s words, “descends on an all-American town to support a teenage girl who wants to pin a corsage on her girlfriend.” Ashmanskas stars as Barry Glickman, “who reminds everyone in earshot of his Drama Desk Award.”

Brooks Ashmanskas

Ashmanskas started out doing shows with the late James Erickson, the legendary razzle-dazzle director at Beaverton High School, and moved on to musicals at the old Portland Civic Theatre and elsewhere before heading for New York, where he landed as a replacement in a Broadway revival of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 1995, and just kept going, in shows ranging from Little Me to The Producers to Gypsy, Present Laughter, Something Rotten!, Candide, Sunday in the Park with George, and more. Along the way he’s been nominated for a Tony and (like his character in The Prom) a Drama Desk Award, both for his featured role in Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me.

Continues…

An Introvert’s Guide to Portland Book Festival 2018

Advance preparations for the Portland Book Festival are advised.

By KATIE TAYLOR

As a typical book-loving wallflower, I find festivals overstimulating and at times overwhelming, but when it comes to books, they’re important. In America, things loved by quiet people have a way of being ignored, shouted over, trampled on and phased out. Events like Literary Arts’ Portland Book Festival (formerly Wordstock) make a dazzling public smile their umbrella over a very private love, and by doing that, help keep that love safe, strong and thriving.

The Portland Book Festival can start to close in on the bookish introvert. But you can beat this! Preparation is the key./Photo courtesy Portland Book Festival

With some 62 book-related events loaded into a single 10-hour day, Portland Book Festival is an unparalleled opportunity, even for those of us who don’t like to leave our couches, teapots and teetering stacks of books. So gird your loins and screw your courage to the sticking place, my friends—you still have a few days to prepare. And prepare you must!

Continues…

Unexpected, sad news rocked Portland’s art world last month with the tragic passing of the Yale Union’s executive director, Yoko Ott. A tireless supporter of the arts, Ott made lasting contributions at many institutions including the Frye Art Museum, Seattle University, and the Honolulu Biennial. Yale Union has not announced a successor, but continues its existing schedule of shows. Elsewhere in the visual arts in Portland, some exciting shows are up this month, including a blockbuster painting exhibition at PAM. While you’re there, make sure to check out the Sun Ra exhibit which concludes the ambitious, powerful series We. Construct. Marvels. Between. Monuments.

Edward Hopper — Cape Cod Morning

Modern American Realism: Highlights from the Smithsonian’s Sara Roby Foundation Collection
Through April 28, 2019
Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Avenue
This who’s who of post-WWII American representational painting features big names like Edward Hopper, Louise Nevelson, Nancy Grossman, and Paul Cadmus. Some Northwest favorites are included in the long roster of artists, including Mark Tobey and Morris Graves. Sara Roby, a major collector in the post-WWII period, was known for hewing to realism despite the growing popularity of Abstract Expressionism. For more than 30 years, her foundation has maintained a premiere collection of leading American figurative painters, and we’re lucky to be able to see some of the highlights in our own art museum.

Coliseum 11 – Avantika Bawa

Avantika Bawa
Through February 10, 2019
Apex Gallery at the Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Avenue
Through November 25
Ampersand, 2916 NE Alberta Street
Avantika Bawa’s new body of work focuses on the stark modernist architecture of the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. A dual-venue show, the main body of work occupies the APEX gallery in the Portland Art, while Alberta Arts district gallery and bookstore Ampersand features more prints from the series. Bawa’s images may bring to mind the founding abstract and minimalist artists of the same era when the architecture firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill designed the Coliseum. The repeating geometric shapes in Bawa’s work reveal shades of Agnes Martin and Ellsworth Kelly as much as they refer to the construction of the Coliseum itself.

Pretty Teacher – Jeffry Mitchell

Tyger Tyger: Jeffry Mitchell
October 30 – December 1
PDX Contemporary
925 NW Flanders
In attempting to describe the “tragicomic universe” of Jeffry Mitchell’s off-kilter figurative ceramic sculptures, PDX Contemporary’s meaty show description is peppered with terms such as “exuberant pathos” and “folkloric lingua franca.” No wonder, as it’s quite a task to try to capture the strange world of elephants, bears, tigers, bunnies, roosters, flowers, and alluring male figures that occupy his off-kilter figurative ceramic sculptures. They’re as off-putting as they are charming. The show also features drawings, prints, assemblages. With shades of art star Grayson Perry’s groundbreaking, often-ribald ceramic work, this ceramic show is sure to be unique and fun.

Ralph Pugay working during a residency

RALPH PUGAY: A Spiritual Guide to Brute Force
November 1 – December 22
Upfor Gallery, 929 NW Flanders
One of Portland’s most productive and inventive artists, Pugay will be opening his second solo show at Upfor this First Thursday. This new set of work was created or conceived at a series of residencies Pugay attended across North America this past summer—from Florida to Montreal to New Orleans. Known for wild, colorful narrative paintings full of humor and strange happenings, Pugay has turned to black and white work on paper for this show.

