Martha Daghlian

 

Vision 2020: Maya Vivas and Leila Haile

Pioneering at Ori Gallery: "We often joke about how we would love to not be the only Queer, Black-run art space in town."

North Mississippi Avenue’s Ori Gallery is about to celebrate its two-year anniversary, and founders Maya Vivas and Leila Haile have a lot to show for a relatively short span of time. Ori has had more than a dozen exhibitions featuring work from a wide range of artists who identify as QTPoC (Queer Trans People of Color).  They have held workshops on grant-writing, tattoo history, and methods for direct political action through art; and hosted life drawing classes, artist lectures, and parties. As if all that weren’t enough, Vivas and Haile were recently awarded their second Precipice Fund grant to support Ori’s programming into 2020. The two also maintain their own creative practices – Vivas is a ceramic and performance artist whose work has been shown throughout Portland and across the country, and Haile is a tattoo artist who specializes in working on melanated skin.


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


Their collaboration as co-directors of Ori has brought attention to the voices of historically marginalized artists and contributed to the larger conversation surrounding equity, institutional bias, and the arts in Portland. Amidst a jam-packed schedule that included the opening reception for an exhibition of the Nat Turner Project’s Drinking Gourd Artist Fellows and the award ceremony for the Precipice Fund at PICA, Vivas and Haile found a few moments to share their thoughts on what the coming decade has in store for the arts and artists in the Rose City. (Responses without a name preceding them were submitted as joint comments.)

Maya Vivas and Leila Haile, taking charge. Photo courtesy Ori Gallery

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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.

This December brings opportunities to engage with the arts community in Portland, past and present. Memorial exhibitions honor the lives and work of two prominent Oregon artists whose creativity left an impact on their many students as well as the galleries and collectors that supported them. Shows in Portland and Springfield reflect on the visions and reverberations of artist-run projects both within their close-knit circles and in the community at large. Artists in two innovative fellowship programs present work made possible by the financial and creative support of forward-thinking curators and patrons, and a big group show brings work from artists from across the country to an independent artist-run gallery.

Finally, a number of holiday art sales provide a tangible way to contribute to the arts, as proceeds from these sales in large part go directly to artists and allow them to continue to create, enriching our collective culture. Wherever your gallery-walking and holiday-shopping takes you, make sure to stop for a moment and find your own way to express your appreciation for the hard work that artists and arts professionals do all year round. 

A large woven tapestry in  dusty pastel colors of linen, depicting an empty room with a checkerboard tile floor, vaulted ceiling, and surrounded by arched windows with sheer curtains blowing in the wind.
Judith Poxson Fawkes, Scutching Floor (photo courtesy Russo Lee Gallery)

Jan Reaves 
Judith Poxson Fawkes
December 5 – 21
Russo Lee Gallery
805 NW 21st Ave
This month, Russo Lee Gallery will honor the work and memory of two Oregon artists who recently passed away: painter Jan Reaves and weaver Judith Poxson Fawkes. Reaves was a longtime faculty member at the University of Oregon whose career spanned thirty years and left an impact on many young art students. Her abstract acrylic and oil paintings glow with translucent washes and drips of color, their characteristic looping gestural forms dancing across the canvases. Poxson Fawkes mastered a variety of complex tapestry weaving techniques over her forty-plus year artistic career. Though terms like inlay and double-weave might be unfamiliar to the average viewer, the radiant and intricate geometric patterns they produce require no special knowledge to appreciate. Considering the recent resurgence of fibers and textiles among contemporary artists, Poxson’s beautifully crafted work may find new fans among the younger generation.

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VizArts Monthly: Antidotes for anxiety

Martha Daghlian's round-up of shows to see this November

According to some scientific research, viewing art can help alleviate anxiety and stress. With the news of various scandals, catastrophes, and political gridlock rolling in daily, who couldn’t use a bit of stress relief? But November’s art offerings are more than just a pretty escape. These shows contain visions of a more peaceful world, radical calls for action, reclamations of discarded materials, and sensitive reconsiderations of collective and personal histories. Some are subtle and meditative while others embrace dissonance and forcefulness. A few galleries will also present artist talks or performances on opening nights, which are great ways to soak up some positive art-community vibes. Seeing some (or all) of these shows could make it easier to brave the craziness of our times, and may result in feelings of profound inspiration and motivation. 

Intricate ink drawing of women dressed in patterned gowns with masks and crowns, walking around trees and houses, in black and white with pale blue and gold accents.
Erika Rier, Pageant (photo courtesy Wolff Gallery)

Erika Rier: Pageant
November 1 -December 22
Wolff Gallery
2804 SE Ankeny Ave

Wolff Gallery is closing out the year, and sadly closing for good, with a show from “folk surrealist” Erika Rier. These charming ink drawings feature intricate patterns and baroque compositions whose central subjects, “an army of womxn,” march together in Medieval and Renaissance inspired ceremonies. Rier was a writer before she shifted her focus to visual art, a fact that her illustrative style makes apparent. Wolff Gallery has been showing the work of emerging Portland artists since 2015 and their focus on women artists and underrepresented groups has been a valuable addition to the arts scene. Don’t miss this chance to visit the gallery one last time before it’s gone. 

