Humans on the move, profoundly

Lauren Carrera's gallery-size art installation at Blackfish is an odditorium of seductive specimens that asks, Where are we going?

Walk into Museo du Profundo Mundo presents: THE ASCENT OF MAN, Lauren Carrera’s remarkable gallery-sized installation at Blackfish Gallery that closes Saturday, and you’ll find yourself in another world – very like the one you’ve just left on the street outside but skewed, reshaped, its ordinary objects out of scale and oddly juxtaposed, as if you’ve entered an odditorium of a natural history museum where time speeds up and implications drip like dew in a primeval forest. You get the sense that you’re someplace ancient and recent and yet to come, a museum of cause and unintended effect. Is this where we were? Is this where we’re going?

The long human voyage: detail from Nuclear Family: Ascent of Man.

It’s an odd sensation, a mixture of dread and delight. Profundo Mundo has an almost steampunkish affection for the antiquarian, extending even to the language in its explanatory statements on the walls. “Museo du Profundo Mundo: The Carrera Expedition,” the opening plaque declares, and then continues:

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Aquarium creates a fishy fantasy with “Seapunk”

The new exhibit uses elements of steampunk to showcase sea life. Across the bridge, the arts center welcomes Evan Peterson back to Newport

If there was any doubt the new exhibit at the Oregon Coast Aquarium was a success, one only had to listen last weekend as visitors discovered Seapunk: Powered by Imagination.

“This is awesome,” said one.

“This is so cool,” said another.

 And from a third: “I’ve got to come back tomorrow. I forgot to charge my phone.”

 And those were the adults.

A moray eel makes itself comfortable in the “Helmet Memorial” in the “Seapunk” exhibit.

“Seapunk” is a punning nod to steampunk, a genre of science fiction, art, technology, and fashion inspired by 19th-century steam-powered machinery. The exhibit’s story concerns Phineas K. Brinker, “a retro-futuristic and intrepid inventor” who is stranded in his submarine at the bottom of the sea and must find a way to survive. To do so, according to the aquarium website, Brinker “rebuilds the crippled submarine into a modern marvel of engineering by constructing imaginative variations on contraptions one may be familiar with today.”

The underwater fantasy plays out in a series of galleries with exhibits that are at times poignant, at others, humorous, each built around art, antiques, and sea life.

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Dance never sleeps

June is dancing out all over on Oregon stages: what, where, and when

If you think dance has left the building for the summer, you’re half right. While it’s not the mad crush of fall and spring, summer means festivals, which, in turn, means several artists packed into a single weekend. Summer also marks year-end recitals and the beginning of barefoot-in-the-park season, when we can all enjoy some fresh air with our art. (For every kid who fell hard for ballet after seeing The Nutcracker, there must be an equal number whose love of dance was inspired by the the dazzling swirl of Mexican folkloric dancers’ skirts viewed at close range.)

Where, besides in theaters, can you find June dance? In a winery, on a road trip, and even—we’re told—around a swamp in Forest Park. People of every age, shape, and skill level are making dance this month, in well-known styles and newly smashed-together genres. What’s your pleasure?

International and cultural dance styles

Cosecha Mestiza takes viewers for a spin at the Wilsonville Festival of the Arts. Photo courtesy of Wilsonville Festival of the Arts.

Wilsonville Festival of the Arts
June 1-2
Town Center Park, Wilsonville
wilsonvillearts.org

If you’ve never been to the Wilsonville Festival of Arts, what have you been waiting for? The event is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with art you didn’t know you needed until you did, such as the mobile opera truck and the mask parade.

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Garden Wars at The Armory

Two sets of neighbors and a battleground of flowers: Portland Center Stage's "Native Gardens" is an explosive, plant-based satire

Imagine that you’ve just moved to a new home. It has multiple floors, a formidable tree, and a garden that could really be something with a few more blossoms and shrubs. There’s just one problem—the couple in the house next door has been planting flowers on part of your property for years, and they pout and snap whenever you confront them. Why, you wonder, can’t they just admit that it isn’t theirs?

Now picture the other side of the equation. You’ve meticulously cared for those flowers, nourishing them with both love and pesticides. Who are your neighbors to rob you of that pleasure? They just got here! Why can’t they have some compassion? Why can’t they understand?

Paul DeBoy, Anne-Marie Cusson, Monica Rae Summers Gonzalez, and Erick González in Native Gardens. Photo: Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv/Courtesy of Portland Center Stage at The Armory

Add those two perspectives together and you get Karen Zacarías’ Native Gardens, which has come to Portland Center Stage. It’s a tale of neighborly conflict that, unfortunately, builds up to an implausibly tidy conclusion. Yet it’s still a treat to watch director Melissa Crespo’s cast of outstanding actors tear into Zacarías’ deliciously tart dialogue, bringing their characters to gloriously unlikable life.