The Earth Will Not Abide
November 1-January 12, 2019
The Center for Contemporary Art & Culture, PNCA, 511 NW Broadway
A rich group exhibition that focuses on the unsustainability of modern agriculture in different parts of the world. Featured artists include Ryan Griffis and Sarah Ross, Brian Holmes and Alejandro Meitin, Sarah Lewison and duskin! drum, Claire Pentecost, and Sara Siestreem. Each artist investigates, with their own particular methods, the “the rapid transformations in land use, biological diversity, and social structures” that result from large-scale, monocultural agriculture in ecosystems including the US, Brazil, Argentina, and China. Looking at existing and future land use, these projects hope to point “in the direction of viable responses.”

Disjecta annual art auction

Disjecta Art Auction
November 17
Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate Avenue
The Auction on November 17th is Disjecta’s annual invitation to the public to “have a drink, something to eat, and then to spend all of your discretionary income on something worthwhile.” Favorite local artists, more than we can count, have donated work to this annual auction that provides vital funding for the operations of one of Portland’s largest contemporary art centers. Artists featured will include Holly Andres, Corey Arnold, Pat Boas, Amy Bay, Srijon Chowdhury, Patrick Collier, Emily Counts, Tia Factor, Joel Fisher, Damien Gilley, Bean Gilsdorf, Ralph Pugay, Blair Saxon-Hill, Ryan Woodring, and many, many more. A ticketed event, “fine food and drink” will be served. Always a fun time.

Abagail Deville at PICA

The American Future: Abigail Deville
Nov. 3-Jan. 12, 2019
PICA, 15 NE Hancock Street
Known for monumental, vibrant assemblage work using found materials, DeVille’s new installation at PICA promises to be interesting. This accomplished artist foraged materials, printed matter, and really anything she can get her hands on to create a “model of reflection” on the fraught histories of American ambition. This site-specific installation examines 200 years of history, colonialism, and labor in America by focusing on Thomas Jefferson’s commission of the Lewis and Clark expedition and his obsessive work on his home, Monticello. Turning her inventive, incisive eye on the “paradox of Jeffersonian ideals” and how history relates to the “entropy of now,” DeVille will fill PICA with her unique, thoughtful vision

Tumbleweed – Nan Curtis

Numb: Nan Curtis
November 1 – December 15
Williamson | Knight Gallery,916 NW Flanders St.
Local artist Nan Curtis presents new work. A meditation on the words, sensations, and colors Curtis associates with Portland and the Pacific Northwest, Curtis draws on a remarkable range of materials for NUMB. Glass slag, industrial rubber, painted tumbleweeds, and pieces of steel share the small gallery space with a massage chair. All of these materials are meant to conjure what Curtis calls the “pinnacle of an emotional response” – tactile, sensory experiences. Appropriately, a masseuse will be present at the opening, performing massages for viewers on a first-come, first-served basis.

Have an old-fashioned Dia de Muertos — with Aztec dancing

In Newberg, the Mexican holiday is greeted with dance and a memorial offering. Meanwhile, Linfield College welcomes two authors and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

When Jose Carlos came to Oregon in the mid-1990s, he didn’t see much of his own Mexican culture in the community. Other Latinos attended his Woodburn high school, but public displays of culture from south of the border? No. “I didn’t see those things here,” Carlos told me recently. “I didn’t see celebrations of Day of the Dead, I didn’t see marches or Mexican celebrations, and now I see a lot. A lot of people are learning, sharing, teaching, and doing.”

Carlos and his wife, Kelly, are doing all four of those things with their Woodburn-based Aztec dance group, which increasingly finds itself in demand around Mexican holidays, particularly the annual Day of the Dead celebration. They’ve been regulars for the Chehalem Cultural Center’s Dia de Muertos celebration in Newberg the past few years, although they missed 2017 because they were in The Dalles with their company of more than a dozen dancers, helping with that community’s first public celebration.

Jose and Kelly Carlos of Woodburn will bring Aztec dancing to the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg for a free performance at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2.

They return Friday, Nov. 2, for a 5:30 p.m. performance that’s free and open to the public.

Jose started the group and is lead dance captain, while Kelly is executive director for Ritual Azteca Huitzilopochtli (pronounced wee-chee-zo-polsh-tlee), which does educational outreach and performances around the Willamette Valley and Southwest Washington. Jose credits Rigoberto Hernandez, a Chemeketa Community College teacher whom he met when Jose was a Woodburn High School junior yearning both for his own culture and fellowship. He and Hernandez started doing Chicano theater and Aztec dancing.

“In the beginning, I was shy,” he said. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to wear those kinds of clothes, I don’t want people to see my stomach.’” Today, Jose is the teacher. While you probably wouldn’t have found Aztec dancing in Oregon when he started learning it in the 1990s, now, at pow-wows, he’s accustomed to seeing nearly a hundred participants, including his group of about 17.

