VISUAL ART

Killjoy Collective makes space for ‘Children of Revulsion’

The Killjoy Collective exhibition is for people who feel marginalized, regardless of the reason

To get to Killjoy Collective, you have to go through what curator and artist Tabitha Nikolai calls the “airlock”—a set of closely-spaced, rattly and slightly-rusty doors on the side of the handsome but mysterious Troy Laundry Building,at 221 SE 11th Avenue in Portland.

It’s a bit of a dance for two people to enter at the same time, but once inside you descend into a basement warren of studios. The established spaces are clearly very active, and the scent of drywall and sawdust and the piles of power tools indicate the building’s attempt to grow and attract new clientele to freshly-partitioned units. Even just five or six years ago, you were likely to hit a space like this if you chucked a rock off any rooftop in inner Southeast Portland. Now, with closures of places like Towne Storage and Recess Gallery, it’s one of the few remaining concentrations of DIY and community art spaces in this fast-changing neighborhood.

children of revulsion – opening night

Killjoy’s space is close to the bottom of the stairs, and with the front doors open, it presents a remarkably spacious world all of its own in what could easily feel like a cramped basement. It’s a fitting home for a show that describes itself as follows:

“Children of Revulsion is about living inside media when you can’t go home again.

It’s about making a house from virtual trash, lashed together with scraps of code, and uploading it to your dear ones, wherever they are. Big enough for everyone, you dwell in it together, replay and reply. Every pixel a good night kiss on the forehead. Every beat a tender hand-squeeze in the dark.”

It’s an ambitious group show featuring more than a dozen artists, musicians, and meme-makers. Multiple large monitors featuring homebrew videogames and digital environments ring a central bench that invites you to sit, don a pair of headphones, and pick up a wireless keyboard where the control keys are indicated by textured flower stickers. In the far corner, a modern LCD screen is housed in the skeleton of a small 1980s CRT TV set, perched atop a dresser. This echoes the homey, inner-sanctum vibes broadcast from the squishy, colorful installation of blankets, stuffed animals, and fabric creations at the front of the room on the same wall.

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Tim Stapleton: Call and response with paint

After a diagnosis that at first sounded like a death sentence, the Portland theater designer decided to live without fear—and return to painting

Tim Stapleton lives these days in a little house set back below an out-of-the-way Portland residential street not far from the Columbia Slough. Despite the years worth of blackberry vine overgrowth he’s hacked away, he’s still surrounded by vegetation, and the tiny runnel a few yards from the front door just adds to the sense of being in the country. He refers to the place only half-jokingly as “the holler.”

That nickname is a fitting reminder of his upbringing in southeastern Kentucky, in a hamlet known to the locals as Haymond. It also underscores how far he’s come in a lifetime, from one holler to another: In the 1950s and ‘60s, he was one of seven children in a coal miner’s family, poor, gay, and at a certain point, sexually abused. Now, he’s one of Portland’s most respected and beloved theater artists—best known as a scenic designer of what might be termed poetic efficiency, but also liable to show up as actor, writer or teacher—the recipient of a 2017 Drammy Award for Lifetime Achievement for decades of work with the historic Storefront Theatre, Artists Repertory Theatre, Profile Theatre and countless other companies and projects.

Tim Stapleton’s set designs have been evolved into spare but intense distillations of their plays/Photo by Gary Norman

However richly deserved that award, its timing owed something to an unwelcome development. In March of 2017, Stapleton was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, the motor neuron disease that leads to progressive weakening of the muscles and loss of body control. Near the end of a particularly busy 2016, he’d noticed some difficulties working on a set for a production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A bit later, he was at the home of his friend, the photographer Owen Carey, when another bad sign appeared. “Owen and I often trade Negronis [gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth] for painting. So I was over there, up on a ladder doing some texture work or something, and I couldn’t raise my arm up.”

“I went from diagnosis to acceptance immediately,” he said in April of last year, sitting in his cozy holler home. “I refuse to live for the end. I refuse to live in fear.”

Instead, Stapleton has continued to live for, or at least through, his art. He continues his theater work, including the scenic design for Artists Rep’s current production of Lauren Gunderson’s I & You. Perhaps more importantly, he’s rededicated himself to his first love: Painting.

