Celebrate St. Pat’s with music, poetry, or love gone astray

Coast calendar: Irish and Andean music in Lincoln City, PoetryFest in Manzanita, and rom-coms open in Nehalem and Cannon Beach

You don’t need to go to the local pub to get your green on this St. Patrick’s Day. Instead, you can drop in at the Lincoln City Cultural Center, where Pipedance presents St. Patrick’s Day Unplugged, a multi-cultural celebration. Nora Sherwood and Gary Burman, the duo behind Pipedance, play multiple instruments, and Sherwood is a champion stepdancer. The pair will be joined by the Andean band Chayag, led by Alex Llumiquinga, and flamenco dancer Sophia Solano.

This is a new approach to the Cultural Center’s traditional St. Pat’s celebration, said director Niki Price.

Detail from “The Irish Piper” by William Oliver Williams, 1874, oil on canvas, Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, Quinnipiac University, Connecticut

Detail from “The Irish Piper” by William Oliver Williams, 1874, oil on canvas, Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, Quinnipiac University, Connecticut

The celebration had grown into a nice event over the past six years, Price said, but it was time for a change. “We took it off the stage and put it on the floor of the auditorium on a raised platform. There are tables around the platform so it will feel a little more like you are in a pub. You are going to be much closer to the music.”

The Saturday night show kicks off at 6 p.m. March 16 with a traditional dinner by the cultural center’s Judy Hardy, featuring corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, soda bread, and dessert. The Sunday show starts at 2 p.m. with snacks and beverages. Tickets range from $32 to $8, depending on the show.

“What you will see is a small ensemble on this platform,” Price said. “Sherwood is going to be doing some dancing as well as working on the pennywhistle. It’s not going to be this big booming electric version of a St. Patrick’s show, but rather a personal, more intimate experience.”

All ages are welcome. For ticket information, go here.

Continues…

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.

Oregon Repertory Singers & Santa Fe Desert Chorale: preserving musical moments

New recordings from esteemed choirs showcase American music, including Northwest composers

by BRUCE BROWNE and DARYL BROWNE

James DePreist, famed conductor of the Oregon Symphony from 1980-2003, once shared with me his thoughts on producing a recording. During his tenure, the orchestra produced 17 recordings, one of which, in 2003, garnered a Grammy nomination. He said it was definitely not to make money, but to preserve a moment in time in the history of the organization.

Two fine choral organizations – one local and volunteer, one operating from the Southwest United States and professional, have this past year each recorded a moment in their musical time. Let’s take a look at how the two recordings share a common goal – to celebrate our choral music journey in America.

Oregon Repertory Singers, founded 45 years ago, ably directed by Ethan Sperry in 2012 (succeeding Gil Seeley) has stood out among the numerous fine choral groups in Portland. Their CD Shadows on the Stars, released on the Gothic label, features Northwest American composers. Some are well known, such as Morten Lauridsen, Joan Szymko and John Muehleisen; some are rising stars like Giselle Wyers, Naomi LaViolette, and Stacey Philipps.

The Santa Fe Desert Chorale offers a broader spectrum, still hewing to the “Made in America” qualification. Artistic Director Joshua Habermann, currently director of the Dallas Symphony Chorus, is also in his tenth year with SFDC. In The Road Home, his programming delves more deeply into the American past, honoring the Shaker tradition by excerpting (Track 4) from the “American Vocalist” a collection of American voiced music, published in 1849, a valuable moment in American choral tradition in print form. Each CD provides a strong representation of the traditions and abilities of each choir.

Continues…

Ordinary Devotions, a new contemporary dance work by veteran Portland choreographer and performer Linda Austin, is meant to do two things: find glamour in everyday objects and honor the ordinaryand extraordinaryqualities of the aging body.

Now 65 years old, Austin has had time to consider both topics. She has been a working artist for more than 35 years; in 1999, she established the well-known Foster-Powell DIY arts space Performance Works NorthWest with her technical director and partner, Jeff Forbes, to host performances, offer residencies and workshops, and provide affordable rehearsal space for Portland artists. By the time I arrived there to talk with her about this new work, the everyday objects she spotlights in the piece had spilled out onto the performance space from her living area, which is separated from the venue by a door on the back wall. A white vinyl tarp, a twig, stones, a lamp, cassette tapes, multiple spools of thread, some shoes, and various knickknacks were carefully placed across the floor with a seemingly methodical, even devotional precision.

Linda Austin looks for the extraordinary in "Ordinary Devotions." Photo by Jeff Forbes.

Linda Austin looks for the extraordinary in “Ordinary Devotions.” Photo by Jeff Forbes.

“It was kind of organic,” mused Austin, recalling how she accumulated these particular objects. She’d started working with the spools of thread in the beginning, spurred by her desire to be slightly levitated off the earth. Throughout the work, Austin rearranges the spools to support her body as she lies on her back or walks across the floor. “I’ve always had this fascination with the extraordinary in the ordinary. I like doing something weird with a matter-of-factness,” she laughed. “I’m interested in the ‘thingness’ of the body versus the animated nature of things. Finding this commonality and endowing each [thing] with the qualities of the other intrigues me.”

Continues…

The horror: LĒR is all around you

Also, the beauty: The Reformers' contemporary take on "King Lear" comes at you in everything from tumblr to a cooking video. Even onstage.

The beauty – or horror, depending on your perspective – of Portland theater company The Reformers’ LĒR is that it is going on all around you, right now, even as you read this. Whatever device you’re reading this on, you’re that close to LĒR. It’s on Facebook. If you look on tumblr someone is apparently leaking information about their process (apparently, without the Reformers’ authorization). Elsewhere on the internet, a mother is searching for her son who she fears has run off with some kind of cult. There’s a podcast. There is even a cooking video. And this week, opening Friday, it’s going to be live in front of your face at the Shoebox Theater.

“We’re motivated,” says Charmian Creagle, one-half of the husband-and-wife team that runs The Reformers, “by doing something different and taking chances and trying to create a new style.” For the last six years The Reformers, Creagle and her husband, Sean Doran, have been committed to dismantling the assumptions of theater audiences and replacing those assumptions with a more visceral experience than what theater audiences generally expect to have.

Trouble on the 21st century heath: a LĒR for today. From left: Sara Fay Goldman, Sean Doran, Adam Thompson, with Mishelle Apalategui on the ground. Photo courtesy The Reformers.

Of course, Creagle and Doran have been challenging audience’s perceptions for decades now. They started The Other Side Theatre back in the ’90s and were integral to the creation of defunkt theatre, still going strong twenty years later. After spending a decade in New York they came back and started The Reformers. Much of The Reformers’ work is heavily influenced and inspired by Julian Beck and Judith Malina’s The Living Theatre. That influence is still seen in their work today.

Continues…

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.

Continues…

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.

Continues…