VISUAL ART

Stephen Hayes: A Guggenheim will fuel ‘In the Hour Before’

Local painter Stephen Hayes is awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, toward his 'In the Hour Before' project, which deals with violence in America. . .

A few days ago, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation named the recipients of its 173 Guggenheim Fellowships in the areas of scholarship, art, and science. Among 24 other painters from around the country who received this year’s honor was the Portland painter Stephen Hayes. Hayes has been working on a project, titled In the Hour Before, to reimagine depictions of spaces, sites, in painting.

In this body of work, now supported by the Guggenheim award, Hayes examines the violent American social context by depicting the sites of shootings—places like Newtown, Charleston, Orlando, Roseburg, and others. This undertaking is for Hayes, a way to respond to the “grotesque reality of an escalating physical and social violence in America,” related specifically to “racial inequity, economic disparity” among other issues—as he described in proposing In the Hour Before to the Guggenheim Foundation.

Thanks to the award, Hayes is set to complete In the Hour Before, “traveling” by way of Google Earth, “to the burgeoning number of sites of shootings throughout the country, and making paintings in response to these places as they were witnessed benignly, without comment or bias, by the impersonal technology of cameras mounted on cars,” as the artist remarked.

Stephen Hayes, “Ferguson, MO 8-9-14,” 2017 oil/canvas 30”x 30”

This content marks ongoing change in Hayes’s work—as he described in his interview with our own Paul Sutinen last year — but his compositions retain a singular approach to discerning, rendering. “Such deft blending of representation and sheer abstraction underpins Hayes’s eminence as a supreme kind of painters’ painter in the Pacific Northwest,” wrote Sue Taylor in Art in America in September of 2016.

Hayes’s handling of paint treads the line between abstraction and representation, and his sense for the conceptual in painting always seems in keeping with his formal subjects. Hayes says that a painting “can pay poetic homage to the lives and places at the heart of each story. In fact, we are ALL at the heart of each of these stories. I believe that real solutions to this will only come from contemplation, reflection, deliberation, and conscious action.”

Hayes was included in More Than a Pretty Face: 150 Years of the Portrait Print at the Portland Art Museum in 2010, and also received the Hallie Ford Fellowship in Visual Arts in 2011. The Guggenheim is a national matter, and past Portland winners have tended to be writers: Paul Collins, Peter Rock, Tom Bissell, Dan O’Brien, among others. Each year since its inaugural year in 1925, some 3,000 applicants vie for the fellowship; Hayes’s award is no small thing to a working artist, teacher, adherent of visual art. The list of 2018 fellows — including Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tyehimba Jess, writers Teju Cole and Min Jin Lee — can be read in its entirety on the foundation’s website. We caught up with Hayes to hear how news of the Guggenheim award has hit him.

Where were you when you learned of your having won the Guggenheim Fellowship Award?
I got the notification that my project had been forwarded to the Board of Directors for approval by email in the middle of an ordinary working day. I was in the middle of a Color Theory class and while on break I checked my email. I wasn’t sure that I was reading the message in the right way and was a little off balance. I had to forward it to Linda [Linda K. Johnson, Hayes’s partner] for interpretation!

In your interview with Paul Sutinen last year, you talked about your “ability to challenge your thinking or to find context for what it is you’re doing.” Is this award a landmark in your career, relative to your approach, how you’re working and seeing in the context of 2018?
The award would be a landmark for anyone. It recognizes decades of work already made, but more critically it provides spiritual and financial support for unseen work in the future. I am already deeply engaged with the project that I proposed to grow. In the Hour Before is a body of work unlike any other that I have made, and I am continuously looking to understand my relationship to the project, my process and its impact on me every bit as much as on you.

I really love what you had to say (last October) about beauty having very few limitations. How has this outlook changed since then?
I am as surprised as anyone that beauty can exist so seamlessly side by side with horror. It is very confusing. I find myself wondering if we don’t have the ability to see this dichotomy as some kind of a paradoxical safety net; part of our limbic brain that protects us in an almost prehistoric way.

