K.B. Dixon

 

Photo First: Roadster Show

From tangerine-flake streamline babies to dystopian, Mad-Max rat rods, a high-design Portland tradition on wheels revs up for its 63rd year

Story and photographs by K.B. Dixon

The Portland Roadster Show is one of the oldest and largest roadster shows in the country. Begun in 1956, it has evolved slowly over the years from its rebel roots in horsepower and chutzpah to its present incarnation as a showcase for expensive, high-concept hallucinations—the fantasies not of grease-monkeys, but of designers and financiers. It went from hard-nosed hot rods to what Tom Wolfe famously described as “tangerine-flake streamline babies,” cars dipped in Tootsie Pop-colored lacquer, klieg-lit, and liberally encrusted in chrome—the Faberge Eggs of an affluent, mechanically minded, mostly male demographic.

This evolution from jalopies to jewelry boxes spawned a counter-movement a few years ago—the “Rat Rod.” No fenders, no paint, no bumpers, no upholstery. Rust a must. It championed a dystopian, Mad-Max aesthetic. Heaps festooned with skulls, Iron Crosses, and spiky things—it was a reaction to economic inequity and to hot rods that were only decorative. Remarkably inventive and sharing with its up-market brethren a primal penchant for exaggeration, the movement found accommodation quickly and is now very much a part of the larger custom-car culture.

The 63rd annual Roadster Show—some 400 custom hot rods, muscle cars, trucks, motorcycles, rat rods, and whatnots—is put on, as always, by the Multnomah Hot Rod Council, a consortium of Oregon and Washington car clubs. It is one of the best in the country, according to Ur-Customizer George Barris, the eminence grise behind the Batmobile, the General Lee, the Munster Koach, and others. Proceeds from the event go to support a wide variety of charities including Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House.

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Portland Roadster Show

March 15-17

Portland Expo Center

Ticket and schedule information here

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Roadster Show, 2013

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Photo First: Womxn’s March

K.B. Dixon's 10 images from Sunday's downtown gathering for rights

About 2,000 people gathered Sunday on the Portland State University campus for the Portland Womxn’s March & Rally for Action, a combination of political rally, social dissent, feminist activism, assertion of racial and gender rights, call to environmental action, and street theater. It was the latest such rally in Portland since the massive national marches that followed the inauguration of Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th president in 2016.

While much smaller than that original rally on Jan. 21, 2017, which overflowed downtown Portland with as many as 100,000 protesters and celebrants, Sunday’s rally was notable for a lively blend of gender, race, and age. Kristi Turnquist, writing in The Oregonian, called it for the most part “an upbeat event, featuring speakers and crowds who were united in their support of progressive values and causes.” The crowd listened to speeches by the likes of WomenFirst founder Shannon Olive, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, and Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal (who gave the keynote address), then marched through downtown. Another speaker, Turnquist wrote, was Agnes Baker-Pilgrim, at 95 the oldest member of the Takelma Tribe. “Indigenous people led the march, which moved down Southwest 10th Avenue to Southwest Salmon, then back on Southwest Broadway,” Turnquist wrote.

Photographer K.B. Dixon was on hand for ArtsWatch, taking his camera into the crowd, and captured 10 moments:

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In the Frame 3: Lens on artists

K.B. Dixon continues his photographic portraiture series with images of Oregon arts and cultural leaders

Text and Photographs by K.B. Dixon

Photography essentially began as the art of portraiture. With the daguerreotype the portrait—previously painted and available only to an aristocratic few—became relatively inexpensive and available to everyone. John Szarkowski, the legendary director, curator, and poohbah-emeritus at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, noted in Looking at Photographs (his survey of the museum’s extensive collection) that “of the countless thousands of daguerreotypes that survive, not one in a hundred shows a building or a waterfall or a street scene.” What they show is “an endless parade of ancestors.”

The portraits here are part of an ongoing project titled In the Frame—a parade not of ancestors, but of the talented and dedicated people who have made significant contributions to the art, character, and culture of this city and state.

As with the previous portraits in this series, I have tried to produce a decent photograph—a photograph that acknowledges the medium’s allegiance to reality; that preserves for myself and others a unique and honest sense of the subject; that provides the viewer additional context that enriches, however infinitesimally, the viewer’s experience, understanding, and appreciation of the work these people have done and are doing.

Taken in situ—that is, in the subject’s natural habitat—these are not formal portraits but casual ones, portraits that rely on a mystical synthesis of time, light, form, and feeling. No assistants, studio lights, make-up artists, hair stylists, set designers, costumers, animal handlers, or Photoshop retouchers were involved.

 


 

Kim Stafford

Oregon’s Poet Laureate. Director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College.

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Photo First: Tuba Christmas

Three hundred big brass horns playing Christmas songs in Pioneer Courthouse Square? Brace yourselves: It's a Portland tradition

Text and Photographs by K.B. Dixon

Improbable as it sounds (pun intended), Tuba Christmas is a real thing. An inspired creation, it is a mix of Santa Claus and Surrealism. An annual event in Portland since 1991, it features some 300 or so tubas galumphing their way through the Christmas songbook—Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Come All Ye Faithful, The First Noel, etc., etc. It is a performance-art piece transfigured by the comedy of its cockamamie premise into an old-fashioned bit of mainstream fun.

