VizArts Monthly: The “freeze” edition

Most venues remain shuttered this December but there are still plenty of viewing opportunities.

While shorter days and colder nights are all too familiar, let’s face the facts: this December will feel quite different from holiday seasons of the past. Oregon’s current “freeze” status means some galleries are continuing virtual programming, while others are transitioning to in-person viewings by appointment. Our resilient arts community continues to adapt in the face of ongoing challenges. Whether in person or in hibernation, we can support their efforts by viewing shows, boosting them on social media, and making purchases or donations whenever possible. Show your appreciation this holiday season by checking out the options to support at the end of this article.

Work by Ralph Pugay, image courtesy Upfor Gallery

Ralph Pugay: Hang in There
November 1 – December 31, 2020
Upfor Gallery
Virtual

Find time to sit with Pugay’s idiosyncratic, delightfully cartoonish works, easily viewed online through the end of December. In Hang in There, Pugay’s series of cat posters (referencing 1970s motivational posters) position humor and anxiety side-by-side. Through simple imagery and the repeated, open-ended statement HANG IN THERE, the artist creates space for uncertainty and imagination. What could be different? What are we waiting for?

Work by Widline Cadet, image courtesy Blue Sky Gallery

Women of the African Diaspora: Identity, Place, Migration, Immigration
December 3, 2020 – January 30, 2021
Blue Sky Gallery
Virtual

Curated by Arkansas-based photographer/educator Aaron Turner, Women of the African Diaspora highlights photographic works by Nadiya I. Nacorda, Jasmine Clarke, and Widline Cadet. Cadet, a Haitian-born artist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker and Time, investigates visibility, interiority, and selfhood as it relates to Haitian cultural identity in the United States. Clarke’s works occupy realms of mysticism, dreams, and magical realism, while Nacorda photographs her immediate family to explore aspects of trauma and intimacy within Black and POC immigrant American family life.

Work by Tannaz Farsi, image courtesy Holding Contemporary

Tannaz Farsi: A More Perfect Union
November 19 – December 19, 2020
Holding Contemporary
916 NW Flanders (open 12-5 Thursday-Saturday)

Farsi’s works are grounded in diasporic identity, bridging the structural and the ambiguous to reflect on citizenship, protest, and contrasts between distance and proximity. The word CITIZEN takes center stage in one of Farsi’s pieces for A More Perfect Union, prompting deeper thought on words as symbols of power structure and collective fear. A conversation between Tannaz Farsi and curator Lucy Cotter will be held on Thursday, December 3; more details here.

Work by John Hitchcock, image courtesy Portland Art Museum

John Hitchcock: Bury the Hatchet: Prayer for My P’ah-Be
March 7, 2020 – March 21, 2021
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Ave (Museum is currently closed; virtual exhibition walkthrough available on YouTube)

Mixed-media artist John Hitchcock works with the theme of the vaudeville stage show Buffalo Bill’s Wild West to explore the forced assimilation and indoctrination experienced by Indigenous communities in the West. The exhibition is highly sensory, connecting the artist’s passions for printmaking, rock ’n’ roll, and Kiowa and Comanche history. Hitchcock asserts the importance of Indigenous oral histories, collaborating with several artists and storytellers to create a soundscape that including narratives, singing, and instrumentals. If you can’t get enough of these works, Sunday Night Records carries a vinyl album, CD, and letterpress prints that correspond with the exhibition.

Work by Modou Dieng, image courtesy Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Modou Dieng: A Postcolonial Landscape
December 1, 2020 – January 30, 2021
Elizabeth Leach Gallery
417 NW 9th Ave (by appointment)

Dieng’s brilliant mixed media paintings explore globalization and Black representation, filtered through the lens of the artist’s personal experiences in his native Senegal alongside conventions of Eurocentric art history. Bright color compositions, cut-outs, and collaged photographic elements play with themes of absence/presence, interior/exterior, and identity. The results are exhilarating and not to be missed.

