YAMHILL

‘The Graduate’ on the edge

The #MeToo movement raises challenges for Gallery Theater's production of the 1960s tale of seduction and the American dream

The hottest theater ticket in Yamhill County this week is unquestionably at Gallery Players of Oregon in McMinnville, where a three-week run of The Graduate (yes, that Graduate) opens Friday.

Terry Johnson’s adaptation of Charles Webb’s novel (which became an award-winning film starring Dustin Hoffman) will be performed in the Arena, the smaller of Gallery’s two stages with seating for about 80. Inside the company, it’s known as a venue for Gallery’s edgy productions — plays that might offend, or lesser known plays not expected to draw an audience that would fill the main, 236-seat auditorium. Given that The Graduate’s most popular incarnation is more than 40 years old, the play may be relatively obscure. Given the subject matter (an explicitly rendered, sexually charged extramarital affair), it also falls into edgy territory for Yamhill County audiences.

Benjamin Braddock (John Davis Jr.) decides to follow the lead of Mrs. Robinson (Holly Spencer) in Gallery Theater's production of “The Graduate,” which opens Friday, July 26, in McMinnville. Photo by: EKay Media, courtesy Gallery Theater
Benjamin Braddock (John Davis Jr.) decides to follow the lead of Mrs. Robinson (Holly Spencer) in Gallery Theater’s production of “The Graduate,” which opens Friday, July 26, in McMinnville. Photo by: EKay Media, courtesy Gallery Theater

Based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard from other actors, Arena shows have drawn larger audiences in recent years. One hopes that The Graduate does as well, for here is an opportunity for audiences to see the artistic alchemy that can happen when a talented and seasoned actor takes a spin in the director’s chair.

Having been involved with Gallery since the late 1990s, I’ve known some people involved in the production for years and in a couple of cases have worked with them on stage. Surprisingly, I’d never spoken with the director until we sat down to chat about this show.

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Envisioning the human body — and life itself

Artists Tammy Jo Wilson and Amanda Triplett explore the beauty and metamorphosis of the organic form in a show at the Chehalem Cultural Center

Biological Dissonance, a collection of paintings and sculpture by Portland-area artists Tammy Jo Wilson and Amanda Triplett, is the newest exhibit to take up residence in the Chehalem Cultural Center’s largest gallery. While I was visiting it recently, two other names came to mind: David Cronenberg and Russian art critic Aleksandr Voronsky.

The former, of course, is the Canadian filmmaker who in 1986 gave us a gruesome remake of The Fly and is best known as a pioneer in so-called “body horror” cinema. The lesser known Voronsky wrote in the early 20th-century that art — all art — is, to varying degrees, the “cognition of life” itself.

To cite Cronenberg is perhaps unfair, as there’s nothing in the Newberg-based gallery that is extreme or gross, nothing for shock value, nothing that would be obviously at home in one of his stomach-churning films (although a couple of blob-like textile sculptures, which are beautiful, come close). The key parallel is artistic focus: a sustained and deeply considered exploration of the human body — from the recognizable shape of a single form all the way down to a hair, or even the follicle that contains it. Or an ovum. Life itself.

“Plasmic,” by Amanda Triplett (fiber installation from salvaged textiles, 12 by 60 by 16 inches, 2019) and (in the background) “Bare Bones,” by Tammy Jo Wilson (encaustic on panel, 18 by 24 inches, 2017). Photo by: David Bates
“Plasmic,” by Amanda Triplett (2019, fiber installation from salvaged textiles, 12 x 60 x 16 inches) and (in the background) “Bare Bones,” by Tammy Jo Wilson (2017, encaustic on panel, 18 x 24 inches). Photo by: David Bates

The show is described by Chehalem’s curators as “an exhibition about the irrepressible metamorphosis of the human body and beauty within the organic form.”

According to the statement, Wilson and Triplett “blend their creative expressions in this compelling and tactile exhibit about the biological body, through works of encaustics, paintings, prints, fiber and textile installations. Pairing together their individual approaches to process and medium, they build a visual dialogue expressing the visceral nature of the vessels to which all humans are confined and examining the relationship between flesh and bone; and society, cultural experience and self-awareness.”