Impressionistic oil painting of mustard yellow factory building with red train cars in front and green water tower in background, with bright blue sky and trees.
Bill Sharp, Centennial Mills with Train (photo courtesy Waterstone Gallery)

Bill Sharp: Sacred Spaces
November 5 – December 1
Waterstone Gallery
124 NW 9th Ave

Waterstone Gallery debuts work by their newest member, Bill Sharp, this November in a show of contemplative cityscapes in oils. Sharp’s fractured brushwork and saturated colors bring unexpected drama to otherwise quotidian scenes, and reflect his interest in the writings of Beat poet Alan Ginsberg as well as his own search for existential validation in the beauty of the everyday.

Sections of white cloth firehose with black ends, layered and gathered in a bow-shaped formation, mounted on gallery wall.
Brenda Mallory, Firehose Experiment #3 (photo courtesy Upfor Gallery)

Brenda Mallory: Gather Back
November 6 – December 21
Upfor Gallery
929 NW Flanders St

Brenda Mallory (Cherokee Nation) presents works created during residencies at Bullseye Glass and Sitka Center for the Arts in her first solo show at Upfor. Mallory’s low-relief compositions could be viewed as either paintings or sculptures, and recall the work of Postminimalists like Eva Hesse. But Mallory goes beyond the purely formal, using found and reclaimed materials in complex processes of destruction, recreation, and repetition to invoke larger patterns of natural and social order and upheaval. The results blur the boundary between organic and synthetic, coaxing rich textures and delicate patterns from unexpected elements. 

Painting in orange and black gouache on off-white paper of newspaper-print sweater design, rendered in tiny dots in a large grid; design reads "newspaper" and "stop war", and contains images of broken bombs adorned with peace signs.
Ellen Lesperance, Stop War 1st Priority, (photo courtesy Adams and Ollman)

Ellen Lesperance: Flowers Wrapped in Newspaper
November 7 – December 21
Adams and Ollman
418 NW 9th Ave

Adams and Ollman’s second exhibition at its new location on the North Park Blocks is a solo show of new paintings and sculpture by Ellen Lesperance. Lesperance is a local artist who has gained international acclaim over the past few years for her gouache-on-paper representations of sweaters worn by second-wave feminist activists. Here she expands upon her repertoire with a number of paintings that depict a unique garment worn by a participant in the Berkshire, England Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp (1981-1999). The original sweater played with the format of newspaper headlines to convey a radical message in yarn, complete with columns of knitted “text” and photos in an imitation of a broadsheet’s front-page layout. Lesperance’s versions translate the stitches of handmade garments into gridded maps of their construction with each dot of color standing in for a knit or purl. The symbolic clash between the traditionally gendered realms of public speech and domestic life encapsulated within the sweater’s design becomes iconic in the artist’s reverent documentations. 

Can of FOCO brand soursop juice with a lit pink tallow candle emerging from the top, on a gallery shelf.
manuel arturo abreu, Herramienta (image courtesy the artist and AA|LA Gallery)

Not Total
November 8 – December 14
Paragon Arts Gallery at PCC Cascade
815 N Killingsworth St

The three artists featured in Not Total are truly radical in their practices – not only do they offer uncompromising analyses of historical narratives and singular visions of future existence, but their work often takes forms that defy easy description within the existing contexts of contemporary art. Rindon Johnson is a multidisciplinary artist who has made videos, VR experiences, and sculptures from cowhide, Vaseline, and mold among other unconventional materials. Jonathan Gonzalez’s improvisational and collaborative choreography aims to bridge the distances between disciplines. manuel arturo abreu tackles the causes and symptoms of systemic injustice using found objects in their sculptures and contemporary art pedagogy in their art-education program called home school. All this may sound like a recipe for a densely intellectual exhibition, and it most likely will be, but judging by the artists’ previous work, it will also be beautiful and deeply poetic. Not Total continues Paragon Arts’ run of fantastic shows by some of Portland’s most exciting emerging artists and curators and should not be missed.

Close-up photograph of scruffy dog's face in profile, looking up as if at trainer.
Sari Carel, Iris (image courtesy Melanie Flood Projects)

Sari Carel: The Coyote Afterschool Program
November 15 – December 21
Melanie Flood Projects
420 SW Washington, #301

This month Melanie Flood presents Israel-born, Brooklyn-based artist Sari Carel’s welcome rethinking of Joseph Beuys’ infamous 1974 work, I Like America and America Likes Me, in which Beuys spent several days locked in a New York gallery with a wild coyote, protected by little more than a blanket and a stick. Carel combines a feminist lens with her own experience as a force-free dog trainer in her video with canine collaborator Iris. The artist will also discuss the project in a talk at c3:initiative on November 14. The pair proceed through a series of actions linked to the lines of a poem, their partnership a counterpoint to the “masculine” mastery over “feminine” nature implied by the original performance. The conceptual underpinnings of the Coyote Afterschool Program seem especially poignant in light of what we now know about the consequences of anthropocentrism.