Work by Ragen Moss, image courtesy Lumber Room

Finding Our Way
March 14 – December 12, 2020
the lumber room
419 NW 9th Ave (by appointment, or virtual tour available on their website)

Catch the tail end of the lumber room’s Finding Our Way and prepare to be amazed. A beyond-impressive rotating roster of artists has included Joseph Beuys, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Zoe Leonard, Ana Mendieta, Carrie Mae Weems, and many more. The exhibition plays with informal display methods and occupation of domestic space to emphasize the lumber room’s in-between role—part place of comfort, part place of artistic discourse. Finding Our Way also includes a film component with visiting works from various new media artists.

Work by Joan Nelson, image courtesy Adams and Ollman

New works: Joan Nelson
November 7 – December 19, 2020
Adams and Ollman
418 NW 8th Ave (by appointment only)

Joan Nelson’s paintings aren’t your average landscape works. Rendered in reverse on Plexiglass and supplemented by mascara, burnt sugar, beads, and other unexpected materials, this awe-inspiring series brings to mind historical notions of the sublime. Nelson recognizes this, though, and pushes back against the romanticism of Western expansion by creating barren scenes with a feminine edge.

Showing support

This year has been a challenge (okay, that’s an understatement) for everyone—including the artists, arts institutions, and independent galleries finding flexibility through it all. Here are a few (among many!) worth celebrating this holiday season:

Nat Turner Project
NTP “allows artists of color freedom to create or express their own language within and without the parameters of racial commodification or designation.” Support their vital work in creating an inclusive and communal environment for artists of color by signing up for their Patreon or purchasing a button, tote, or zine from their online shop.

Art & About PDX
Established in 2014 by Ashley Gifford, A&A connects with local artists, enthusiasts, and viewers alike via a robust social media presence and online platform. Gifford creates a regular exhibition calendar, provides paid writing opportunities for burgeoning art critics, curates an online shop of work by Portland-based creators, and more. This site offers Patreon memberships with varying levels of benefits.

Nationale
Where would Portland be without Nationale? I certainly don’t want to imagine it. Since 2008, owner May Barruel has helped develop our contemporary art culture through exhibitions, performances, and a selection of carefully chosen goods. The Nationale webshop is full of ideal gifts for the holidays, like periodicals, beauty products, and prints from Le Oui. Mask up to see even more in person at the gallery’s shop.

Common Ground / Eugene Contemporary Art
This limited edition tote and poster, designed by ECA artist Hannah Petkau and printed by Dana Buzzee, helps fund Common Ground, an online exhibition, remote artist residency, reading group, and by-appointment exhibition. Also, 20% of the profits from each sale go to Oregon nonprofit Beyond Toxics, working for environmental justice across the state.

VizArts Monthly: Connection amid isolation

November's art offerings explore connections with the natural world, both the familiar and further flung

Julia Cameron, author of the quintessential creative recovery book The Artist’s Way, prescribed a steady diet of “artist dates”—time set aside to nurture one’s inner creative by “filling the well” with new stimuli for inspiration. This month, art institutions in Portland and beyond offer up virtual and in-person opportunities to fill your visual well. As skies go gray and temperatures cool, cozy up at home with Malia Jensen’s Worth Your Salt, or venture out for Edward Jeffrey Kriksciun’s OUT OF BODY at Lowell. Artists featured in this month’s exhibitions find human connection amid isolation, and the natural world while still indoors.

Work by Angela Saenz & Laura Camila Medina, image courtesy Carnation Contemporary

ACROSS TODAY’S TOMORROW: IPRC 2020 BI/POC Artist & Writer Residency
October 24 – November 22, 2020
Carnation Contemporary
8371 N Interstate Ave (open Fri-Sun 12-5 or by appointment)

This group exhibition showcases works by seven Independent Publishing Resource Center 2020 BI/POC Artist & Writer Residency participants. Salimatu Amabebe reimagines the convenience store as a space of Black celebration through installation, while Angela Saenz and Laura Camila Medina use stop-motion animation and wheat-pasted screenprints to contemplate the relationship between body and environment. Common considerations across the works include patterns of erasure, archived histories, personal narratives, and potential futures.