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Sounds of a Yamhill County summer

Pull up a lawn chair and listen to concerts ranging from gospel to heavy psych

This week’s survey of Yamhill County’s cultural scene is All Things Musical — or as close to “all” as is possible to get without being omniscient. The opera-oriented Aquilon Music Festival is in the thick of it, but they’re not the only musicians in town. McMinnville and Newberg each host a series of free summer concerts, while out in Willamina, folks are getting ready for the Wildwood Music Fest, which has been hosting regional bands since 2010. Let’s start there, as that’s a ticketed event. 

WILDWOOD MUSIC FEST: On Yamhill County’s east side in the Sheridan and Willamina area, we find Katie Vinson of the Wildwood Hotel and Kim Hamblin of Roshambo ArtFarm once again organizing a grassroots musical affair and family camp-out that benefits local nonprofits. The nearly 20-year-old festival will be held July 19-21 on the farm, 22900 S.W. Pittman Road. Tickets and all the details you could possibly need are available here. The lineup includes the Eagle Rock Gospel Singers, Sam Chase and The Untraditional, Drunken Prayer, Willy Tea Taylor, and many, many more.

McMINNVILLE CONCERTS ON THE PLAZA: Organized by the McMinnville Downtown Association, these Thursday evening concerts are held on the U.S. Bank Plaza at the corner of Third and Davis streets. The street is closed, and some seating is available, but it goes fast, so best to bring a lawn chair. Concerts run 6 to 9 p.m.

The series kicks off July 11 with the Portland heavy-psych band Blackwater Holylight, founded by vocalist/bassist Allison Faris in 2016. At the website for Portland label RidingEasy Records, which represents Blackwater, Faris describes the band’s genesis: “I wanted to experiment with my own version of what felt ‘heavy’ both sonically and emotionally. I also wanted a band in which vulnerability of any form could be celebrated.”

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‘Romeo and Juliet’ kicks off summer theater in wine country

Penguin Productions brings Shakespeare's tragedy to the outdoor stage, plus more Bard outdoors in Beaverton, and World Beat Festival in Salem

Penguin Productions was the new kid on Yamhill County’s theater scene just a couple of years ago, mounting productions of Macbeth and As You Like It right out of the gate. Last year, they forged ahead with Hamlet and Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. On Friday, the company opens its third season with more Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet.

Cambria Herrera will direct "Romeo and Juliet" at Penguin Productions.
Cambria Herrera will direct “Romeo and Juliet” at Penguin Productions. Photo by: Piper Tuor Photography

These are professionals, many of whom have been seasoned on Portland stages in recent years, and for season three we have a couple of George Fox University alums who are doing some heavy lifting for one of Shakespeare’s oft-performed tragedies.

Director Cambria Herrera earned a BA in acting and directing from the Newberg-based Christian college. Recent credits include: Peter/Wendy at Bag&Baggage, The Little Mermaids Project at Enso Theatre Ensemble, Proof at Valley Repertory Theatre, and Balkan Women and Twelfth Night at George Fox. Herrera is also a facilitator/co-founder of the AGE Women of Color in PDX Theatre Collective and serves on the leadership committee for PDX Latinx Pride.

Also from George Fox is Olivia Anderson, who spent a year at the university as an adjunct director for University Players, a traveling, student storytelling-ensemble that tours original shows around the region. She will play Juliet across from Brandon Vilanova’s Romeo. Vilanova hails from the Pacific Conservatory Theatre Professional Acting Training Program and has worked at San Diego Repertory Theatre, San Diego Old Globe Theatre, Santa Maria Pacific Conservatory Theatre, and Bag&Baggage. Stephanie Spencer, who played Ophelia in last year’s Hamlet and Mabel in An Ideal Husband, takes on the coveted role of Mercutio.

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Stretching from cultural borders to the state’s borders

In Salem, George Rodriguez's ceramic sculptures comment on community and identity; in Newberg, Brad Isom's watercolors explore the glory of Oregon

We have another gallery show in Newberg this week, but before that, please indulge a brief diversion as we drop in on Salem.

My ArtsWatch colleagues may write more about this later, but for now you should know that the Hallie Ford Museum of Art on the Willamette University campus opened a new show last week that’s worth a visit: Embellished Narratives by Seattle ceramics artist George Rodriguez, a native of El Paso, Texas.

The show, which occupies several rooms in the Melvin Henderson-Rubio Gallery, is an exploration of the artist’s Chicano heritage and the myriad of political and social issues bound up with the U.S.-Mexico border — both metaphorically and literally. The largest single piece, Instrumental Divide, is a row of nine larger-than-life musicians, sculpted with glaze, steel, and vinyl, lined up in such a way that they form a wall cutting across the room.

