VISUAL ART

Doing the dance — in 3D design and in ballet

Highlights in Yamhill County include art exhibitions focused on wood, faces, and student work, while Portland Ballet offers a glimpse of life as a dancer

When I’m paying attention, I occasionally catch word about a Yamhill County artist showing his or her stuff at the Bush Barn Art Center in Salem. So let’s kick off this week’s round-up of what’s going on arts-wise with Totem Shriver.

Shriver is an adjunct professor of 3D design at Linfield College, and he’s showing wooden relief sculptures at Bush Barn, along with pen-and-ink drawings and collages that served as the gestation phase of the ideas that found completion in 3D pieces. According to the program materials: “Totem begins each work with drawings and collages in order to discover new approaches to the carving process. His two-dimensional pieces unfold innovative ideas of positive and negative space and are featured alongside his sculptures.”

Totem Shriver's collection of drawings and wood carvings runs through April 20 at Bush Barn Art Center in Salem.

Totem Shriver’s collection of drawings and wood carvings runs through April 20 at Bush Barn Art Center in Salem.

“Every day I am an artist,” Shriver writes in his artist’s statement. “Decisions about what to make and how to make it are constantly running through my mind. Art and life are the same. Aesthetic decisions, concepts, theory all need to come together. And then there is the work. New skills, old skills, materials. It is indeed a dance of sorts.” His goal is to “do the dance, make the work and put it out into the world as much as possible.”

Also at Bush Barn, there’s time to catch Jennifer Kapnek’s images of tree branches coupled with “serene, color-drenched fields,” and the 10th annual Young Artists’ Showcase, which features work by hundreds of K-12 students from Marion, Polk and Yamhill Counties. Bush Barn is at 600 Mission St. SE in Salem.

THE PORTLAND BALLET IS REACHING OUT TO NEWBERG this Friday with a free Outreach Performance at the Chehalem Cultural Center. The ballet’s “most advanced, pre-professional dancers” will do a 45-minute show featuring a demonstration of a dancer’s daily exercise routine, an opportunity for audience involvement, and performances of various repertoire selections to give folks an idea of ballet’s stylistic possibilities. The program will include selections from Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and Rip/Tide by Jamey Hampton and Ashley Rowland of BodyVox. Doors open at 7 p.m. March 23, the show starts at 7:30 p.m.

Dancers Maggie Rupp and Peter Deffebach perform a pas de deux from “Swan Lake,” one of several pieces that Portland Ballet dancers will perform Friday in the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg. Photo by: Blaine Truitt Covert

Dancers Maggie Rupp and Peter Deffebach perform a pas de deux from “Swan Lake,” one of several pieces that Portland Ballet dancers will perform Friday in the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg. Photo by: Blaine Truitt Covert

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Oregon Spotlight: Spring breaks from Shakespeare to Caravaggio

Our sampler of hits and bits from around the state offers music in Covallis and Medford, art in Bend and Roseburg, film on the Coast, and OSF is live in Ashland

We’ve set the clocks ahead, spring is coming, and that means Oregonians are tentatively emerging from their abodes with a mind to hit the road for day and weekend trips. What’s on the state’s cultural menu?

Mark Murphey (holding book) plays William Joad, who meets unexpected relative Martin Jodes, played by Tony Sancho (on ground), in Octavio Solis’ “Mother Road” at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Photo by: Jenny Graham/Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Mark Murphey (holding book) plays William Joad, who meets unexpected relative Martín Jodes, played by Tony Sancho (on ground), in Octavio Solis’ “Mother Road” at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Photo by: Jenny Graham/Oregon Shakespeare Festival

For starters, it’s showtime at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Right out of the gate, four options: Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band in the Thomas Theatre, while the Angus Bowmer hosts As You Like It, Hairspray: The Broadway Musical and Mother Road, a new play by Octavio Solis, inspired by John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and featuring OSF favorite Mark Murphey as William Joad. Solis is an Oregon playwright, and he’s calling this a “sequel” to Steinbeck’s classic, although it continues the story from an immigrant’s perspective. This is a world premiere directed by outgoing artistic director Bill Rauch and likely to be a play you’ll be proud to say, years from now, “I saw it first at OSF in Ashland.” Tickets and more info here.

Meanwhile, a few other options beyond Portlandia:

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Tattoo you: art in the flesh

Gallery 114's "InkBodySkinPaint+Fire," with paintings by David Slader and photos by Owen Carey, looks at and below the surfaces of self

A week ago Wednesday evening, the night before the official First Thursday opening at Gallery 114 of the artist-run gallery’s March show, InkBodySkinPaint+Fire, the basement space at Northwest Glisan Street and 11th Avenue was hopping. It was the pre-opening opening, insiders’ night, and the place was packed. Actor and longtime theater teacher Bob McGranahan was outside at the corner, an early bird just flying off after checking the scene. At the stairway entrance a vendor for the weekly homeless-advocate publication Street Roots, which had a cover story by Emily Moore on the exhibition, was offering papers for sale.

