Paul Maziar

Paul Maziar is a writer and small-press editor. His first pamphlet of poems, Little Advantages, was published in 2013, and was followed by three others. His first full-length poetry collection, Opening Night, is forthcoming from BlazeVOX [books]. Paul’s other prose can be read at artcritical, Whitehot Magazine, Los Angeles Review of Books, NewCriticals, and his blog rrealism.com. Some of his poems can be found at the Brooklyn Rail, and Across The Margin.

 

Portland artist John Gnorski’s exhibition Like a Train in the Sky at Stumptown Coffee celebrates the Portland artist’s Stumptown Artist Fellowship award. It was curated by May Barruel, the proprietor of Nationale, and features a suite of woodblock prints and tenuously representational sculptures-as-drawings that readily communicate forms without being didactic. The forms aren’t fixed; they don’t always represent, say, humans, herons, or trains—but they’re also not nothing, far from it. In fact, “far from nothing” would be a good subtitle for a show that announces its attachment to, among other things, dusk and clouds. The fourteen works all involve wood, a material with which Gnorski, a carpenter by trade, is intimately familiar and they refer loosely to the visual world. 

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Iterations of vision: Amy Bernstein’s Between the Dog and the Wolf

Absorbing abstraction at Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Between the Dog and the Wolf, an exhibition of six large, colorful paintings by Amy Bernstein, reveals the artist’s attention to the infinite possibilities of color, form, and symbols—plus the keenness to engage this attention in novel ways. Bernstein is the seventh recipient of the Stumptown Artist Fellowship and her work is currently on exhibit at the downtown location of Stumptown Coffee Roasters (123 SW 3rd Ave).

Bernstein’s paintings don’t readily recall direct influences, but instead foreground her active mind and life as a writer, lover of poetry, and socially conscious painter. Each canvas appears as a strange new thing made strictly in and on her own terms—a notable trait in the 21st century given all the art that has preceded. The paintings seem complex because of their no-nonsense, other-logic abstraction, and then simple because of their all-fun-and-games presentation and delight. In Bernstein’s paintings, there aren’t familiar images, formulas or tropes—but there’s something known and easeful about them: something uncanny that recalls a dream or an encounter with a stranger.

Amy Bernstein, “Buoy” (2018). Oil on canvas. 64×54 inches

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American Realism in flux: workers, mallards, and handstands

Highlights from the Smithsonian's Sara Roby Foundation Collection at the Portland Art Museum

Approaching Modern American Realism: Highlights from the Smithsonian’s Sara Roby Foundation Collection, one might expect to see a bunch of naturalistic renderings of real things in and of the world. Gustave Courbet’s take on the everyday may have been novel and shocking in the mid-nineteenth century but in 2018, Realism strikes most as a kind of pedestrian proposition. But the forty-four objects, on loan from the Smithsonian’s Sara Roby Foundation Collection, currently at the Portland Art Museum, span seventy years and are as nuanced and varied as the twentieth century. Realism is often in service to revealing a kind of truth about what it is like to be alive; but art, the act and its outcome, more often evades the quest for concise truth and instead reveals questions, uncertainties, contingencies. This is what characterizes Modern American Realism—pictures and objects, loose referents to life back then.

Edward Hopper, “Cape Cod Morning,” (1950). Oil on canvas. 34 1/8 x 40 1/4 inches.

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Milka Djordjevich’s ‘Anthem’: Are we making art, or is it making us?

Milka Djordjevich’s Anthem is characterized by dream-logic and surprise, tempered by the absolute command that the dance requires

By PAUL MAZIAR and JESSICA CERRATO

The dancers enter the theater with stately, measured grace, four women in bright costumes moving in procession, hands and bodies enjoined in a line moving in synchronous time. The dance begins en media res, with a minimalist score pulsing and ticking throughout the performance space—the audience wrapping the wooden dance floor in the tiered setting of an amphitheatre. The slow, deliberate manner of the dancers’ steps culminates with the repetitive opening music; it is dizzying, trance-like, unexpected. The sacred feminine is evoked in pressing gestures to the body: deliberate and rhythmic as music hums and intensifies the unfolding drama, each step and fluid movement leading into another while the dancers begin to interact—lightly slapping each other’s bodies and their own as if in a rite, clapping time.

