CULTURE

‘Their art is my work now’

Jennifer DeCarlo, owner of a new gallery at Salishan, talks about transitioning from artist to art dealer, the rise of art fairs, and the place of visual art

Art dealer Jennifer DeCarlo hadn’t planned to move to the Oregon Coast, but when a job in the hospitality industry beckoned her husband north from California, DeCarlo packed up her gallery in San Diego and moved with him. She’s opened a new gallery specializing in photography, jdc Fine Art, in the Marketplace at Salishan. DeCarlo calls it an “offbeat spot” for art, but not without its unique merits — sort of like the “Hamptons of the Pacific Northwest,” she said. I talked with DeCarlo about art, her move, and her future in Gleneden Beach.

How difficult is it to move an art gallery?

DeCarlo: I’ve owned a gallery for about 10 years and have worked in Chicago and San Diego.  No doubt it is challenging to uproot, especially considering how the typical gallery model is anchored to place. I’m trying to see the positives and benefits of these family moves.  With the advent of the internet and rise of art fairs, the desire of reaching everyone, everywhere has never been more true, or more difficult.  There is so much intangibility and noise, contact without connection.

Though atypical, I’m trying to see our transience more like ephemerality. Here or there, I’m always working, and these moves put me in a unique position to make more connections and more discoveries.  I have the unique opportunity to engage new communities in meaningful ways, find new patrons and artists, and carry and cross-pollinate contacts. 

Jennifer DeCarlo launches jdc Fine Art in San Diego in 2011.  She recently moved her gallery, dedicated to content-driven contemporary art by photographers, to the Marketplace at Salishan. Photo courtesy: Jennifer DeCarlo
Jennifer DeCarlo launched jdc Fine Art in San Diego in 2011. She recently moved her gallery, dedicated to content-driven contemporary art by photographers, to the Marketplace at Salishan. Photo courtesy: Jennifer DeCarlo

What led you to a career as an art dealer?

I am trained as an artist. When I got out of grad school, I started working at an art gallery and really liked the work. I realized the work by the artists represented in the gallery was better than mine. This was better suited to my skill set, so I decided, I’m going to be an art dealer. You get to be creative; you get to work with the artists and their ideas. You get to help shape the ideas and explore the ideas with them.

Do you still create your own art?

No, I don’t. Their art is my work now. I get to help them position it. I get to help them frame it. Visual art is the first language I understood. Visual language. That’s what I mean, too, when I say being an art dealer brings all of my skills together. I am dyslexic. It was hard for me to learn language. It’s very tricky. Written language is weird. It reduces things. Visual language is very palpable, emotional, immediate. It hits you and you think about it. I like the ability to have this long looking with people. Look at things, think about them together.

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As Ilana Sol’s new film about war and reconciliation, Samurai in the Oregon Sky, screens this week at Portland’s Northwest Film Center, a look back at the Portland filmmaker’s first documentary

Editor’s note: On Thursday, November 14, Portland Art Museum’s Northwest Film Center presents the second film by Portland filmmaker Ilana Sol. Samurai in the Oregon Sky tells the story of Japanese pilot Nobuo Fujita, the only pilot to bomb the U.S. mainland during World War II, his subsequent visit to the Oregon town the bomb struck, and the 35-year-long relationship between the Fujita family and the people of Brookings, which he came to call his “second home.” It previously screened at the East Oregon Film Festival, Astoria International Film Festival and others.

Sol’s acclaimed first film dealt with a similar subject — the Japanese balloon bomb that killed a group of Oregon picnickers during the War. On Paper Wings won several awards and was included in an episode of National Public Radio’s Radiolab. Here is the profile of Sol ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell published in Oregon Humanities magazine when it premiered.

Nobuo Fujita during World War II

The sunlight sparkled as it made its way through the forest on Gearhart Mountain, and the small party of schoolchildren and their minister from the nearby southern Oregon town of Bly laughed and chattered as the car pulled over to the side of the road. It was May 1945. The country was at war and just emerging from a long Depression, but it was a beautiful spring day, and the young minister, Archie Mitchell, had found a perfect spot for a picnic in the woods. As they spilled out of Mitchell’s car, one of the kids spotted something white lying on the ground. Followed by Mitchell’s pregnant wife, Elsye, they raced to see what it was. “Don’t touch it!” shouted Mitchell.

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Art on the Road: Colors of India

Angela Allen takes a photographic journey to the world's second most populous nation, discovering a unique sense of color along the way


STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANGELA ALLEN


“Its unique sense of color,” the late Indian photojournalist Raghubir Singh said, was India’s primary cultural contribution. 