What’s next for you in light of having won this award?
I am deep into the final term of teaching for the year and have plans to be more fully in my studio as soon as possible. In preparation for that day I am gathering information, making stretchers, stretching canvases, gathering materials and trying to share the moment generously with my family and friends. Once in the studio… it’s on.

Design Week Portland: A little guidance from festival director Tsilli Pines

With Design Week Portland at full throttle, Brian Libby chats with festival director Tsilli Pines about the extent of this year's event

By BRIAN LIBBY

For one week each April, most members of Portland’s design community probably don’t get much rest. Design Week Portland, taking place from April 14-21 this year, is a city-wide series of programs exploring the process, craft, and practice of design across all disciplines.

Sneaker design? They’ve got you covered. Architecture, interiors, landscape design? No problem. The festival is a kind of core sample, revealing the spectrum of designers calling Portland home and bringing them together, hopefully not just as a group of different tribes attending their own events but in a way that encourages cross-pollination.

Other cities have more wealth and are considered truer cultural capitals, but Design Week Portland may be one of the best ways to get a sense that Portland has in some ways become a design Mecca, wherein a combination of our collaborative culture and idyllic natural environments just beyond the urban growth boundary creates a pull for designers even when the might be better off basing their operations in New York, London or Los Angeles.

Tsilli Pines, festival director of Design Week Portland/Photo by Richard Darbonne

Recently the festival’s director, Tsilli Pines, agreed to answer a few questions about Design Week Portland as a primer for the festivities kicking off this weekend.

This year’s Design Week Portland has 170 events. In your mind, is there a right size for the festival? Or is it that you add as many good events as you can with the thinking that people will pick and choose events and the more choice the better?

Tsilli Pines: When you add in the open houses, we have a total of 300-plus events going on including talks, gallery showcases, tours, unique experiences, workshops and open studios.

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Flower(s) in Concrete at Fourteen30: Why we write about art

The art most difficult to describe with words and to contextualize by the intellect makes writing about art worthwhile

Recently, I’ve had conversations with writers of other disciplines who’ve questioned the point of writing about art. As an activity in an atmosphere of limited nerves and resources and an overabundance of literature, images, noise, and every reason to seek what’s “fact-based,” it’s not that hard to imagine why some might look askance at this kind of thing. Why not write about ecological ills or politics, human/animal rights, or even celebs for a little entertainment? Otherwise, why not bake some bread (a writer friend of mine likes to suggest that) or whatever.

Why we do what we do is something that ought to be pondered often, or as often as is tolerable. I keep asking myself these questions and, to some relief, I come up with an answer every time I see a show like the group show on view at Fourteen30 Contemporary, Flower(s) in Concrete. The show features works by Léonie Guyer, Wayne Smith, and Lynne Woods Turner and was co-organized by Stephanie Snyder (the director of Reed College’s Cooley Gallery), and Fourteen30’s Jeanine Jablonski.

Installation view of “Flower(s) in Concrete,
art by Léonie Guyer, Wayne Smith, and Lynne Woods Turner/Courtesy of Fourteen30 Contemporary

I write about shows like this because art often has the supreme capacity to change me —my mind, perception, but also my physical state of being. It’s often the subtlest thing —say, the rhythm or sensuousness of shapes in Turner’s work; the repetition of trim lines that evoke great music, in Smith’s; or the symbol you feel you’ve always known but have never seen, can’t place with a single word, in Guyer’s—that has this transformative power. This seems consequential here and now, when complications abound, vex, prohibit.

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Eugene Ballet preview: dance of the mountain king

Company's new full-length 'Peer Gynt' ballet transforms drama into dance

By GARY FERRINGTON

When Eugene Ballet  artistic director Toni Pimble decided to stage Peer Gynt, she faced a daunting challenge: transforming poetry into dance. The company had already proven it could dream big when it comes to creating major new works for the professional stage. Last season’s The Snow Queen featured an original score by Portland composer Kenji Bunch. But now, Pimble had to find a way to tell Henrik Ibsen’s classic verse story of a young Norwegian farm lad and prodigal son whose careless and reckless life harms those who love him and ultimately himself — all without words.

Eugene Ballet premieres new full-length ‘Peer Gynt’ ballet. Photo: Eugene Ballet Company.