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Where earth meets sky

Clairissa and Colby Stephens' multimedia exhibit at Chehalem Cultural Center explores horizon lines

This is the late spring lull before Yamhill County’s summer stage productions come to life. The Aquilon Music Festival is still a month away, though the wise would do well to buy tickets now. Tickets are also on sale for the 8th annual Wildwood MusicFest on the beautiful Roshambo ArtFarm in Willamina, like Aquilon, also set for July. A crew started working on the set for The Graduate at Gallery Theater in McMinnville last weekend. We’re still awaiting the final schedule for music downtown in the plaza, and Willamette Shakespeare’s As You Like It, set for August, feels like forever away.

If you’re in quieter, more contemplative mood, here’s a show for you: Stratifying the Unknown, an exhibition and installation by the husband-wife team of Clairissa and Colby Stephens. You’ll find it occupying the Parrish Gallery of the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg through June 28. I visited it last week and encountered a Portland TV crew preparing a feature on the place.

Stratifying the Unknown explores “the ways horizon lines shape our understanding of place and space and one’s location within it,” according to the exhibition notes. It’s a collaborative effort by artists who obviously understand what neuroscience and psychology tell us about architecture: that our physical environment, the very space we occupy, affects how we see, think, and feel about the world.

“When Earth Becomes Sky 360° ” by Colby Stephens (photograph on watercolor paper)

The Stephens did a lot of their thinking about 520 miles southeast of Newberg, in the Black Rock Desert — the supposed setting for the 1955 John Sturges thriller Bad Day at Black Rock. (The film actually was shot in California in a “town” that was built for the movie.) The couple was living in Reno in 2011, which gave them an opportunity to explore a physical space completely different from the Willamette Valley, where wooded hills, farmland, and subdivisions mark the outer limits of our field of vision.

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‘Cycles of Eternity’: In Mulieribus spins out a winner

Portland vocal ensemble's new recording features music by contemporary choral composers

by BRUCE BROWNE

A great CD needs to have at least four components: first, an excellent group of musician-singers; second, a great acoustical space; third, a gifted producer and fourth, a superb recording engineer. The latest release by In Mulieribus, Cycles of Eternity, boasts all these attributes.

  1. The nine women represented on the CD (some are on only a few tracks; there are usually seven total in concert) are first-rate singers, able to sing in the highest and lowest ranges with tonal beauty and nuance.
  2. The Proto Cathedral of St. James the Greater, in Vancouver, Washington, is one of the finest acoustical spaces in the Pacific Northwest. This recording takes full advantage of its resplendent ring time, which supports the singers’ voices throughout their ranges. 
  3. & 4. Producer Blake Applegate and recording engineer Rod Evenson are a talented duo who together help provide balance and focus throughout the recording process. Applegate is a long time director of Cantores in Ecclesia, and this year was guest director with Cappella Romana; Evenson has recorded most groups in town at live performances, and for CD.

This CD’s focus is a departure for the Portland women’s vocal ensemble, representing choral works by 21st century (and a few late 20th century) composers instead of the Medieval and Renaissance works that dominated their four previous recordings. Several have been commissioned over the past years by IM, and get their first “hearing” here. It’s a first class selection of composers, reflecting what’s been going on in the past thirty years on the choral scene, without pandering to the vox populi of, say, the Whitacre/ Lauridsen/ Gjeilo orbit. The former two are likely the most performed choral composers in the past 25 years.

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Painting Vanport into the picture

The Vanport Mosaic Festival and artist Henk Pander delve deeply into the ripple effects of a 1948 disaster that destroyed an Oregon city

Seventy-one years ago next Thursday, on May 30, 1948, a railroad berm on the Columbia River gave way and the waters swept in, wiping out the city of Vanport in an overwhelming flood, killing at least 15 people and leaving roughly 17,500 homeless. It was an epic disaster, destroying what during its boom years had been Oregon’s second-largest city, built during World War II to house workers in the Portland and Vancouver Kaiser shipyards and their families. And in an almost completely white state, forty percent of its population had been African American.

For the past four years, the Vanport Mosaic Festival has been commemorating the short and fascinating life of the city that was washed away, and its continuing influence on the shaping of Portland. This year’s festival continues through June 5, with events ranging from self-guided walking tours and narrated bus tours of the former Vanport site (it stretches across what’s now Delta Park and other areas) to oral history documentaries about everyday life in Vanport, screenings of documentaries about the murder by white supremacists of Ethiopian immigrant Mulugeta Seraw 30 years ago and the MAX Train killings by a white supremacist two years ago, the performance Gambatte: An American Legacy, and more.

Henk Pander, The Call (Vanport interior before the flood), 2019, watercolor, 40 x 60 inches

And for the second straight year, artist Henk Pander will have a major show at Cerimon House of paintings about the Vanport Flood. Building Memories: Recent Watercolors, which opens Friday and continues through June 2, follows last year’s War Memories, Liberty Ships and the Climate Refugees of Vanport, much of which later traveled to the Newport Visual Arts Center on the Oregon Coast.

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