Singh was mainly a street photographer who shot color film in the mid- and late-20th century when black and white reigned as the photojournalist’s and art photographer’s choice. He called India “a river of color” and published a book in 1998 with that title. (He died in 1999 at 57.)  He captured the crush of people in a country of 1.06 billion, the streets’ cacophony, the jumble of creaking rickshaws, overflowing buses, unruly motorcycles — and camels. Always, movement is relentless among the saturated colors. Singh’s photos didn’t always have a focal point, in the linear Western way. He went after fluidity and continuity.

When I traveled with a group of photographers last year with our cameras to Rajasthan, Singh’s birthplace in northern India, color and movement were easy to find. Life is forever in motion, though admittedly, I often sought out calm rather than chaos. Some say India is an assault on the senses. Traveling through the country is a sensuous experience like none other, photographically and personally. It is never boring.

We made our way through Rajasthan (Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Jojawar and smaller villages ) and then to Uttar Pradesh, where the holy city of Varanasi seethes with energy on the Ganges River. Hindus journey there to die, believing that sending their ashes down the river will lead them on to the next life. They also bathe and play in the river, celebrate festivals and holidays, wash their clothes, boat, do business, water their animals, pray. The Ganges, too, throbs with life  and with death’s ashes. We were warned not to take photos of cremation ceremonies, out of respect, so you won’t find any here.

This photographic journey begins backwards from our route. My pictures start at the Ganges, not the world’s largest river but the one with the most spiritual currents, and end with moments in villagers’ and farmers’ lives.

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Early in the morning in Varanasi, people wash, do their laundry, swim, cook, sell, fish, worship, socialize, and usher their dead into the next world along the 1,569-mile-long Ganges River.

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Dance review: Reggie Wilson’s got the POWER

White Bird brought Reggie Wilson to town and he brought a lesson about black Shakers

The world premiere of POWER in July of 2019 was an evening-length work, yet Reggie Wilson was generous enough with his energy to give a post-show interview after the second performance. When asked how he envisioned the world that the piece so fully occupies, he replied, “I tend not to envision—or project.” Instead, he said, he works with “found stuff” and with his many like-minded collaborators. He feeds their shared curiosity with deep research.

Dancers in Reggie Wilson's Fist and Heel Dance Troupe
Dancers in Reggie Wilson’s Fist and Heel Dance Troupe perform a duet to Solon Bushi by the Staples Singers. Photo by Christopher Duggan

Commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Wilson developed POWER in part during a residency at the Berkshire-based Hancock Shaker Village. He had been led there by his research into the history and experience of Rebecca Cox Jackson, a black woman who became a prominent figure in Shaker history. “I had heard about black Quakers because of their involvement with the Underground Railroad and abolition, but it hadn’t occurred to me that there might be black Shakers,” Wilson said, voicing a realization shared by many in the audience on Thursday night at the Portland premiere of POWER.

At Hancock, Wilson discovered how much more there was to the Shaker tradition than “just furniture and celibacy.” Dance and movement held a special place in Shaker religion and society as a direct way to liberate the soul and invite temporary possession by spirits.

Wilson knew that Rebecca Jackson, also known as Mother Rebecca, had her own singing and prayer group whose members were mainly black women. In his talk after the premiere, Wilson mused, “wouldn’t they carry over some of that … physicality and practice that they already had in their African, Afro-baptist, Afro-methodist kind of worship? If Shakers are moving, and moving into Spirit, and Africanist traditions are shaking and moving into spirit…so…Yeah!” At that point he spread his hands and gave the audience a look.

The dance takes that feeling and runs with it. Wilson sees the deep-running conduits connecting seemingly different cultures through the universal experience of groups of people coming together to dance, worship, and build a community. And of course, collaborating with math advisor Jesse Wolfeson to incorporate African fractal geometry into the work makes sense. Indigo batik-printed fabric, in the hands of Japanese biochemist-turned-costume-designer Naoko Nagata does in fact blend well with traditional Shaker dress. In fact, it all comes together so solidly on stage, one has to wonder why more avowedly-postmodern dance companies haven’t paid attention to this kind of collective, untrained group folk dance that has supported communities in nearly every country throughout history.

In the kaleidoscope of inspiration and references in the show, two items — a fabric and a song —  exemplify the intersection of traditions, crafts, identities, and materials that comprise POWER

The show opens with Wilson intoning a Shaker hymn and cradling a bolt of cloth dyed indigo with batik patterning. The fabric originally came from a collaboration, Call and Response, with textile artist Arianne King Comer, and is still stiff with wax from the batik process. Wilson first brought it back to the company simply because they needed more material for the beautiful, historically-inspired costuming that takes such a prominent role in POWER. However, a closer look revealed complexities in the fabric that mirror those explored in the show.