Over the last two years, Pimble created new choreography and even costumes herself. Her company also crafted original projected visual art and collaborated with its musical partner OrchestraNext  to fashion a live score, set to the famous music of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. On April 14-15, the company closes its season at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts with its new full-length original ballet. “It is an emotional work of love, intrigue, loss, despair and redemption,” Pimble observes.

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A visit with: Shalonda Menefee

With her SISTAS network, a Portland artist and entrepreneur crafts a creative world of dolls and design, cloth and community

Shalonda Menefee, creator and talent behind SISTAS Dolled Up, finds herself between events on a recent Saturday afternoon. She’s just come home from hosting a brunch for women in the community and has a couple of weeks (and a whole lot of fabric beckoning to her) before the next extravaganza: a dance, theater, fashion experience and panel discussion on Tuesday, April 10, called “VISIBLY INVISIBLE, Honoring Our Unsung Sheroes.”

Shalonda will produce Tuesday’s event, which aims to explore the complex roles of black women in communities and pay tribute to their journey. “As women of color,” she says, “we carry a lot of weight. We are kind of the backbone of the country and everyone’s kids, but we get the least amount of credit sometimes.” The event, which incorporates many facets of her work and displays her commitment to both art and community, will run 7-9 p.m. at The Old Church Concert Hall downtown. Amid her preparations she has kindly eked out some time to chat with me in her Northeast Portland home while her two tuxedo cats mosey about the house and her teenagers occasionally make an appearance and then disappear again.

Shalonda Menefee, in one of her head wraps: art and community.

A lot of people know Shalonda for her colorful small fabric figures, which she describes as “similar to paper dolls except with cloth and hair,” and which seem comfortably at home with African traditional apparel and the communal tradition of African American quiltmaking. But her interests go far beyond making art for art’s sake. With three bachelor degrees, a certificate in project management, and a host of intense life experiences, she calls herself a “healer in the background,” and she seems to embody the aphorism that a rising tide lifts all boats. She runs creative workshops for women to make their own “healing dolls,” and creates clothing, jewelry, purses, hats, head wraps, and other fashion accessories.

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VizArts Monthly: April is about photography

It's Portland Photo Month, so a bunch of photography shows are expected, but there's lots more to see, too

While we have yet to escape the various micro-seasons of post-winter, pre-spring Portland (such as Fool’s Spring, Mud Season, and Third Winter), blossoms are indeed blooming and the list of events and openings is getting fuller and fuller.

For example, we’ve got a rich crop of photography shows this April. I’m sure there’s some sort of “exposure” pun to be had from the fact that they’re going up at the same time the sun is starting to come out, but of course we’re above such jokes here at Artswatch. And in any case it probably has more to do with the fact that it’s Portland Photo Month.

If handmade images are more your thing, man have we got a group show for you. Overall, this month’s roundup features a number of colorful options that range from intensely personal to riotously social, with plenty in between.

Themes include: faces, small art spaces, and the experience of being from other places.

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Austin Granger’s commonplace miracles

When things go right, "I have the uncanny sense that the photographs were already there, just waiting for me. They feel predestined."

STORY by ANGELA ALLEN

PHOTOGRAPHS by AUSTIN GRANGER

Portland photographer Austin Granger, who grew up in northern California and studied philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz, prefers to load film into his Fuji GF670 or Deardorff 5 by 7 instead of pushing a card into a digital camera. Sticking to the old rituals, he’d also rather shoot in black and white than in color. Sixty of his images are on display through April 10 at LightBox Photographic Gallery in Astoria.

Granger calls photography “at once commonplace and utterly miraculous.” Among his landscape and nature images, the influence of Group f/64 photographers Ansel Adams and Edward Weston is apparent, Granger readily acknowledges. Adams is one of his heroes, and sharp-focused, meticulously framed photos are among his images’ hallmarks, as they are of his mid-century California predecessors.

“Self, Alvord Desert, Oregon,” self-portrait, 2016.

The 76-page catalog for Granger’s LightBox exhibition is titled Correspondence. “When I’m photographing well, I have the most uncanny feeling that the pictures are predestined,” Granger said. “I recognize them. They echo the feelings inside myself. They correspond.”

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