Milka Djordjevich’s “Anthem,” which was performed at the TBA Festival/Photos courtesy of PICA

Each rhythmic step cycles, morphs, replacing the next set of lithe movements; the dancers interweave and rotate among each other. Soft gestures frame and press: breast, pelvis, buttocks. Hands clap and bodies twist in folkloric momentum—chain dancing, intricate patterns infusing order with wild spirit spiraling outward, from choreography to improvisation, experimentation unraveling into revelry.

Otherwise, it’s an ordinary late Sunday afternoon.

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Designing ‘Faust’

In Portland Opera's new production of Gounod's classic, visual artist John Frame relies on collaborators to bring the audience inside the mind of the man who made the original deal with the devil

by PAUL MAZIAR

This June, the new Lyric Opera of Chicago-Portland Opera co-production of Charles Gounod’s Faust, directed by Kevin Newbury, will fill the Keller Auditorium stage for four performances, the production’s West Coast premiere. The visual artist John Frame —whose vignettes, sculptures, score and installations were a distinct hit when exhibited at the Portland Art Museum back in 2012 for his Three Fragments of a Lost Tale show — is the opera’s production designer. For Faust, Frame’s novel approaches to composition and his visionary aesthetic manage to locate the production inside Faust’s mind—and soul.

A scene from Portland Opera’s ‘Faust.’ Photo: Corey Weaver.

Although Gounod’s Faust is familiar, the Lyric Opera version was widely anticipated, in large part because of Frame’s reimaging of it, which includes sculpture, 3D projections, and a live video feed. It’s a production that, however augmented by contemporary technology, presents a world that’s of its own unique timeframe—neither present nor past.

“His art sees the world in a completely different way, reflecting the human condition in a way that’s poignant, dark and funny,” director Newbury told the Chicago Tribune about Frame’s work on the opera. “Our production team is taking his work as our inspiration. Because much of the opera is about Faust’s search for knowledge and truth, we portray him as an artist, searching for truth through his art.”

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Katherine Bradford’s luminous nocturnes

"Magenta Nights" at Adams and Ollman considers atmospheres of air and water and the paint that can create them

“art is the power that causes the night to open.” — Maurice Blanchot, The Gaze of Orpheus

Katherine Bradford is a prolific and imaginative contemporary painter from New York City. Meeting her at the opening reception for her show Magenta Nights at Adams and Ollman gallery (through June 2) was like seeing a friend: Bradford’s social affability is that genuine and infectious. This is in keeping with proprietor Amy Adams, who worked closely with Bradford before the show to select works in her NYC studio. That evening, I got to talk with her a little about her acrylic paintings in that show, and then some more through correspondence. One takeaway from that initial interaction and my first looks at her work was Bradford’s affinity for atmosphere, the play of light and dark that is quintessential to the human experience, abstract and actual.

Katherine Bradford, “Swim at 6:10”, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 18 inches/Courtesy of Adams and Ollman

In a 2016 interview with Jennifer Samet, Bradford said, “what interests me the most is the language of painting—how people are able to say things using paint.” She then refers to a vernacular forever common to both poets and painters: the sea, the sky and clouds. Having seen two of her exhibitions in person, both at Adams & Ollman, I’ve asked myself, what is it then, that Bradford is saying with her pictures? She’s telling me about revery, buoyancy, fun—all perhaps contingent upon meditation and reflection. And then there’s the mysterious depth of the night that Bradford summons, that and the deep sea, the human mind. It’s all exciting, beyond sense, mystical, and yet utterly clear, approachable.

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Stephen Hayes: A Guggenheim will fuel ‘In the Hour Before’

Local painter Stephen Hayes is awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, toward his 'In the Hour Before' project, which deals with violence in America. . .