"Instrumental Divide" by George Rodriguez (2009, stoneware with glaze, steel, and vinyl). Photo by: David Bates
In “Instrumental Divide,” artist George Rodriguez turns a group of musicians into a wall (2009, stoneware with glaze, steel, and vinyl). Photo by: David Bates

Organized by curator Jonathan Bucci, this is a major exhibition. There is much to take in, and the detail work invites close scrutiny. From the program notes:

“Ideas of ceremony, ritual, and cross-cultural mythology all combine in Rodriguez’s bold yet whimsical artwork. Inspired by childhood memories, international travel, border politics, and the history of art, his richly decorated and tactile sculptures draw the viewer in with a mixture of humor and gravity to address concepts of community and identity in our global culture.

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The alchemy of photography, sans camera

In a show in Newberg's Chehalem Cultural Center, Rachel Wolf works transformations using paper and film, light and chemicals

Our lives are saturated with photographic images — pictures taken by tens of millions of people daily on phone cameras, photos that are then Facebooked, Instagrammed, and Tweeted into the world, where our eyeballs are bombarded with this digital hail. Those who shoot pictures with a camera that uses film, I have to believe, have become a tiny minority.

In that small company of analog photographic artists, Rachel Wolf stands virtually alone.

“Flight” by Rachel Wolf (chromogenic chemigram - archival digital print)
“Flight” by Rachel Wolf (chromogenic chemigram – archival digital print)

Wolf takes pictures — or perhaps I should say she makes pictures — with lots of film, but no camera. The results of her work (and it’s clearly a lot of work) landed at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg last week in a show titled Unconditional that runs through Aug. 3. Wolf has shown her work in New York, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Seattle, and Portland, where she lives, so once again we have an instance of Chehalem’s curators bringing an urban art experience to rural Yamhill County.

The product of camera-less photography is called a photogram, chemigram, or luminogram, depending on what combination of object, light, and chemicals is used to make it. Photograms use an object on paper to create the image, Wolf said, while the images in chemigrams come from chemical reactions, and in luminograms the images are from light. The images in Unconditional are chemigrams.

There’s no precise date for the invention of photography itself, as precursors go all the way back to ancient times, but the first photo engraving dates to 1822, and about 20 years later a book illustrated with photograms was published. In the 20th century, the number of artists known for this kind of camera-less photography is pretty small; they include: Man Ray, Adam Fuss, Susan Derges, and Christian Marclay.

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Bonnie Hull’s ‘Little Me’: Memories of a life

A sympathetic curator helps connect the dots for the Salem artist's Minthorne Gallery show in Newberg

Not to be hyperbolic about it, but my first impression stepping into the Roger and Mildred Minthorne Gallery at George Fox University in Newberg was one of visual perfection.

Occasionally, one walks into a show where a cavernous space swallows up everything — installed, perhaps, by a curator who wants the pieces to “breathe.” The other end of the spectrum, of course, is to cram too much in.

But with Salem artist Bonnie Hull’s Little Me exhibit, showcased in the Minthorne through July 19, one finds a happy balance. The show comprises about two dozen pieces, mostly paintings and a couple of quilts, which fill the small cube-shaped room, with neither dominating the other. Outside, through floor-to-ceiling windows, you see the greenery of the 134-year-old campus. Perfection.

The Minthorne Gallery strikes a happy balance between space and content in its exhibition of Bonnie Hull’s work.  Photo by: David Bates
The Minthorne Gallery strikes a happy balance between space and content in its exhibition of Bonnie Hull’s work. Photo by: David Bates

Hull is well-known in Oregon artistic circles. A painter, preservationist, gardener and quilter, Hull, with her husband, Roger, is affiliated with Willamette University in Salem. A list of her shows fills several pages of single-spaced type. A few recent, local highlights: In 2010 and again in 2017, Hull was artist-in-residence at Bush Barn Art Center in Salem. This is her second Minthorne show; in 2015, she and fellow Salem artist Kay Worthington showcased quilts here.

We’ll get to the circumstances leading to her return in a moment. First, here’s Hull’s words on the show: 

“Memory and image define my work from the last two years,” she writes. “All the ingredients of the work I’ve been making all my life are here: narrative, pattern and texture, the drawn line. The addition of memory and the interpretation of memory in the process of imagining new work has made this an interesting period for the maker: me.”

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