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Bringing women into the center of the art world

News & Notes: A new series of lectures on prominent women artists of the 20th century; The Immigrant Story goes live at The Armory; The –Ism Youth Files kicks off a podcast series.


Sonia Delaunay, “Prismes Électriques,” 1914, oil on canvas, 250 x 250 cm., Museé National d’art Moderne, Paris. Prudence Robert will give a free talk on Delaunay and her art on Sunday, Sept. 17, to kick off a series of lectures from the newly formed Oregon Alliance for the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

When H.W. Janson’s landmark book History of Art made its first appearance in 1962, its supposedly encyclopedic coverage of Western art didn’t include a single woman artist — and wouldn’t until the late 1980s. Even the most recent edition contains just 45 women artists, only seven of whom are women of color.

Leaving fully half of the world’s artists out of consideration was, of course, both a folly and an insult, and in 1987 the National Museum of Women in the Arts, one of several national museums in Washington, D.C., opened its doors to champion the work of women artists who had been undervalued or outright ignored by the art-history books.

The museum is closed for renovations until Oct. 23. But “closed” and “inactive” are not the same thing. And a recently formed group in Portland, the Oregon Alliance for the National Museum of Women in the Arts, is making sure that “national” stretches all the way to the Pacific Northwest.

The Oregon Alliance has just announced “Women and Art in the 20th Century,” a four-lecture series of free talks about leading women modern and contemporary artists. Prudence Roberts, former curator of American art at the Portland Art Museum, will kick things off with “We Will Go Right Up to the Sun”: Sonia Delaunay’s Multifaceted Career, focusing on the pioneering abstract artist who worked in everything from oil paintings to textiles to jewelry to book illustration to pottery. Her talk will be at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17, at the Pacific Northwest College of Art at Willamette University, 511 N.W. Broadway in Portland, where all four lectures will be.

Next up, at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15, will be Defending the Last Egg, a talk by Abigail Susik, associate professor of art history at Willamette University, about the Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington and her plays and set designs between 1946 and 1976. The series will continue with lectures next spring by Sue Taylor and Bruce Guenther.

The Oregon Alliance notes about itself: “Established in 2022, the Oregon Alliance for the NMWA supports the efforts of the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., to showcase and collect art by women; to educate Alliance members and the broader public about art; and to promote the work of emerging Northwest women artists for inclusion in the NMWA’s regular ‘Women to Watch’ exhibitions.”

Tales from all over by The Immigrant Story

Shivani Joshi, Kathak dance and Hindustani and Ghazal singer, will perform with The Immigrant Story Live.

While Portland Center Stage is deep into rehearsals for its revival of the musical Hair (previews begin Sept. 30) another good bet is taking to the company’s main stage at The Armory for a single night. From 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22, The Immigrant Story Live will bring stories and songs to the Pearl District stage. For the past several years the organization — led by Sankar Raman, himself an immigrant from India — has provided a stage for immigrants to Oregon to tell their stories: written, in podcast form, and in live performances. It’s rapidly become one of the most compelling storytelling platforms around.

At The Armory you’ll hear a quartet of first-person tales by immigrants from Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Mexico, and India, plus South Asian music from vocalist Shivani Joshi and instrumental music arranged by Balamurali Balu (Bala), a well-known composer in the Tamil film industry. The event is free, but you need a reservation and tickets are going fast; you can reserve a seat here.

From The –Ism Youth Files, a podcast series

Deandre Avant, host of “And That Happened,” the first podcast in “The –Ism Youth Files” series.

Several months ago Portland’s MediaRites published Speaking Our Truths: The –Ism Youth Files, an anthology of writings and drawings by young people ages 10-21 from BIPOC and disability communities across the U.S. and some overseas. Danielle Vermette wrote about the project here for ArtsWatch.

The next step in the project is a five-part series of podcasts featuring 20 of the anthology’s artists and writers talking about their lives, and especially how they navigated the tricky shoals of isolation during the height of the pandemic. As MediaRites tells it, “We listen to them describe the trials they have overcome, including a global pandemic, and how various factors have impacted their mental health and wellness and how they have overcome to flourish now.”

MediaRites’ leader is Dmae Lo Roberts, who also founded and is co-host, with Jenna Yokoyama, of the arts and cultural podcast Stage & Studio, which is hosted on ArtsWatch. The –Ism Youth Files podcasts will begin Friday, Sept. 15, hosted by youth writer Deandre Avant from Boston. Watch for the podcasts starting Friday: You can find them on ArtsWatch and on the MediaRites webpage.

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."


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