“Every dance we do has a meaning for the time,” he said. “We have dances that are only for the Day of the Dead, and we have dances for other holidays. These dances have been passed on to us from teachers who learned from their families.” Who, he added, have been passing dances and other traditions down through hundreds of years.

Continues…

A new curator of Native American Art named by the Portland Art Museum

Kathleen Ash-Milby joins the museum's staff in a role that's become increasingly important

The Portland Art Museum has just announced the hiring of a new curator of Native American Art, Kathleen Ash-Milby. Ash-Milby comes to Portland from New York where she has been an associate curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) for nearly 20 years. She is a member of the Navajo Nation and replaces previous curator Deana Darrt, who stepped down in 2016.

At NMAI, Ash-Milby organized, curated, and co-curated many important exhibitions including: Transformer: Native Art in Light and Sound (2017), Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist (2015), C. Maxx Stevens: House of Memory (2012), HIDE: Skin as Material and Metaphor (2010), and Off the Map: Landscape in the Native Imagination (2007). In addition to her work at NMAI, Ash-Milby has curated projects internationally and served on the boards of the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective (2007-2012) and the American Indian Community House (2005-2007).

Kathleen Ash-Milby, the new curator of Native American Art at the Portland Art Museum

Ash-Milby was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and received her M.A. in Native American art history from the University of New Mexico. However, she does have connections to the Northwest as her undergraduate degree is from the University of Washington. She says she is “thrilled to be returning to the Northwest and joining the Portland Art Museum at such an important time in its growth. Portland has such a vibrant community of Native artists and community members, and I’m looking forward to being part of it.”

The Portland community is equally thrilled. Portland artist Lillian Pitt and member of the Native Advisory Board says, “I have known Kathleen since she started working at the National Museum of the American Indian…while the hiring process was lengthy, I am so pleased that Kathleen accepted the job. She will make us all proud.”

The position of curator for Native American Art has been vacant since Deana Dartt left the position in 2016, but the department has remained active. It has received several important grants from, among others, the Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and has continued to add new works to its collection. And it recently opened CCNA: Not Fragile, a show of glass art by contemporary Native artists.

Ash-Milby will start at the Portland Art Museum in July 2019.

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.

Continues…

Chelsea Bieker, on her way

The rising Portland writer, with a $30,000 Rona Jaffe Foundation award in her pocket, is making her mark in the literary world

Chelsea Bieker cuts a striking figure as she makes her way into a coffee shop in Portland’s Foster-Powell neighborhood on a recent Sunday morning. It is impossible not to notice how put together she is, rather apart from the folks already gathered there who adorn themselves in sweatshirts and wind-breakers and general day-off, will-it-or-won’t-it-rain gear. Chelsea, dressed in a full-length gingham coat and looking as flawless as if she’s come from a photo shoot, reminds me of a movie star who has just appeared out of thin air, perhaps from a big city, which, in fact, she has. Our meeting lands on the heels of her having accepted a prestigious $30,000 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award on September 13 in New York City. As we stand in line next to each other, my first question comes out rather underwhelming: “Did you get taller?” Chelsea smiles. “Nah, it’s just the shoes,” she says in a sweet, these-old-things kind of way, pointing toward her feet (the shoes are lovely).

Returning into conversation with a person you haven’t seen in some time can be a powerful experience. Our relationships with peers provide a mirror, high-powered enough to reflect us back to ourselves while taking in the subtle shifts and differences in the other. As we order our drinks (she has tea; I have espresso), it occurs to me that this is not the same young woman I exchanged ideas with in workshops in Portland State University’s MFA fiction program years ago. Though she retains the poise and centeredness I associate with her early training as a gymnast, there’s a new dimension to her now, owed possibly to the fact that, since I last saw her, she has married a man she credits with fully encouraging her compulsion to write, and with whom she started a family (she is a mother two times over). She finds herself in that most wondrous place, past the threshold of “dabbler” and “aspiring” and “amateur,” and into the realm of bona-fide writer.

Chelsea Bieker, in the catbird seat.

SHE’S LANDED AN AGENT SHE ADMIRES (“I love my agent so much; she is just amazing”) and a two-book deal with Catapult Books, and has grown into a woman who takes herself seriously as a writer and wields the sort of work ethic to prove it. On top of parenting and writing, Chelsea also maintains a full-time job as a composition instructor for the Virtual Campus of central Pennsylvania’s Harrisburg Area Community College, a position that, she says, “takes a lot of time. It comes in waves.” The waves can be challenging: She teaches four reading-intensive classes a term, yet she enjoys the work and recognizes her luck in finding a position that allows her to work from home. Unlike many institutions that offer no job security for adjuncts, HACC provides yearly contracts, lending some peace of mind for her young family.

Continues…