Photograph of artist performing in gallery, sitting on floor, emerging from cushioned fabric sculpture made of light and dark purple fabrics and yarn that match the artist's dress.
Amanda Triplett performing (photo courtesy Gallery 1122)

Amanda Triplett: Body Is
November 15 – through December
1122 Gallery
1122 SE 88th Ave

Portland artist Amanda Triplett stitches, folds, and twists fabric into fleshy sculptural objects that resonate in their simultaneous resemblances to what makes up our insides and what we put on our outsides. Her installation and performance works have taken that uncanniness further, as she “molts” her own wearable textile creations in front of her audience. Triplett brings her biologically-inspired fiber art to Montavilla’s 1122 Gallery this November in her second solo exhibition in Portland. 

Photo of artist during performance, looking at viewer from behind wood decorated with  scrap of silver metallic netting and pink yarn, with turquoise squares projected over all.
Performance by curator Vinh Pham (photo courtesy Erickson Gallery)

Curio
November 8 – December 20
Erickson Gallery
9 NW 2nd Ave

This multimedia group show features six artists from the local group blacksheepcollective, with works in video, performance, installation, and various other media. The exhibition was curated by Safiyah Maurice and Vinh Pham, members of the Portland State University Artists of Color Collective, and although there are few details as of yet regarding the works on display, it is likely they will be experimental, possibly challenging, and definitely worth seeing. Make sure to catch performances by Olivia Pace and Christian Orellana Bauer at the opening reception, Friday November 8 from 6-8pm. 

Four photographs of parts of a sound art installation: small speakers placed on gallery floor with seedpods inside them, speakers and cassette tape loops hanging on gallery wall, half circles of gray patterned material, a small speaker on a plinth with seed pods inside and a glass cover on top.
Marcus Fischer (photo courtesy Sou’Wester Arts)

Marcus Fischer: Shore/Lines
November 8 – January 12
Sou’Wester Art Trailer Gallery
3728 J Place
Seaview, WA

Although Marcus Fischer’s Shore/Lines isn’t strictly visual art, nor is it technically in Oregon, it still merits a spot on this list thanks to the Sou’Wester Lodge’s intimate connections and valuable contributions to the Portland art scene. Just over the state line from Astoria, Seaview is a sleepy beach town that has become a haven for artists from all over the Pacific Northwest, but Portlanders in particular have been a large factor in building the hip resort’s reputation as a creative retreat. The lodge established a nonprofit organization, dubbed Sou’Wester Arts, in 2017 and now operates a tiny gallery housed in a vintage trailer. This winter’s exhibit features Portland installation artist Marcus Fischer, whose work has been shown around the country (including at the 2019 Whitney Biennial and at Portland’s own Variform Gallery). Fisher creates haunting sound environments from cassette tape loops and unconventional musical sources.  But his work is sculptural as much as it is sonic, and watching the delicate filaments of magnetic tape traverse their elaborate course throughout the room can be a hypnotic experience. 

Warp, weft, in between and beyond

Martha Daghlian reports on the Textile Connections Symposium “Textiles & Culture: Past, Present, and Future”

As Portland Textile Month wrapped up its second year, the Textile Connections Symposium made its debut on October 26th and 27th 2019. The Symposium was a weekend-long gathering held at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) that consisted of artist lectures and discussions on Saturday and a “makers’ marketplace” on Sunday all of which aimed to spark critical conversation and networking amongst a broad range of artists and craftspeople in the metro area. The Symposium was independently produced by a team of dedicated volunteers with support from Columbia FiberArts Guild, PNCA, Oregon Community Foundation, Portland Textile Month, and Regional Arts and Culture Council. The inaugural theme of “Textiles & Culture: Past, Present, and Future” was an apt focus for an art medium that spans generations and cultures, albeit not always continuously or comfortably. 

I attended the speakers’ day with two companions from the fiber/textile arts community. We  encountered a diverse group with a shared interest in developing community and finding ways for fiber art to assert its relevance into the twenty-first century. Nearly a dozen artists spoke about their work to an enthusiastic audience, reflecting both on the craft legacies they had inherited and on their individual efforts to innovate and bring their practices forward aesthetically and conceptually. This tension between respect for the past and anticipation of the future provoked much open-ended and considerate discussion regarding the complex relationships between art, craft, identity, sustainability, and pedagogy that proved the Symposium’s success in forging connections and inspiring critical engagement within the fiber arts community.

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