Originally from Asia and deeply rooted in the textile traditions of that region, indigo became a cash crop in the Southern Colonies, up there with tobacco and cotton. The Batik patterns call to mind vibrant African patterned fabric, but that history is complicated too. When Dutch colonists imported Asian batik techniques and patterns to their African colonies, they crowded existing resistance-dye traditions out of the market, casting a shadow of cultural influence that still lingers today. And in the hands of Nagata and her fellow costume designer Enver Chakartash, they became a gorgeous complement to the old-fashioned lines of demure Shaker dress. Full skirts with multiple layers of flounces and swags, mini-capes called “berthas”, head wraps, and overalls alike sported patterned indigo in the place of the famous Shaker Blue, and it worked.

Costume designer Nagota found herself at the intersection of another formal choice that, while not obviously related to the historical material in question, makes perfect sense in the world conjured in the show. A beautiful duet between two of the male dancers is performed to the Staple Singer’s 1970 version of Solon Bushi, a traditional Japanese sea shanty. Wilson remembers that version, while Nagota remembers it as a ubiquitous folk song. Wilson first played the Staples version during a rehearsal almost as a prank on Nagota. Unsure if it was “really Japanese,” Wilson figured that if he put it on and it got Nagota’s attention, there might be something to talk about. And, in fact, a Delta gospel group, deeply involved in the labor movement of the 1960s, singing a work song about fishing, with a driving rhythm, made sense. Looking deeper into it, the song and its history fit quite snugly with the Shaker idea of sacred labor, of labor being a way to connect with spirits.

Wilson says it got him “thinking about different workers, across the planet, they just have to keep going, keep going…sometimes they find a meditative way to do it, sometimes it’s survival.” The song became a way for him to get “a bigger reach” to the Shakers’ ideas, beyond the common conception that they are restricted to a “very New England, very white” world. 

Wilson is labeled as a postmodern choreographer, which is true in the technical sense. Among the many popular misconceptions that accompany that term, perhaps the most interruptive is the idea that anyone working under postmodernism is doing so willfully, in an attempt to forge a new school of arbitrary pastiche, like the Impressionists fought for their place on the gallery walls. It is more of a situation now than a movement, and it is important to know how that situation affects what we are looking at. What Wilson is looking for in POWER wouldn’t be better served by an attempt at historical recreation, yet he’s not finding it by being willfully postmodernist. Rather, in the postmodern situation, he is searching, omnivorously and omnidirectionally, for a way to be true to the spirit of a lived history that can’t be explicitly known, and the deep ideas that informed that experience. 

The movement, costuming, and music in the show have far more energy, variety and color when compared to traditional Shaker dance. But the point isn’t to create some sort of of bumped-up Shaker remix, rather to show how all the disparate elements brought together here are rooted in something more shared. By working to create something that holds together so well despite its fusion of diverse traditions and aesthetics, Wilson has revealed those deeper currents. 

The faithfulness to his “reconstruction” is to those deeper inspirations and ambitions of the material, and to what his dancers bring to the show from their many, individual backgrounds. That’s what the show is true to, to the extent that the dancers do not look like professional dancers at times, but like people moving their bodies for an ecstatic, spiritual purpose, supporting a tight-knit community. 

Dancers in Reggie Wilson's Fist and Heel Dance Troupe
Fist and Heel Performance Group members in custom Shaker-inspired costumes. Photo by Christopher Duggan

Specific, symbolic elements from Shaker dance do appear in the show—shaking out the hands, raising them to hearts and the heavens. Modern dance techniques intersect with the almost trance-like wheeling and repetition of spiritual group dances. At times it is hard to decide whether the foundation comes from the Shakers or from the other areas of Wilson’s broad interest, such as African ring-shout dances.

Perhaps the most striking quality to the movement in POWER was its realism. While the dancers in Fist and Heel clearly have all the skills one would expect of a professional troupe of their caliber, their choreography seemed to intentionally forgo polish in the service of presence. For lack of better words, they just seemed to be dancing the way their bodies wanted to move—like the people who created these dances would move.

As the Shakers’ black members are an overlooked and important part of their history, so is the role of spiritual movement in why we, as an audience, watch dancers. They do something very human—get together, clap, move together in a group. This ritual has served a purpose, which sometimes seems lost in modern society. POWER makes it easier to see that purpose and the humble beauty that drives it.

Portland Book Festival: Sometimes too much is a good thing

The Portland Book Festival moves outdoors to accommodate both the crowds and the profusion of writers

By KATIE TAYLOR

Literary Arts will pitch a big tent in Shemanski Park on Saturday, November 9, and it will be full of authors and the readers who love them. 

Portland Book Festival (formerly known as Wordstock) challenges the unpredictable outdoors this year, moving its popular “In Conversation” stage out of Portland Art Museum’s Crumpacker Library and into the park, courtesy of Portland Parks Foundation. The Book Fair will also overflow its indoor boundaries to occupy Portland Art Museum’s Sculpture Garden.