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VizArts Monthly: Flexible viewing options for unusual times

Whether you're looking for a virtual or in-person (masked-up and socially distanced) experience, there's plenty to see in October

In September, Portland bid farewell to summer with PICA’s annual Time-Based Arts Festival, Devin Harclerode and Laura Camila Medina’s Loopholes at Fuller Rosen Gallery, and Anya Roberts-Toney’s Summer’s Eve at Nationale. Now, as social distancing requirements continue, artists and gallerists press onward, finding innovative ways to engage audiences through virtual exhibitions, by-appointment gallery viewings, and interactive experiences. October’s diverse slate of art events encourages viewers to choose their own adventure.

Work by Lois Dodd and Sharif Farrag. Image courtesy of Adams and Ollman

Lois Dodd and Sharif Farrag
September 12-October 31
Adams and Ollman
418 NW 8th Ave (by appointment)

Adams and Ollman creates a refreshing intergenerational pairing with concurrent solo exhibitions of painter Lois Dodd (b. 1927) and ceramicist Sharif Farrag (b. 1993). Dodd’s intimate, abstracted landscapes contrast sharply with Farrag’s raucous, punk-inspired sculptures, yet they find harmony in the in-between: elements of flora, lush color, and hidden histories. While Dodd’s works are emotive in their immediacy, often having been completed in one sitting, Farrag’s ceramics are overflowing with reference, drawing from iconography of the artist’s Egyptian and Syrian lineage, humor, and Californian funk art.

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VizArts Monthly: Streaming at home

Venue closures may be the new normal but some local arts organization forge ahead

Putting together arts listings for April 2020 was… challenging. First, it was a challenge to sit down and focus as the awful, endless headlines kept breaking. Then it was a challenge to figure out what to list as events were cancelled and galleries shuttered in observance of social distancing guidelines. How can you see art when you can’t leave the house? When the galleries and museums are closed? Do people who are juggling remote work with childcare, or applying for unemployment, or risking their health as essential workers have the energy or desire to engage with art? 

Personally, I think we all still need art in our lives, maybe even more than usual. It’s okay if what you need right now is to binge on goofy television shows or stay in the bath until the water gets cold, then fill ‘er up again. But when you’ve had enough of that, Portland’s artists, galleries, and museums are ready for you. Our local arts community has shown incredible motivation and creativity in finding ways to make art happen despite the scary, surreal situation we are all in. Take a minute to check out what they’re up to — it might give you a little extra inspiration to face the challenges of the days ahead. 

Gallery hallway hung with many framed pictures including watercolor paintings in a large grid formation, and black and white collage works hung side by side
What Needs to be Said, installation view, image courtesy Disject

Disjecta
Disjecta’s exhibition of work by the thirteen Hallie Ford Fellows, titled What Needs to be Said, has been up since February, and was scheduled to run until April 5. If you were like me and put off visiting the gallery figuring there’d be plenty of time to see the show in March, you’ll be relieved to know that a fantastic video walkthrough of the exhibition is now online, and is accompanied by extensive information and documentation of each artist in the show. The video is just under ten minutes long, and includes close up shots revealing the details and textures of the show’s many paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Disjecta has put in a lot of effort to translate What Needs to be Said for digital viewing, and the results are surprisingly engaging and even beautiful.

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VizArts Monthly: Fill March with art and sunshine

March is abuzz with shows, events, lectures, and more

Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and things are happening! There have been some real shakeups in Portland’s art world lately, from reorganization at RACC to the uncertain future of PSU’s Littman and White galleries. But in case you are worried that your busy art-viewing calendar is doomed to dry up in the wake of these changes, have no fear! This month is absolutely overflowing with art shows and events to take in. To paraphrase my new favorite comedian, Julio Torres, I have a lot of shows and not a lot of time, so let’s just get started.