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‘Faust’ review: giving the devil his due

Portland Opera’s dazzling new co-production lends depth and color to Gounod’s take on Goethe 

by BRUCE BROWNE and DARYL BROWNE

“Music,” the saying goes, “is the language of the soul.” But when that soul is sold to the Devil, as in Charles-Francois Gounod’s opera Faust, even some of the most beautiful musical lines ever written could not prevent the hell-bound downward spiral. In a slowly unraveling demonic mode, Portland Opera Association’s artistic forces presented an interdisciplinary Faustian wonderment on opening night last Friday at Keller Auditorium.

Setting Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s massive Faust to music, let alone opera, is a huge undertaking. Gounod took several passes at getting his produced. When it was finally tweaked to his satisfaction in 1859, distilled to the dramatic essence, the five act opera went 19th century viral and has since become one of the most often staged operas of all time. New York’s Metropolitan Opera opened its doors in 1883 with a production of Gounod’s Faust.

Angel Blue and Jonathan Boyd in Portland Opera’s ‘Faust.’ Photo: Corey Weaver.

You might think Faust is the only reason his name is known, but wait: 1) Who superimposed a Catholic “Ave Maria” chant over the top of a Bach C major prelude to create one of the most loved works of all time; 2) Who wrote the ‘National Anthem’ of Vatican City (the Papal Hail to the Chief, as it were); 3) Who wrote the original theme to the Alfred Hitchcock television program? The answer to all three: Charles Gounod.

Gounod was born in Paris almost exactly two hundred years before the June 17 closing performance of POA’s 2018 Faust production. He received composition awards in his early years at Paris Conservatory and in Rome. A devoted Catholic and family man who loved the music of Palestrina and Bach, Gounoud was an admirer and friend of Berlioz. He wrote symphonies that are not widely performed, a large number of choral works and one other opera of note, Romeo and Juliet.

With a handful of major singing roles, large mixed chorus and large orchestra, the story (libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carre) is a balanced and dramatic work. An artist, Faust, his body and creativity degraded by old age, is contemplating suicide. He is enraged by young women outside singing of nature and God and calls out for Mephistopheles, who takes it from there.

Crossing Faust’s pathway to doom are Marguerite, paragon of feminine purity; Siebel, young boy, love-struck over Marguerite; Wagner, a soldier off to war; Valentin, also a soldier, and brother of Marguerite; and Marthe, a matronly friend of Marguerite. And for all except Marthe, Gounod has written arias that have become staples in solo vocal literature.

Portland Opera’s ‘Faust’ closes this weekend. Photo: Corey Weaver.

It wasn’t just the language of music, however, that told the tale at Keller Auditorium. The prodigious visual stagescape was the collaborative work of a troupe of stage-craft artists taking their artistic vision from California sculptor John Frame. (Read Paul Maziar’s ArtsWatch interview with Frame.) David Allen Moore (projection design) targeted images, some 3D, onto the stage with eerie precision. Vita Tzykun (set and costume), Duane Schuler (lighting) and stage director Kevin Newbury. colored, textured and shaded the drama.

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Designing ‘Faust’

In Portland Opera's new production of Gounod's classic, visual artist John Frame relies on collaborators to bring the audience inside the mind of the man who made the original deal with the devil

by PAUL MAZIAR

This June, the new Lyric Opera of Chicago-Portland Opera co-production of Charles Gounod’s Faust, directed by Kevin Newbury, will fill the Keller Auditorium stage for four performances, the production’s West Coast premiere. The visual artist John Frame —whose vignettes, sculptures, score and installations were a distinct hit when exhibited at the Portland Art Museum back in 2012 for his Three Fragments of a Lost Tale show — is the opera’s production designer. For Faust, Frame’s novel approaches to composition and his visionary aesthetic manage to locate the production inside Faust’s mind—and soul.

A scene from Portland Opera’s ‘Faust.’ Photo: Corey Weaver.

Although Gounod’s Faust is familiar, the Lyric Opera version was widely anticipated, in large part because of Frame’s reimaging of it, which includes sculpture, 3D projections, and a live video feed. It’s a production that, however augmented by contemporary technology, presents a world that’s of its own unique timeframe—neither present nor past.