“We needed a bigger space and we were using all we had, so we made a new one,” said festival director Amanda Bullock.  

A scene from the book fair of the 2018 Portland Book Festival/Photo courtesy Literary Arts

A circus is a good analogy for Portland’s big annual book event, with its 100+ authors appearing on nine stages all in one dense, delirious, daylong literary orgy.

Malcolm Gladwell is one of the headliners of this year’s Portland Book Festival./Photo courtesy Literary Arts

“It’s intentional FOMO,” Bullock said. “There’s always something happening, a new event starting every 15 minutes. Even if one thing is full, there’s always something else to check out.” So, don’t worry: Everybody’s missing out on something!

This is the fifth year Bullock has organized the festival, more fully realizing her guiding ethos for the event each time. “We want to be a festival for every kind of potential reader. Diversity of voices is important—age, gender, ethnicity, where they’re from, where they are in their career, what their genre is. The density of the festival is a great way to fulfill that dream.”

With that principle in mind, the Festival has added a new genre this year: romance. “It’s an amazing genre,” Bullock said. “People think of romance as Regency bodice rippers, but there are a lot of really modern stories being told through this genre today.” A panel called “Royal Romance: Modern Love Stories” features New York Times bestselling romance writers Jasmine Guillory and Casey McQuiston, whose recent releases both feature royal affairs. The event is moderated by McKenzie Kozman.

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Photo First: The Day of Dead

At the Portland Art Museum, a lively and well-adorned crowd comes out to join in the Mexican celebration of Día de Muertos


TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


Día de Muertos (Day of Dead) is a national holiday in Mexico. It is celebrated throughout Latin America, the United States, and here in Portland at a handful of venues, including the Portland Art Museum and Pacific Northwest College of Art.

A truly flamboyant festival, it celebrates the lives of departed loved ones and the larger life of a diverse and vibrant community. It mocks the fear of death with ornately decorated images of the macabre.

Saturday afternoon’s celebration at the Portland Art Museum was the museum’s second time hosting the event organized by Maria Garcia, an indefatigable activist, businesswoman (she owns Revolucion Coffee), and former member of the Mexican Consulate. The event, which drew a huge crowd, included food, art, Aztec dancers, Mexican cowboys, poets, lectures, music, and an exhibition of altars. It is slated to become a regular annual offering.

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Hallie Ford Fellows explore ‘What Needs to Be Said’

The Salem museum features 13 artists in a traveling exhibit emphasizing the range of visual art

The poster for What Needs to Be Said, an exhibition at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, features an image of a stack five thick hardbound volumes by artist MK Guth, who incorporates participatory engagement into work that includes printmaking. 

These books, bearing the title of the show, are in fact part of the show. Each has a subtitle: Love, Politics, Identity, Ecology, and Art. When the exhibit opened mid-September, most of what must be thousands of pages were blank, but that’s for the viewer to rectify. Those with something to say, something they deem must be said, may say it here (anonymously or not) and know that they’ve contributed to Guth’s vision. She will seal the volumes once they are filled, making them, according to guest curator Diana Nawi, “repositories for inner thoughts, objects that index and contain critical expression without fully revealing it — an apt metaphor for the possibilities of artistic practice.”

"What Needs to Be Said," is a printmaking project by MK Guth, after which the show at Hallie Ford Museum of Art is named. Photo by: David Bates
MK Guth’s project “What Needs to Be Said” shares its title with the name of the show at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Photo by: David Bates

Guth is one of 13 artists whose artistic practice is featured in the show, which runs through Dec. 20 on the Willamette University campus, a few blocks east of downtown. What links them? All were recipients of the Hallie Ford Fellowship between 2014 and 2016, an award that goes to Oregon artists “based on accomplishment, depth of practice, and future potential.”

A variety of work fills the sprawling ground-floor Melvin Henderson-Rubio Gallery: photography, drawings, installation, sculpture, a soundscape (which I initially thought was the building’s air circulation system), as well as the public engagement invited by Guth’s books. A handsome, 112-page hardcover catalog with short essays by Nawi and a half-dozen arts-and-culture critics can be purchased in the lobby.

What Needs to Be Said is touring Oregon. It opened in the Umpqua Valley Arts Center and Umpqua Community College in Roseburg earlier this year. Early in 2020, it arrives at Disjecta in Portland. The show heads south again in 2021 to the Schneider Museum of Art at Southern Oregon University in Ashland.

The diversity of media on display posed, for me, a chicken-egg question. Was the show’s title selected and Guth’s piece adopted it? Or was the piece submitted before the show was named? I asked Nawi, a Los Angeles-based curator. It turns out the book stacks came first; Nawi was already familiar with them.

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