A light silver-pink mylar balloon in the shape of a heart, partially deflated and mounted on a gallery wall.
Work by Sam Noel, image courtesy 1122 Gallery

Sam Noel: but, how does one eat an elephant?
February 27 – March 21
1122 Gallery
1122 SE 88th Ave

Portland artist Sam Noel presents her lush sculptural works in a solo show at 1122 Gallery, her first since graduating from the final MFA cohort of the now closed Oregon College of Art and Craft. Noel’s practice is rooted in textile crafts, but her works include a range of unexpected materials including foam, ribbons, and mylar balloons, through which she examines the experience of inhabiting a fat, female body in contemporary culture. Glitzy pastel surfaces are complicated by slumping forms and haphazard construction, evoking the angst and confusion of adolescence with compassion and humor. 

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VizArts Monthly: Art worth braving the rain to see

The galleries will be dry and there is great art to see inside

Now that January is finally over and we’ve all recovered from the holidays and reacclimated ourselves to the rain, it’s time to get back out into the world! There is a lot going on this month from anniversaries to grand re-openings to just plain great art shows from galleries and artists that work hard to share important ideas and visions with the rest of us. Beloved gallery Nationale has finally opened its doors at their new location off East Burnside, while the equally wonderful Ori celebrates its second birthday with a party and group show. Carnation Contemporary brings work from artist members of Eugene’s Tropical Contemporary to town for a gallery collective crossover event (and vice versa), and PDX Contemporary presents exciting new work from a long-time gallery artist. 

If January first is the “soft opening” of the New Year, the beginning of February is like the official Grand Opening of Earth’s next tour around the sun, when things really get going again after the post-holiday doldrums. But these shows and events don’t come out of nowhere, they are the result of careful planning and a lot of hard work that happens all year round. If you want to show your support to the arts workers who make this town great and help them continue their efforts in a sustainable way, consider donating to the projects linked at the end of this article. 

View of white-wall gallery with colorful quilted works featuring abstracted figures on walls and floor
Aruni Dharmakirthi, No Flowers in Eden, installation view, courtesy Nationale

Aruni Dharmakirthi: No Flowers in Eden
January 18 – February 18
Nationale
15 SE 22nd Ave
Nationale has moved around many times in its more than ten years of operation, but this last move was almost certainly the most trying. After miles of red tape and thousands of dollars spent updating this charming storefront location a half block South of Burnside, Nationale is transformed once again, but still radiates the singular personality of inimitable curator May Barruel. The gallery space is larger and the retail side now includes mini-shops offering items from local vendors Mixed Needs and tone poem. The first show in this space might have easily been overshadowed by the circumstances leading up to it — and in fact, the show was delayed by several months as renovations dragged on — but Aruni Dharmakirthi’s subtly sculptural quilted works are captivating enough to be heard over everything else. Her works’ abstracted figures, off-kilter palette, and casually expert decorative detailing add softness and warmth to the white-walled space. 

Logo featuring gold geometric designs on black background and text reading "Year of Ase 2020, Ori Gallery's Anniversary Fundraiser"
courtesy Ori Gallery

Year of Asé
February 15 – March 22
Opening reception February 15, 6-9pm
Ori Gallery
4038 N Mississippi Ave
Ori Gallery is two years old, and they are marking the occasion with a group show featuring work from a half-dozen artists and a party/fundraiser on opening night. The gallery’s tight-knit community has come together for celebration of the more than a dozen exhibitions and countless events they have produced to date and to get energized for the future. In their words: Year of Asé is “a thank you to all of our artists, volunteers, interns, patrons and staff. Come make connections and foster strength for the liberation work we have ahead of us!” The public is invited to join the party, which will feature opportunities to donate and a chance to win prizes from local vendors. 

Abstract painting with washy texture and small pointillist marks in soft pastel pinks, blues, and yellows on white background.
detail of work by Denise Lutz, image courtesy Carnation Contemporary and the artist

Pink Sheets
February 1 – 23
Carnation Contemporary
8371 N Interstate Ave

If/Then
February 7 – 28
Tropical Contemporary
1120 Bailey Hill #11
Eugene
Carnation Contemporary in Portland and Tropical Contemporary in Eugene pull a Freaky Friday move this month, hosting groups exhibitions of artist members from each other’s gallery. Pink Sheets, at Carnation, features work from members of Tropical focused on the comfort and warmth many of us crave during these winter months. If/Then, at Tropical, features works by Carnation members that share a common theme of the uncertain future versus the anxious present. Both galleries utilize an artist membership model both to share the costs and responsibilities of running an art space and to give artists ownership over their exhibitions. The gallery swap concept is a great way to highlight the hard work and collaborative spirit both of these spaces bring to the Oregon arts landscape, and hopefully will inspire art viewers from Portland and Eugene alike to break out of their usual routines and see what their neighbors are up to.