Rusty Tennant: jump for joy. Photo: Owen Carey

Down the stairs to the landing a photograph of actor/director/producer/tech whiz Rusty Tennant hangs like a vivid greeter or bouncer at the door, tattooed as ornately as the stage set for a Victorian drawing-room comedy with a tree-earth mother gracing his brawny upper arm. Inside, a congenial and varied mob of theater people, art people, and friends of the artists was milling around, chatting, sipping wine, taking in the work of the two artists: painter David Slader, a gallery member (he also has a large long sculpture in the show), and his invited guest artist, photographer Owen Carey.

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Ryan Kitson: Caution, artist at play

The Schneider Museum of Art exhibition is marked by flights of whimsy and free association

The first words of the wall text for Ryan Kitson’s exhibit, “Suds Ur Duds/Fermentation Elastic”—at the Schneider Museum of Art in Ashland, Oregon, through Saturday—ask the audience to take in the show before reading the didactics. The same placard has a numbered diagram of the art in the gallery along with the title and material list for each piece. This puts compliant viewers at the mercy of their eyes only. Granted, the average viewer is likely to experience the work before any reading takes place (at least that is how I go about it), so, in keeping with the spirit of the artist’s request, I will return to this matter at a later point.

It might be similarly fitting to address the one Kitson sculpture in a separate exhibit, “From Ignorance to Wisdom,” curated by Blake Shell, which is also at the museum but in a different gallery. Shell selected works by the Southern Oregon University (home to the Schneider) Art and Creative Writing faculty, and has included Kitson, as he was a visiting artist during the 2018 fall term. In that the piece, Fermentation Elastic, is included in the main title for his exhibit, one wonders whether it should be considered a stand-alone or as integral to the rest of his work. Exhibition title notwithstanding, in that this piece is seen before one can see the entrance to “Suds Ur Duds,” one might assume it’s a stand-alone. But in that Kitson is not actual faculty, there may be other machinations at work as well.

Ryan Kitson, "Fermentation Elastic", 12x35x24 inches, resin, glass,t-shirt, plaster, fidget balls, slime, lavender scented bath salt/Schneider Museum of Art

Ryan Kitson, “Fermentation Elastic”, 12x35x24 inches, resin, glass,t-shirt, plaster, fidget balls, slime, lavender scented bath salt/Schneider Museum of Art

Fermentation Elastic distinguishes itself with its whimsy. Mounted on a low plinth, four kombucha bottles filled with liquid prop up a tie-dyed t-shirt like a miniature, four-cornered shelter, out of which flows an orange, sparkly mass with two equally decorative balls stuck in the hardened effluence. The piece is abundantly orange and also color-coordinated in a manner that might be true to a person who would imbibe in the drink while wearing that style of shirt. It should also be noted that in past iterations, the artist has added an additional level of process by filling the bottles with homemade kombucha, which, intentionally or not, puns the word “culture.”

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Remembering D.E. May

A tribute to a much loved Oregon artist

By ANNA GRAY and RYAN WILSON PAULSEN

On February 27th, just a month before his 67th birthday, Oregon lost one of its finest artists: D.E. May. When he was diagnosed with cancer, he was given just months to live but continued working and living among close friends in his native Salem for nearly 3 years. May was an important feature of this region’s artistic landscape and an artist fiercely admired for the things he made and the way he made them.

D.E. May in his Salem studio in 2015. Photo: Sabina Poole

We first got to know May through stories told by Jane Beebe, his longtime friend and gallerist at PDX Contemporary Art. Her anecdotes cast May as a warm and original character. They told of a person living according to his own time, of a workspace like the hidden pages of a pop-up book, of a maker of tender objects, who never forgot to send her (and many other mothers, too) a postcard on Mother’s Day.

When we met him in person, we immediately liked the man as much as the things he made. We felt refreshed by his matter-of-fact approach to art making, as if being an artist was no more mythic than being a carpenter or steel-worker, no less necessary than being a bartender or a cab driver. His humility, dedication, and sureness of purpose were reflected in the things he created. It is as if his drawings and small constructions weren’t made, but evolved over time without the overly conscious intervention of an artistic hand. Because of this, his meticulous abstractions hold a subtle magic. They appear as both documents of the past and proposals for a future architecture–his subtle geometries incorporated with such sensitivity into the found surfaces he collected and used in his work. His pieces remind us of how objects gather energy and meaning, becoming real through their use.