This showcase for big winds was originally conceived (in what must have been a psychoanalytically significant fever-dream) by Harvey Phillips, “Titan of the Tuba,” in New York in 1974 as a tribute to William Bell, his teacher and mentor. Initially a sort of public-relations stunt to gain the poor old put-upon tuba (the Rodney Dangerfield of the brass section) a little harmless recognition, it evolved quickly over the years into a national phenomenon. There are Tuba Christmases everywhere now from Kennebunkport, Maine, to Elkhart, Indiana, to Sacramento, California.

Mr. Phillips—the first tubist to be inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame—was dedicated to this sea-creature of an instrument. He formed a foundation (the Harvey Phillips Foundation) to address all things tuba. It is active to this day with scholarships, lectures, clinics, and public performances financed by Tuba Christmas registration fees. If every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings, every time a sousaphone oompahs Silent Night a subsidized tuba player gets a cleaning snake (or a jar of tuning-slide grease).

Mining the preposterous for pleasure, this basso extravaganza has become a treasured local tradition. The Tuba Christmas in Pioneer Courthouse Square this year will be Portland’s 28th. The sound of B-flat thunder rumbling slowly up through 18 feet of intestinal tubing on its way to Frosty the Snowman will put a smile on even the most curmudgeonous face.

Tuba Christmas

  • Pioneer Courthouse Square, 701 S.W. Sixth Ave. Portland
  • December 8, 1:30 to 3:00 p.m.
  • Free

Conference, 2012

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NW amble: high style in the Gorge

At Hood River's little-known Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum, three and a half acres of classic cars, trucks, and planes shine

Essay and Photographs by K.B. Dixon

The Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum (which has branded itself with the stuttering acronym WAAAM) sits right next door to the Hood River Airport. It is one of the Columbia Gorge’s newer treasures. Housed in a hangar complex behind a distinctly unpretentious facade, the museum has one of the largest collections of antique aeroplanes and cars in the country. Most have been beautifully restored. Most are in working order.

Founded in 2006 by Terry Brandt as a home for his personal collection of cars and planes (a collection that took more than 50 years to build), the museum opened to the public in 2007. It continues to grow gathering additional exhibits for preservation and display from other collectors.

WAAM from the outside: hidden gem in Hood River.

The museum—which also contains work and event spaces—is huge. It covers more than 3.5 acres. It is packed with mechanical wonders. In addition to the hundreds of antique cars and planes, you will find tractors, gliders, motorcycles, military vehicles, memorabilia, and more. It is managed by its preternaturally affable staff and its director, Judy Newman, with an informal, small-town friendliness that seems itself from another era. The primary focus everywhere is on functional machinery. As the various volunteers responsible for the day-to-day operation of the place are inordinately fond of saying, “The items on display…are not only full of history, they’re full of LIFE!” (Caps and exclamation point obligatory.)

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Photo First: Saturday Market

Portland's iconic open-air market, the largest of its kind in the nation, is a bustling village of arts and crafts and people-watching in the city

Portland Saturday Market (which is, of course, open on Sundays as well) is a sort of curated street fair. Founded in 1974 by Sheri Teasdale and Andrea Scharf as a support for local artisans, it has grown over the years into the largest weekly open-air arts and crafts market in the United States. This is its 45th season, and it’s open most of the year, from March through Christmas Eve.

Incorporated as a special class of institution, the market (nonprofit) is governed by its members (for profit). At present there are about 250 booth spaces available every weekend. With more than 400 members, a steady stream of newcomers, and occasional participants, the mix of vendors is never quite the same on any given day. These vendors offer an amazing array of items—audio recordings, earrings, coffee mugs, sculptures, drawings, musical instruments, leatherwork, cat toys, curious cabinetry, jams and jellies, walking sticks, and more.

  Saturday Market is a bustling village inside the city.

Everything for sale at the market, which sprawls along Southwest Naito Parkway in Old Town south of the Steel Bridge, has been handmade by the people selling it. Each individual vendor has gone through a rigorous vetting process to assure compliance with market standards that focus heavily on artistic involvement and quality of craftsmanship.

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Photo First: The Albany Carousel

In the Willamette Valley, a small city gets a new central attraction and a thing of beauty to keep nostalgic visitors going round and round

ALBANY — Every small town wants something to put it on the map. Now, after fifteen years of hard work, Albany has that something—a remarkable new carousel.

This project, which is called the Albany Carousel over its entrance and is officially named the Historic Carousel & Museum, is the brainchild of Wendy Kirby. She has shepherded it from inspiration to installation in a perfectly designed new building at the center of the city. It is destined to be exactly what it was hoped it would be—the anchor of a downtown revitalization.

The carousel is built on a 1909 mechanical base that was donated to the project by the Dentzel family (famous in the carousel world) and was meticulously restored over a period of ten years. It is populated by a menagerie of stunning animals, both real and imagined—horses, of course, but also lions, tigers, elephants, hippocampus, and dragons. Each has been hand-carved and hand-painted by local volunteers.

In addition to the carousel the building houses a gift shop, various meeting spaces, and a café, but it is downstairs in the carving studio where the visitor is offered a unique experience, a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of these fantasies—a chance to gain insight into the processes whereby a tree trunk becomes a unicorn. A single figure takes about 1,500 hours to carve and another 700 hours to paint. There are thirty animals on the carousel at the moment, with room for twenty-some more.

Peter Daulton, a special-effects artist with Industrial Light & Magic (think Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc., etc.) has completed a documentary about the project, Ride, that has been airing on PBS stations across the country.

For the cost of a token ($2) you can revisit your childhood.

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