Still from digital animation showing red rock arch with cut interior revealing black and white digital pattern
still from CORES by Nick Sassoon and Rick Silva, courtesy Holding Contemporary

CORES: Nick Sassoon and Rick Silva
January 23 – February 29
Holding Contemporary
916 NW Flanders
The two artists featured in Holding Contemporary’s CORES, Nick Sassoon and Rick Silva, both make work connecting the digital and the physical in material ways. Rocks figure prominently – think digital animations of geode-like objects whose interiors are trippy LED screens, or an actual rock with an actual LED screen sprouting from an armature buried in the stone. Part of the aim is to evoke the ways in which humans have affected the natural world, even down to geological processes, and it would seem there are few perspectives that oppose anthropocentrism quite as effectively as lithocentrism — the rock’s eye view. 

shredded and layered blue and green flags hanging on white wall
Work by Brittany Vega, courtsey Fuller Rosen

American Hex: Christine Miller and Brittany Vega
February 1 – March 14
Fuller Rosen
2505 SE 11th Ave Suite 106
Christine Miller and Brittany Vega come together in their show, American Hex, to explore the problems and revelations contained within their own eccentric personal collections. Vega’s flag collection grew from her practical experience in the flag industry. The flags on view at Fuller Rosen are shredded and remixed to break down their original significance and question their role as cultural and political tools. Miller’s collection of racist Americana is a more direct statement on the trouble with American-ness and patriotism. These items reflect the racial violence and oppression that infuses so much of the history that has also informed a certain concept of national identity. Miller collects them as ”teaching tools” in the hope that their careful presentation and context might begin to neutralize their power as symbols of bigotry. Miller has published a book to accompany the show titled My Black is the Color of the Sun, in collaboration with the gallery. There will be a release event on February 22.

Green, blue, and yellow painting of large rocky mountain with cascading white waterfall and yellow sky in background
Adam Sorenson, Tetuan, courtesy PDX Contemporary

Skeleton: Adam Sorenson
January 15 – February 29
PDX Contemporary
925 NW Flanders
Portland artist Adam Sorenson gained national attention for his psychedelic neon landscapes ten years ago, and this month he returns to PDX Contemporary with paintings that find something new to say about the fantasy worlds that have become his signature. Like his past work, the pieces in Skeleton are replete with gumdrop-like rocks, cascading waterfalls, and glowing colors. But they are looser, more relaxed, and more painterly. In contrast to his earlier works, a little more is left to the imagination, and it feels like the mysterious places Sorenson conjures have a bit more room to breathe.

Photo of bearded man with yellow-painted face and purple lace shroud over head, holding hand to cheek and looking upwards with mouth open and eyes rolled back as if in agony or ecstasy. alpine scene in background
image courtesy Disjecta

Nierika: Santuario Somático: Edgar Fabián Frías
February 2 – March 8
Disjecta
8371 N Interstate Ave
Disjecta curator-in-residence Justin Hoover presents artist Edgar Fabián Frías in the second show of a series titled ungodly: the spiritual medium (Coco Dolle’s PUNKDEISM was the first). Frías is a licensed psychotherapist in addition to their interdisciplinary art practice, and their exhibition Nierika touts itself as an opportunity for viewers to take refuge and undertake a voyage of self-discovery through creative workshops, videos, and objects infused with spirituality inspired by Wixarika traditions of Western Mexico. How this transformative process is meant to unfold is hazy, but pursuit of a goal as utopian as the “binding together” of individuals through facilitation and nurturance of the collective psyche is certainly worth diving headfirst into the unknown. 