D.E. May, Template Study

D.E. May, Right Isolate (Template Study)
2013. acrylic wash, colored pencil and graphite on paper
21” x 48″

May will be remembered in many different ways. Some will remember him from bright gallery openings, as he nodded and said thank yous to those who’d come to see his collections. Others will remember him as a friend that was always willing to share a drink. Some will remember him as a fixture of his beloved ‘Island Salem,’ where he’d be seen walking, perhaps to the library where he’d go to look at books he says he didn’t read. Many others, still, will remember him by his artworks, their quietness and precision. We will remember him for his sensibility as an artist and his commitment to his life’s work and also for the encouragements he gave us over the years, sometimes in the form of small tokens—a postcard, folded origami figures, a or note—that always seemed to build our confidence in mysterious ways.

Anna Gray + Ryan Wilson Paulsen are mixed media collaborators living in Portland, OR.

D.E. May

D.E. May, Untitled
2011. wood and cardboard
1 7/8” x 2 3/16” x 5 7/16″

May’s work is currently on view at PDX Contemporary Art and the Portland Art Museum. You can read more about his work in a 2011 essay the authors wrote to accompany his show and publication The Template Files.

In Oregon ArtsWatch, Paul Sutinen wrote a review of the artist’s 2015 show at PDX Contemporary Art and Sabina Poole photographed May in his studio and wrote about the experience as part of the Ford Foundation’s Connective Conversations|Inside Oregon Art program.

Chehalem center hosts rare exhibit of Yunnan School art

Chinese painters isolated during the Cultural Revolution combined European influences, New Age perspectives, and knowledge of traditional Chinese art

The Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg rarely devotes more than one of its half-dozen galleries to a single artist or exhibition, so when curators decide to allocate three galleries to one show, one is obliged to pay attention.

Last week, the center unveiled a sprawling collection of Asian art that highlights the so-called Yunnan School of painting that emerged from the wreckage of the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s. Remarkably, it is possibly the first public showing in Oregon featuring the work of the artist widely regarded as a key founder, Jiang Tiefeng. The show intrigues on several levels.

Jiang Tiefeng's "Blue Lady" (deluxe edition serigraph print on rice paper)

Jiang Tiefeng’s “Blue Lady” (deluxe edition serigraph print on rice paper)

One, it was produced by artists who, either by choice or dictate, were sequestered in the southwestern province of Yunnan (which shares a stretch of its own southern border with Vietnam) during the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Two, the work is the quintessence of “melting pot” art. The paintings were produced by urban, university-trained Chinese artists who left familiar surroundings to live in an isolated rural area, bringing with them European influences, New Age perspectives and, of course, a  knowledge of traditional Chinese art, which dates back thousands of years.

Far from the scrutiny of Beijing, the artists found themselves working in a rural region with its own traditions of folk and indigenous art. More significantly, they used the freedom afforded by isolation to experiment with styles and content.

Finally, all the pieces in this show are “generously on loan from the Royal Arts Gallery.” Except that there isn’t a Royal Arts Gallery. Upon inquiry, I learned that this is shorthand for: They’re from a private Oregon collector who wants to remain anonymous and whose identity the curators aren’t releasing.

All of which is to say the exhibition, which runs through April 26, is unique, unorthodox, and must-see.

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In an attention economy, the critic’s most powerful tool is silence

Attention isn't just a human need anymore—it is a valuable commodity. Art critics need to be a lot more careful with it.

Humans are wired to crave attention. We want validation and recognition that our lives matter to other people. But our desire for attention has become bottomless, stretched, and grotesque. I keep reading reports of social media darlings meeting their ends—falling off cliffs to their deaths, drowning in picturesque waterfalls, and dying of hypothermia on treacherous climbs—in their quests to obtain the most over-the-top, swoon-worthy images to deliver to their followers. This is not a drill, folks: we are literally dying for attention.

We’re in this situation as a result of the fact that attention, which was an amorphous concept before the digital age, is now a quantifiable commodity. People are putting themselves in harm’s way because likes, subscribers, and followers can be valuated and monetized such that attention is now currency. It translates to money, fame, clout, and influence, so it makes sense that some people will do anything for it.

As such, it’s time for arts writers, critics, journalists, gatekeepers, and arbiters of culture—anyone whose job it is to bestow attention onto others—to reconsider how to allocate that currency. More specifically, the most responsible thing we can do, as people who professionally dole out attention, is to withhold it more often than not.

But hear me out—there’s more to it than that.

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