IT’S BEEN A BUSY WEEK IN OREGON CULTURAL CIRCLES, which means it’s been a busy week at ArtsWatch, too. Museums and galleries are chock-full of interesting new shows. The movie houses are booming. Actors are onstage again, a new ballet season is kicking off, music’s sounding everywhere, and our writers are taking it all in and putting it into words. Let’s just get down to things and see what’s happening.
One word of caution: We’re far from out of the Covid woods, so if you go out and about, be careful. More Oregonians died from Covid-19 causes in September than in any other month since the pandemic began, as The Oregonian/Oregon Live reports.
Things to see: Carnival of the Animals, Queen of the Nile
In Oregon galleries and museums, Morgan Walker’s menagerie, a time trip into ancient Egypt, a provocative exhibition about art and social disruption, photographs on the future of Chinatown, and prints by the late, great Oregon artist Rick Bartow.
HERRING CARNIVAL: RECENT PAINTINGS BY MORGAN WALKER. After losing his job as Head of Painting at Pacific Northwest College of Art due to sharp budget cutbacks, the veteran Portland artist goes into his studio and emerges with a show at Augen Gallery, Carnival of the Animals, named after Camille Saint-Saen’s musical composition. “Carnivals, fairs, and farm animals are familiar fare in Walker’s work and biography: his grandmother bred show cattle and rhesus monkeys; his father was a rodeo cowboy,” Laurel Reed Pavic writes. “It’s a personal mythology that Walker relies upon to great effect and charm. Yet in this show, the works that pick up the carnival theme are a red herring for the other, more personal and urgent theme: resolve and resilience, staking a claim to continue and thrive as an artist.”
QUEEN NEFERTARI’S EGYPT. From King Tutankhamun to Queen Nefertiti to Cleopatra in Shakespearean or Elizabeth Taylor form, nothing excites the American imagination quite like ancient Egyptian culture and tales of archaeological digs. Much of Western Egyptophilia is absurdly romanticized (Indiana Jones) or exploitative (the illicit artifact market) but it’s real, as museums discovered during the blockbuster Tutankhamun tours of the 1960s and ’70s. The Portland Art Museum’s new exhibit on Nefertari features a less well-known but significant ancient Egyptian royal. She was the Great Royal Wife of Ramesses the Great, and died about 1255 B.C. And she was apparently quite accomplished, able to read and write hieroglyphics, both rare achievements at the time.
The exhibit, which includes about 220 works, opens Oct. 16 and continues through Jan. 16, 2022. It’ll sprawl across much of the gallery space on the first floor of the museum’s main Belluschi Building. Another large exhibit, Private Lives: Home and Family in the Art of the Nabis, Paris, 1889-1900, will open a week after Nefertari and run Oct. 23-Jan. 23. A major undertaking that focuses on the Nabis artists Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis, and Vollaton, it’ll take over much of the gallery space on the Belluschi building’s second level.
RAISE A VOICE: ART AS SOCIAL PRAXIS. A provocative and compelling exhibit by Philadelphia artist Theodore A. Harris at McMinnville’s Linfield Gallery raises deep and abiding questions about social values and the meanings of art. Does art matter, and should it be socially engaged? Harris gives a resounding “yes” to both. Friderike Heuer takes a deep dive into Harris’s art and the issues it raises.
DEAN WONG: THE FUTURE OF CHINATOWN. Is Chinatown a place for Chinese Americans to live and work, or a place for other people to visit as “cultural tourists,” or some complex mixture of urban things? Wong, a Seattle photographer known for his documentation of everyday life in America’s Chinatowns and whose exhibit Made in Chinatown, USA was a major attraction at the Portland Chinatown Museum in 2018, is back at the Portland museum with a new show, The Future of Chinatown, which opens Saturday, Oct. 16, and continues through Feb. 6. 2022. This exhibit spotlights gentrification and displacement in four West Coast Chinatowns: Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Vancouver, British Columbia.
RICK BARTOW – ABSINTHE DREAM. Karin Clarke Gallery, in Eugene, is exhibiting a show of monoprints, lithographs, and drypoint prints by Bartow, a member of the Mad River Band of the Wiyot Indians and an internationally known artist who lived in Newport on the Oregon Coast, and who died in 2016. The show includes about 30 prints, and will be at the gallery through Oct. 30.
Things that move: A busy performance week
At long last, Oregon Ballet Theatre is reopen for business. In Mulieribus celebrates an 18th century woman composer who’s due for a renaissance. Cygnet throws a Wild Party. Lisa Ann Marsh composes (super)naturally. “The Odd Couple” roars back. Robert Ham (p)raises musical Eyelids. And “Frida” paints the town red at Portland Center Stage.
AT LONG LAST, OBT IS BACK ONSTAGE. After a long Covid layoff and an abrupt change in artistic leadership, Oregon Ballet Theatre returns to the stage on Friday to kick off a new season of live performances. Martha Ullman West visits the rehearsal studio and writes about this weekend’s “Face to Face” program, interim artistic director Peter Franc’s plans for the company, a new crop of dancers, and the rest of the season to come.
DIVA, MUSE, COMPOSER OF GENIUS. Daryl Browne celebrates the life and music of the brilliant opera singer, salon hostess, and prolific composer Pauline García Viardot, who was born 200 years ago. And she celebrates the celebration of Viardot’s brilliant music by the women’s vocal ensemble In Mulieribus, which in a concert this Sunday, Oct. 17, will perform songs that showcase Viardot’s six decades of vocal composition.