Show Your Appreciation: Contribute to the Art(ist)s

The Portland Art Museum just announced a $10 million gift from Arlene Schnitzer, and Disjecta was recently awarded $80,000 in funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation. These donations are wonderful for the institutions receiving them and the artists they support, and for Portland’s arts community. But not everybody can be (or show at) the museum. Many of the venues in this month’s listings are artist run, and it’s no small feat to organize exhibitions on a monthly basis while trying to juggle an art practice and the inevitable day jobs and side hustles that come along with the “creative lifestyle.” Here are some small ways you can contribute to the artists and curators who are working hard to make Portland as cool and interesting as everyone expects it to be:

Ink & Drink PDX
@inkanddrinkpdx
Last Wednesdays 7-10pm
Dig a Pony 
Ink & Drink is a monthly event held at the Inner Southeast bar Dig a Pony: a dozen artists sit at a big table and draw as spectators look on with beers in hand. Finished drawings are hung in a makeshift salon-style gallery for patrons to purchase and take home (at very reasonable prices!), and 50% of the proceeds benefit rotating local nonprofits and activist organizations. Check their website and Instagram for details about upcoming events.

Holding Contemporary’s Shareholder Program
Holding Contemporary runs on a unique “shareholder” model, in which an investment in the gallery yields quarterly returns, discounts on art, exclusive invitations to special events, and other perks. Buying a share in a gallery may sound unusual, but it’s a great way for the business to attract support in a town whose art market is still developing compared to other cities. The initial investment can be as little as $100, but the impact is significant for the gallery and its artists.

The Nat Turner Project
The organizers of the Nat Turner Project call it a “fugitive gallery space” that aims to give artists of color the literal and metaphorical space to create their work. Their projects include exhibitions and performances, as well as the Drinking Gourd Fellowships, which provide material support to emerging artists of color. Now NTP also has a podcast, called who all gon be there?, and you can support all of their activities by donating to their Patreon. An ongoing contribution entitles donors to benefits like exclusive podcast episodes, a NTP zine, and custom-made buttons. With enough support, the organization hopes to eventually rent exhibition space and pay future artists-in-residence. 

Nationale
Reborn gallery Nationale has raised an impressive amount so far through its grassroots fundraising campaign, but it still has a little ways to go to make up for the high costs of renovating its new space. Owner and curator May Barruel is known for her continued support of young emerging artists, and her gallery is by some measures the quintessential Portland art space. Over the years she has borne much of the cost of running the space herself, and it has been heartwarming to see the community she helped build gather its resources to keep Nationale going.

Oregon Artswatch
It would be remiss not to include ourselves! Oregon Artswatch has been covering the state’s arts community and news since 2011. As a nonprofit organization, we rely in part on donations to fund our reporting. If you are enjoying this column, think about contributing a little bit if you can so that we can continue sharing our journalism with you!

VizArts Monthly: Options for going out or for staying in

Art to see in January both in galleries and from your couch

Welcome to January 2020! Let’s ease into it at a relaxed pace, shall we? Most of Portland is still emerging from the haze of the holiday season, and the events calendar is correspondingly mellow. Many downtown galleries are hosting this month’s opening receptions on the first Saturday of the month instead of the traditional First Thursday, likely in order to get a bit of distance from the aftermath of New Year’s Eve. A couple of group shows offer festival-inspired atmosphere and even mystical divination. The month also promises an abundance of work from local emerging artists along with some weird and beautiful shows at Northwest neighborhood galleries; there are plenty of reasons to venture across the bridge or down the hill. Or, if you’re loath to leave your cozy blankets, we have some great online projects for you to check out as well!

