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ArtsWatch Weekly: dark & stormy nights

Frankenstein, Día de Muertos, tribute bands, dinosaurs, warps & wefts, a Dope Elf: Welcome to the art week.


TODAY IS BOTH HALLOWEEN AND THE BEGINNING OF DÍA DE MUERTOS, two holidays that have distinct backgrounds and meanings but are often linked in the public mind, because they occur each year at about the same time and because they deal, in their own ways, with the souls of the dead. Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which begins today and continues through Saturday, is a celebration that began in central and southern Mexico and has spread broadly from there. It’s a time for remembering friends and family who have died, and helping them along their spiritual journey.

Carlos Manzano as Bombón in the Día de Muertos-inspired play Amor Añejo, at Milagro Theatre through November 10. Photo © Russell J Young 

Milagro Theatre’s current show, Amor Añejo, gives you a good sense of the spirit of Día de Muertos. Bennett Campbell Ferguson, in his review for ArtsWatch, Into the Beyond, with Pain and Laughter, calls it a “tale of bereavement and rebirth.” “It’s an elegy—and more,” he continues. “The story flows from a single death that leaves everything from pain to joy to absurdity in its wake. Amor Añejo’s fullness of spirit makes it an unmissable play. At once profoundly soulful and gloriously silly, it invites us to touch the life of Hector, a painter who refuses to accept the death of his wife, Rosalita.” Naturally, that’s only the beginning.

Charles Stanton Ogle as the Monster in the first motion-picture adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel, 1910. The Edison Kinetogram, Orange, N.J.: Thomas A. Edison Inc.

Then there’s Halloween. And ghosts, and witches, and monsters, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, that grand gothic tale of a pieced-together-from-spare-parts creature who is wronged by the world. The excellent Willamette Radio Workshop, which presents classic radio dramas onstage, with actors and all of the old-time radio studio Foley effects, will present two free performances of its adaptation today, Halloween, at 4 and 5:30 p.m. at McMenamins Kennedy School in Northeast Portland, and you’d be hard-pressed to scare up a better way to pass the holiday afternoon. Daniel Rhovan is the Creature, Sam A. Mowry is Victor Frankenstein, the script’s by Cynthia J. McGean. And did I mention the Magic Lantern show?


MK Guth’s project What Needs To Be Said shares its title with the name of the show at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Photo: David Bates

NOT ALL TRAVELING EXHIBITIONS ARE NATIONAL OR INTERNATIONAL IN SCOPE. What Needs To Be Said, a gathering of work by 13 recent winners of the Hallie Ford Fellowship, spotlights some of Oregon’s most interesting contemporary artists and is in the midst of a statewide tour. Right now it’s at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem through December 20, and ArtsWatch’s David Bates takes a long look at the territory. The all-star lineup includes MK Guth, Karl Burkheimer, Ben Buswell, Tannaz Farsi, Anya Kivarkis, Geraldine Ondrizek, Tom Prochaska, Wendy Red Star, Jack Ryan, Blair Saxon-Hill, Storm Tharp, Samantha Wall, and Lynne Woods Turner.

Tricia Langman, featured in Textiles & Culture: Past, Present, and Future,
painting batik wax on Pendleton wool. Photo courtesy
  • WARP, WEFT, IN BETWEEN AND BEYOND. Martha Daghlian takes a deep look at Portland Textile Month’s symposium on textiles and culture. “Simply connecting fiber and textile artists with each other – sharing their work, traditions, and opinions – might have the greatest impact on the future strength and development of the community,” she declares.
  • AMINA ROSS AT DITCH PROJECTS: A MEANDER NEVERTHELESS FLOWS. Patrick Collier reviews Ross’s When the water comes to light out of the well of my self at Ditch Projects in Springfield.
  • SITKA ART INVITATIONAL. The newest version of one of Oregon’s most popular art fundraisers, the annual invitational and sale at Portland’s World Forestry Center, is this weekend, with a preview and gala on Friday and viewing, sales, artist talks, and other events Saturday and Sunday. More than 120 artists will have work on display to support the Sitka Center for Art & Ecology on Oregon’s North Coast.
  • CLARK COUNTY OPEN STUDIOS. The annual march of the artist studio tours across the Pacific Northwest continues on Saturday and Sunday just north of the Columbia River, when fifty artists in Clark County, Washington, open their studio doors. It’s a self-guided tour.  