“His art sees the world in a completely different way, reflecting the human condition in a way that’s poignant, dark and funny,” director Newbury told the Chicago Tribune about Frame’s work on the opera. “Our production team is taking his work as our inspiration. Because much of the opera is about Faust’s search for knowledge and truth, we portray him as an artist, searching for truth through his art.”

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VizArts Monthly: Canoes and ice cream are involved

A big Richard Diebenkorn show at the Portland Art Museum, R.B.Kitaj at the Oregon Jewish Museum, and a host of other shows

There’s no denying it—summer is here (well, technically, maybe not)! And what better way to enjoy the precious, fleeting sunny months in Portland than to look at art in small indoor spaces? OK, there might be more appropriate summertime activities, but in between all the biking and lounging in parks and rafting on rivers, the seasonal blooming of events and shows has plenty to offer. In addition to the following list, take note of S1’s anniversary party weekend, June 8—10, with details available at http://s1portland.com/.

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Standing Rock and beyond

Portland's new Elisabeth Jones Art Center opens with a national exhibit of contemporary Native American art and an eye on social engagement

Nine days before the June 7 grand opening of The Elisabeth Jones Art Center on the Pearl District’s western stretch, a kind of controlled chaos is in the air. The racket of a power drill ricochets off the high ceilings of this sprawling post-industrial space as Hugh Russell, an artist and the center’s house carpenter, screws sheetrock into wooden frames against a wall that will soon be hung with artworks. Shae Uisna, the new center’s assistant director, sits in a folding chair with a notebook in her hands, a phone in her lap, and a list of things to get done.

Two large fabric sculptures, made from remnants of tents used at the Dakota Access oil-pipeline standoff near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation that spreads across several counties in North and South Dakota, hang from the ceiling of the art center’s main gallery like soft-sided pyramids or upside-down tipis. A giant section of old-growth fir log, a good ton’s worth of tight-grained wood destined to be hewn into a canoe, sits on a frame of 4x4s by the wide garage doors that open to the sidewalk in front of Northwest 14th Avenue. Across the street a giant hole-in-the-ground construction site is swiftly filling in and rising, extending the bustling neighborhood’s urban infill and insulating the art center from the streak of Interstate 405 beyond 15th Avenue a block west.

Ricardo Caté’s Standing Rock stand, painted on the wall of the Elisabeth Jones Art Center. ArtsWatch photo

John Teply, the art center’s director and guiding force, emerges from the door to a spacious gallery/workspace called The Project Room, wincing just a bit from a sore toe that had blown up with a giant blister somewhere along the 12 miles he walked during North Portland’s recent St. Johns Parade, for which he was this year’s chair. Teply is a longtime working artist himself, and his hands and sleeves are spattered with a rainbow of paint, bright evidence of the “working” part of “working artist.”

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Katherine Bradford’s luminous nocturnes

"Magenta Nights" at Adams and Ollman considers atmospheres of air and water and the paint that can create them

“art is the power that causes the night to open.” — Maurice Blanchot, The Gaze of Orpheus

Katherine Bradford is a prolific and imaginative contemporary painter from New York City. Meeting her at the opening reception for her show Magenta Nights at Adams and Ollman gallery (through June 2) was like seeing a friend: Bradford’s social affability is that genuine and infectious. This is in keeping with proprietor Amy Adams, who worked closely with Bradford before the show to select works in her NYC studio. That evening, I got to talk with her a little about her acrylic paintings in that show, and then some more through correspondence. One takeaway from that initial interaction and my first looks at her work was Bradford’s affinity for atmosphere, the play of light and dark that is quintessential to the human experience, abstract and actual.

Katherine Bradford, “Swim at 6:10”, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 18 inches/Courtesy of Adams and Ollman

In a 2016 interview with Jennifer Samet, Bradford said, “what interests me the most is the language of painting—how people are able to say things using paint.” She then refers to a vernacular forever common to both poets and painters: the sea, the sky and clouds. Having seen two of her exhibitions in person, both at Adams & Ollman, I’ve asked myself, what is it then, that Bradford is saying with her pictures? She’s telling me about revery, buoyancy, fun—all perhaps contingent upon meditation and reflection. And then there’s the mysterious depth of the night that Bradford summons, that and the deep sea, the human mind. It’s all exciting, beyond sense, mystical, and yet utterly clear, approachable.

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