Doll-like figurine pictured on a black background with a serene expression and hands in prayer, surrounded by sculptural elements and ornate accessories, all 3D printed in a shiny off-white polymer material.
Work by Pinar Yoldas, image courtesy Upfor Gallery

Absence of Myth: Iyvone Khoo and Pinar Yoldas
January 4 – February 29
Public opening: Saturday, January 4, 5 – 7pm (artists present)
First Thursday reception: February 6, 6 – 8pm
Upfor Gallery
929 NW Flanders St

Possibly the most unusual show opening in Portland at the start of this new decade is Upfor’s Absence of Myth which brings together works made by two artists in a variety of media that question humankind’s responsibility to the Earth as we step forward into the uncertain future. London-based Iyvone Khoo’s psychedelic photography and assemblage-style sculpture make use of marine plastic waste that regularly washes up on beaches across the globe. She combines this manmade flotsam with images of bioluminescent plankton, a not-so-subtle reminder that we share the planet with many others. Turkish-American artist Pinar Yoldas gets speculative with her cute and creepy “designer babies.” The babies are 3D printed figurines that represent possible evolutionary paths for the human species, an ironic commentary on the foolishness of humans’ age-old desire to control nature. Absence of Myth isn’t exactly uplifting, but it’s not entirely pessimistic either — Khoo and Yoldas both combine the sharp observational eye of science with a poetic, open-minded empathy that even could pass for hopefulness. 

Black and white photograph of a young woman with cropped blonde hair and simple, outdoorsy clothes, reclining on a slightly messy bed inside a small log cabin with two paned windows behind her.
Donna Gottschalk, Self-Portrait in Maine, 1976, image courtesy Blue Sky Gallery

Brave, Beautiful Outlaws: Donna Gottschalk
January 2 – February 2
Blue Sky Gallery
122 NW 8th Ave

In the context of today’s kaleidoscope of sexual and gender identities, the word “lesbian” might seem almost conservative by comparison. But openly identifying as a lesbian was once a radical action that was often met with bigotry and even violence. Artist Donna Gottschalk was among the early members of the Gay Liberation Front in New York City in the late 1960s and later helped found lesbian separatist communities on the West Coast, all the while documenting her compatriots in intimate black and white photos. Blue Sky hosts this traveling exhibition commemorating those who, in Gottschalk’s words, “insisted on being, whatever the consequences.” 

Framed graphite drawing of ornate neoclassical building facade featuring fluted columns and arched windows, with a figure seen from behind walking through a door on the far right.
Milano Chow, Exterior with Columns II, image courtesy the artist

Johanna Jackson and Milano Chow
January 4 – February 1
Opening reception: Saturday, January 4, 6-8pm
Adams and Ollman
418 NW 8th Ave

Johanna Jackson works across a wide range of media including (but not limited to) painted ceramics, watercolors on paper and tin, knitted sweaters, hooked rugs, and, once, even a shriveled carved apple. No matter the medium, evidence of her idiosyncratic hand is consistently apparent. Jackson’s work, featured this month at Adams and Ollman in a show titled Some Transitional Objects From My Extended Phenotype, is wobbly and lumpy. The colors are sun bleached and muddied. She shows little regard for the mystique or virtuosity that is so often prized in art but her humble objects possess a powerful presence that makes them feel like self-made creatures or like dreams that have sneaked into our reality. Milano Chow’s work is on view in the gallery’s small adjoining room. It offers complementary surreality achieved through very different means, meticulous trompe l’oeil drawings that depict ornate architectural facades in graphite, ink, and photo transfer in delicate shades of gray. The combination of technical detail and atmospheric ambiguity is captivating, and unlike anything else being shown in Portland right now.


A red envelope with an embossed and stamped seal of a dragon, Chinese characters, and decorative elements.
Golden Night Market, image courtesy Littman Gallery

Golden Night Market
January 6 – 31
Opening Reception and Night Market: January 8, 5 – 7pm
Littman Gallery
1825 SW Broadway

Curator Thién Mùi Easland brings together seven Portland artists to share work inspired by their own personal experience and cultural heritage. The show is loosely organized around the theme of a colorful night market akin to those Easland enjoyed in childhood. The group includes artists like Daniel Sandoval, who paints psychedelic graffiti-influenced dreamscapes and Christian Orellana-Bauer, whose past video works have addressed big issues in contemporary politics and small moments of self-discovery. The show promises “light, color, and culture,” which sounds like a perfect way to brighten up a gray January day.