James B. Thompson, The World Turns on a Woman’s Hips, 2002, acrylic on canvas, 29 x 36″, depicting the athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias, from the series The Game of Golf. Photo: Dale Peterson

JAMES B. THOMPSON, THE WIDE-RANGING AND DISTINGUISHED OREGON ARTIST and art professor at Willamette University, died on Sunday at his home in Salem after a brief illness. His art combined surface beauty with intellectual depth, and often went in unexpected directions. “Surprises were crucial to the way he made art,” we wrote in our remembrance of him. “He approached a print or painting not as a fully planned project to be filled in but as a series of decisions leading to other decisions, exploring and discovering along the way. ‘I don’t know what I’m going to find sometimes. It’s a mystery. Which I like,’ he said.” A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday, November 7, in Cone Chapel on the Willamette University campus in Salem.


Carlo Rossi calls the Long Table to order at the 2019 National Field Network Conference in Portland. 

“A GROUP OF PROMINENT PORTLAND ARTISTS SAT AROUND A TABLE with representatives of some of Oregon’s heaviest hitting arts funders, and the conversation was growing tense,” Brett Campbell writes in Field of Vision. “How do funders determine which artists receive support, one artist asked, especially individuals and small organizations that might lack resources and track record compared to better funded and staffed institutions? Why do funds seem to flow to the same organizations year after year, even though the art they pay for doesn’t reflect the diversity of the community the organizations and artists both purport to serve?” Campbell sat in on last spring’s gathering of the 2019 National Field Network Conference in Portland, and looks, half a year later, at its effects. 


Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group., Nov. 7-9 at Lincoln Performance Hall in the White Bird Dance series. Photo: Christopher Duggan

“NO FRUITS, NO FLOWERS, NO LEAVES, NO BIRDS! – NOVEMBER!” Jamuna Chiarini remembers this opening line to a favorite book from her childhood, and the story that “describes a family coming together from all around and celebrating the holiday with food and impromptu performances as entertainment. I like to imagine that this is what we are doing here in Portland in the winter, gathering together in warm, cozy spaces, eating, drinking, and watching dance,” she writes in her November DanceWatch Monthly. Read it to find out the details on a calendar stuffed with twenty dance productions.


Vocalist Quinton Gardner of this week’s best-band-name winner, Full Metal Jackson (yes, that means Michael), at Dante’s Friday night. 

“THE WORLD IS ALREADY A HAUNTED HOUSE,” ArtsWatch music editor Matthew Neil Andrews declares. “Killer clowns, mercenary robots, dystopian surveillance states, wildfires galore–what do you need a haunted house for? Instead, go lurk in the shadows with some dark music and costumed fun.” Thus his timely guide to watching the dead rise in Portland with a feast of tribute bands and other musical spooks.  


Delgani String Quartet Portland Eugene Salem Corvallis Oregon

Anthony Heald as Shag cradles John Tufts as a prisoner of the king in the 2009 world premiere of Bill Cain’s Equivocation, one of the highlights of the Bill Rauch era in Ashland. Photo: Jenny Graham/Oregon Shakespeare Festival/2009

FEW PEOPLE HAVE WATCHED THE BILL RAUCH ERA at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival more closely than Marty Hughley, ArtsWatch’s theater editor: By his count he’s seen 98 of 133 productions, several multiple times, during Rauch’s 2008-19 run as the festival’s artistic director. Rauch has left to become the first artistic director of the new Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center in the new World Trade Center in Manhattan. In his DramaWatch column Fond farewell to an era in Ashland, Hughley gives just that. “From the start,” he writes, “I felt great admiration for Rauch’s work and affection for him as a person, and feel indebted for the very large role he’s had in giving me a love for theater.”

  • THE DOPE ELF CONSIDERS POWER. Kyle Cohlmia reviews the humor and the power in Jacqueline Wright’s performance in The Dope Elf, a nonlinear show from the Gawdafful National Theater that dropped in on Portland’s Yale Union.
  • WOMEN OF WILL, AND VICE VERSA. I review the “smart and curiously seductive play/performance” Women of Will at Portland Playhouse, where writer/actor Tina Packer and actor Nigel Gore are diving deeply into the world of Shakespeare’s women characters by alternately doing scenes from the plays and talking about their implications.
Tina Packer in Women of Will at Portland Playhouse. Photo: Brud Giles


Time adventurers Kirk Johnson and Ray Troll chase the past in their newest book Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline. Illustration: Ray Troll
  • HOW TO BE A CRITIC? JUST DO IT. “Truth is, there are about as many ways to be a critic as there are critics,” I write in a how-to speech. “If you’re looking for a decoder ring, that’s kind of annoying. Nevertheless, it’s true.” An exploration of the Dark Art.
  • ‘DINOSAURS ARE THE GATEWAY DRUG TO SCIENCE.’ Lori Tobias chats with fossil fanatics Ray Troll and Kirk Johnson, who are on their way to visit Salishan to talk about their new book Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline. Their trail takes them from San Diego to the northern reaches of Alaska, an adventure in itself.
Senior Editor

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."