A few days ago, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation named the recipients of its 173 Guggenheim Fellowships in the areas of scholarship, art, and science. Among 24 other painters from around the country who received this year’s honor was the Portland painter Stephen Hayes. Hayes has been working on a project, titled In the Hour Before, to reimagine depictions of spaces, sites, in painting.

In this body of work, now supported by the Guggenheim award, Hayes examines the violent American social context by depicting the sites of shootings—places like Newtown, Charleston, Orlando, Roseburg, and others. This undertaking is for Hayes, a way to respond to the “grotesque reality of an escalating physical and social violence in America,” related specifically to “racial inequity, economic disparity” among other issues—as he described in proposing In the Hour Before to the Guggenheim Foundation.

Thanks to the award, Hayes is set to complete In the Hour Before, “traveling” by way of Google Earth, “to the burgeoning number of sites of shootings throughout the country, and making paintings in response to these places as they were witnessed benignly, without comment or bias, by the impersonal technology of cameras mounted on cars,” as the artist remarked.

Stephen Hayes, “Ferguson, MO 8-9-14,” 2017 oil/canvas 30”x 30”

This content marks ongoing change in Hayes’s work—as he described in his interview with our own Paul Sutinen last year — but his compositions retain a singular approach to discerning, rendering. “Such deft blending of representation and sheer abstraction underpins Hayes’s eminence as a supreme kind of painters’ painter in the Pacific Northwest,” wrote Sue Taylor in Art in America in September of 2016.

Hayes’s handling of paint treads the line between abstraction and representation, and his sense for the conceptual in painting always seems in keeping with his formal subjects. Hayes says that a painting “can pay poetic homage to the lives and places at the heart of each story. In fact, we are ALL at the heart of each of these stories. I believe that real solutions to this will only come from contemplation, reflection, deliberation, and conscious action.”

Hayes was included in More Than a Pretty Face: 150 Years of the Portrait Print at the Portland Art Museum in 2010, and also received the Hallie Ford Fellowship in Visual Arts in 2011. The Guggenheim is a national matter, and past Portland winners have tended to be writers: Paul Collins, Peter Rock, Tom Bissell, Dan O’Brien, among others. Each year since its inaugural year in 1925, some 3,000 applicants vie for the fellowship; Hayes’s award is no small thing to a working artist, teacher, adherent of visual art. The list of 2018 fellows — including Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tyehimba Jess, writers Teju Cole and Min Jin Lee — can be read in its entirety on the foundation’s website. We caught up with Hayes to hear how news of the Guggenheim award has hit him.

Where were you when you learned of your having won the Guggenheim Fellowship Award?
I got the notification that my project had been forwarded to the Board of Directors for approval by email in the middle of an ordinary working day. I was in the middle of a Color Theory class and while on break I checked my email. I wasn’t sure that I was reading the message in the right way and was a little off balance. I had to forward it to Linda [Linda K. Johnson, Hayes’s partner] for interpretation!

In your interview with Paul Sutinen last year, you talked about your “ability to challenge your thinking or to find context for what it is you’re doing.” Is this award a landmark in your career, relative to your approach, how you’re working and seeing in the context of 2018?
The award would be a landmark for anyone. It recognizes decades of work already made, but more critically it provides spiritual and financial support for unseen work in the future. I am already deeply engaged with the project that I proposed to grow. In the Hour Before is a body of work unlike any other that I have made, and I am continuously looking to understand my relationship to the project, my process and its impact on me every bit as much as on you.

I really love what you had to say (last October) about beauty having very few limitations. How has this outlook changed since then?
I am as surprised as anyone that beauty can exist so seamlessly side by side with horror. It is very confusing. I find myself wondering if we don’t have the ability to see this dichotomy as some kind of a paradoxical safety net; part of our limbic brain that protects us in an almost prehistoric way.

What’s next for you in light of having won this award?
I am deep into the final term of teaching for the year and have plans to be more fully in my studio as soon as possible. In preparation for that day I am gathering information, making stretchers, stretching canvases, gathering materials and trying to share the moment generously with my family and friends. Once in the studio… it’s on.