Image of the "blood moon" (full moon with eclipse), overlaid with "20/20" in red and green gothic font.
20/20, image courtesy Womxn House

20/20
January 16 – February 10
Opening reception: Thursday, January 16, 7 – 9pm
Womxn House
3636 N Mississippi

Womxn House on Mississippi Ave is also hosting a group show offering good vibes and positive community to start this shiny new decade off right. 20/20 will be a “tarot themed vision quest” featuring eleven artists and live tarot readings by Emily Carsten and J’ena SanCartier (make sure to reserve your spot ahead of time via the gallery’s website). Artists like Elizabeth Malaska, Pace Taylor, and Isis Fisher contribute work to this mystical exhibition. Whether or not you believe in divination, it’s always fun to have your fortune told and being surrounded by beautiful art makes it even more appealing.

The Hibernation Options
Winter in Portland is notorious for keeping folks inside — it’s tough to work up the motivation to hop on your bike to an art show across town when it gets dark at 4:00 PM and the entire soggy city is slowly growing a layer of moss. Are you one of the many still in hibernation mode? Don’t worry, you can enjoy local art from the comfort of your own couch! Check out these pajama-friendly options for days when your brain needs stimulation but your body just won’t budge.

Archival black and white newspaper photograph of Yale Union building, a flat-roofed two-story brick building with large arched windows on the ground floor and narrower arched windows on the second story. Headline reads "Yale Laundry will Be Open for All Customers About August 15."
Yale Laundry circa 1908, image courtesy yaleunionlaundrystrike.net

Yale Union Laundry Strike

Long before Yale Union went by “YU” for short and was filled with contemporary conceptual art, it was a busy commercial laundry called Yale Laundry. The laundry, like most textile-related businesses of the day, was not a pleasant place to work — indoor temperatures regularly rose over 100 degrees, soiled linens transmitted infectious disease, and scalding hot presses caused frequent injuries. To add insult to injury, the mostly female workers made the equivalent of just over three dollars per hour for their suffering. A months-long strike began in September 1919, and led to unionization and other industry-wide repercussions throughout the city. To commemorate the centennial of this act of worker solidarity, Yale Union has unveiled a new website with an interactive timeline and lots of historical resources that document the strike and contextualize it within the larger history of the often racialized and gendered textile industry. The Laundry Strike website is easy to navigate and endlessly interesting, and is a great example of an arts institution looking to its own inherited history for socially and politically significant narratives.

Logo reading "The Inside Show" in blue and orange hand-drawn letters.
The Inside Show logo by Gabriel “Chino” Whitford, courtesy CRCI

The Inside Show at CRCI

The first two episodes of Columbia River Creative Initiative’s The Inside Show are available on Youtube, along with clips of some of the individual skits that comprise this offbeat variety show. The Inside Show includes features on microwave cookery, hair braiding demos, party tricks, and a deadpan fashion show, all of which were written and performed by inmates at the Columbia River Correctional Institute, where the series is filmed. The show is funny and charming, and impressively watchable considering the technical and logistical constraints of working inside a minimum security prison. My favorite segment was David “Ohio” Phipps’ painting lesson, in which he teaches two of his fellow artists to render a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle in poster paints. You can find out more about the CRCI program, which operates in conjunction with Portland State University’s Social Practice Department, on their website, or you can just enjoy the show for what it is — a unique comedy series starring a diverse group of people having a goofy good time. 

Hand-drawn logo reading "SPOILER ROOM" in angular all-caps lettering, with two musical note cartoon characters on either side, one happy, one sad.
Image courtesy Spoiler Room

Spoiler Room

Want to party without actually going to a party? Spoiler Room is here for you! This recurring DJ night gets live-taped and edited as it happens, and the results are posted online so you can boogie vicariously through past attendees. The aesthetics are a melange of low-tech nostalgia, with VJs wielding 90s era handheld camcorders and playing terrific hour-long mixes of upbeat techno. Project episodes in your living room for an at-home club experience, or just set up your phone on the kitchen counter while you do the dishes. Either way, you will be basking in the positive energy of dozens of party people, and perhaps you’ll even be inspired to get out of the house and join in.