RADIO HOUR: A KICK FROM THE ROARING ’20S. Portland’s Cygnet Radio Hour and its talented cast take to the airwaves with a free podcast of The Wild Party, Joseph Moncure March’s risqué and salacious 1920s narrative poem that seemed to capture the chills and thrills and excesses of its time. Amy Leona Havin explores where it all came from and why, almost a century later, it still has that kick.
THE NATURAL AND SUPERNATURAL MUSIC OF LISA ANN MARSH. “In 2011,” Bennett Campbell Ferguson writes, “Lisa Ann Marsh made a vow. After being invited to a friend’s house concert—where she presented her own composition, Suite for Flute and Piano—she decided to embrace her dream of being a composer, a dream she had deferred to pursue a career in nursing.” Ten years later, Marsh—now a pianist with the Marsh-Titterington Piano Duo and a member of the piano faculty at Portland State University—declares, “Yep, I’m going to keep doing this. This is part of who I am.”
RETURN OF “THE ODD COUPLE.” In a surprise of Covidian proportions, Neil Simon’s brittle buddy comedy makes a double comeback – first, from its legendary 1965 splash on Broadway; second, from its pandemic-forced shutdown more than a year and a half ago at Lakewood Theatre. Now that revival’s re-revived and back on the boards: You can’t keep a good laugh down.
WEEKLY (P)REVIEWS: A VEIN OF UNDENIABLE EMOTION. Got music? Portland does, and Robert Ham’s got the column to prove it. In his newest weekly look forward and back: Eyelids release a Mississippi Studios live album; plus Sour Deez, Wavy Josef, MadgesdiqCEG, and Hinnessy Da Goon at The Thesis.
DRAMAWATCH: DISCOVERING FRIDA. Marty Hughley talks with Vanessa Severo, creator and star of the play Frida: A Self Portrait, about how she got started on the thing (it was something a puppeteer in Kansas City said) and how she slowly developed the life and art and personality of Friday Kahlo into a play that is inevitably partly about Severo as well. It also kicks off Portland Center Stage’s newest season. Also: Hughley writes about Martha Bakes, in which Martha Washington, fearing for her life, takes nervously to the kitchen; Bag&Baggage’s Bluebeard; The Weir in Astoria, and more.
But wait: We’ve got movies and money and more
Stage & Studio chats with “perhaps the most influential benefactor of Oregon arts.” The Oregon Cultural Trust spreads the wealth. “The Last Duel” takes moviegoers into the midst of a grand-scale 14th century grudge match. A walk on the beach, with a purpose. And the TBA Festival finds a fertile future in snail mail.
STAGE & STUDIO: RONNI S. LACROUTE – FRIEND TO THE ARTS. In her newest Stage & Studio podcast, Dmae Lo Roberts has a fascinating conversation with Ronni Lacroute, whom she calls “perhaps the most influential benefactor of Oregon arts.” Roberts continues: “Anyone who attends performing arts events, art exhibits, films and music festivals knows her name. She’s mentioned in every welcome speech live or virtual as a generous donor and supporter. But unlike many funders, Lacroute shows up to the events she sponsors. That’s because she’s personal in her giving and a model philanthropist who invests in the creation of the art itself as she also mentors and advises on the arts.” Lacroute is a smart, strategic, and enthusiastic supporter of the arts (and for several years she’s been a major financial supporter of ArtsWatch). As Roberts puts it, “It’s all about relationships for Lacroute.”
CULTURAL TRUST AWARDS $3.25 MILLION. The Oregon Cultural Trust announced a record $3,254,440.70 in new grants to 140 cultural organizations across the state. Grants to individual cultural groups averaged $18,087 – a good boost in tough economic times. As importantly, they went to projects throughout the state, from east to west and urban to rural. Oregon ArtsWatch was awarded $21,210 to help fund the project “Warm Springs: Then and Now,” which will tell the stories of tribal members on the Warm Springs Reservation through a series of photographic portraits and essays, and pair the current profiles with historical photographs taken nearly 30 years ago.
FILMWATCH WEEKLY: “THE LAST DUEL,” “BERGMAN ISLAND,” AND “THE RESCUE.” Marc Mohan reviews three newcomers to the movie houses this week, the Rashomon-like 14th century tale The Last Duel, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Jodie Comer, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Adam Driver in a story whose issues of honor, revenge, and especially the rights and treatment of women ripple down the centuries to now. Plus a kind of neo-Bergman tale set on the island where he made many of his films, and a documentary about the daring rescue of the members of a Thai boys soccer team trapped in a flooded cave complex.
A BEACH WALK WITH A MISSION. Niki Price of the Lincoln City Cultural Center is hiking the Oregon Coast Trail to raise money for the center’s plaza, and awareness of public art along the way.
THE WHO CARES CLOCK: A CONTEMPORARY TIME CAPSULE, TROPIC OF CANCER, AND THE USPS. Portland Institute for Contemporary Arts’ recently concluded 21st TBA Festival is nominally about performance (TBA stands for “time-based art”) but performance comes in many stripes – including, in this case, a zine sent to its “audience” through the U.S. Postal Service. Amy Leona Havin, whose own interests run from the dancerly to the literary, takes time to appreciate the possibilities and, in postal terms, delivery of it all.
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