CULTURE

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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Comment: Our Bodies Our Doctors

An Oregon-made film about abortion providers premieres at the Portland International Film Festival. Friderike Heuer looks at the issues.

Story and photographs by Friderike Heuer

The Portland International Film Festival, which opens Thursday, March 7, and continues through March 21, has a long (42 years and counting) and honorable tradition of focusing on controversial subjects. This year is no exception. On March 8, International Women’s Day no less, it features the world premiere of Our Bodies Our Doctorsa documentary film by Janice Haaken exploring the experiences of contemporary abortion providers.

The team: Director Jan Haaken front center; from left to right: Katrina Fairlee, Sound Recordist, Timothy Wildgoose, Photography, Caleb Heyman, Co-director of Photography, Samantha Prauss, Assistant Director. Not featured: David Cress, Producer.

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Learning to count to one

Ron Mills-Pinyas’ abstract installation at Linfield College is a study in processing visual information. And maybe squirrels.

What you see one day may be different from what you see the next in a tantalizing installation of abstract painting that opened last month in the Linfield College Art Gallery. Artist Ron Mills-Pinyas says it isn’t finished, calling the work-in-progress, which runs through March 23, a “performative installation.”

The show’s title is (inhale for this) Tesserae @ .125 :.25 : .5 : 1 : 2 : 3 : 4 : 6 : 12 : 24 : 48 : 72 : 96 : 120… and Quailia 1+1=1. Attraction and entanglement; on learning to count to one. He is happy to explain; first, a basic description:

Most of the pieces scattered around the perimeter of the Miller Fine Arts Center are larger panels that will remain where they are for the duration of the McMinnville installation. But the centerpiece, the Tesserae, fills most of the north wall and comprises dozens of smaller, square panels that will not be in the same spot they were a few days earlier. Mills-Pinyas comes in every few days with a ladder, occasionally bringing a few new panels to add to the mix. Working mostly from instinct, he reconfigures them. The first time I saw it, the centerpiece was an unbroken swath of checkerboard colors; when I visited the following week, it had been broken roughly in half, with the white wall cutting a jagged, vertical path through it.

Printmaker and muralist Ron Mills-Pinyas teaches art and visual culture at Linfield College in McMinnville. He splits his time between Oregon and Spain, where he is represented in Barcelona and Amsterdam by Villa del Arte Galleries. Photo by: David Bates

Printmaker and muralist Ron Mills-Pinyas teaches art and visual culture at Linfield College in McMinnville. He splits his time between Oregon and Spain, where he is represented in Barcelona and Amsterdam by Villa del Arte Galleries. Photo by: David Bates

Mills-Pinyas is a tenured professor of art and visual culture at Linfield, and has a deep and ongoing interest in philosophy, psychology, and phenomenology, along with his passion for art. On sabbatical last year in Spain, he worked on the concepts on display here and has been working on the installation since.

What is all this about? It’s about the “all,” or rather, how you create “all” out of fragments that are, in this case, on the move. Or, as he puts it in the title, “learning to count to one.” Spending time with it is an opportunity for self-study in cognition and how you process visual information when there really isn’t anything beyond an abstract amalgamation of color, shades, brushstrokes, etc.

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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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Barbara LaMorticella: a woman of her words

From her Mime Troupe days to "Talking Earth," the Portland poet has been a potent force for writers. Now Soapstone gives her Bread & Roses.

On a recent Monday night a familiar voice returned to the airwaves of Talking Earth, KBOO community radio’s long-running interview show about poets and other writers and reading aloud. The voice was soft and conversational, confiding, helpful, gently guiding the talk into topics not usually considered on modern American radio: the structure of a poem, the ways that words and lives braid together, the themes that define a poet’s career. Five years after her last turn in the interviewing booth, Barbara LaMorticella was talking with her friend and fellow poet Judith Barrington about life and loss and language and Barrington’s newest book of poetry, Long Love.

LaMorticella, who has interviewed hundreds of writers on KBOO beginning in the 1980s, had taken a break from the studio for personal reasons. She was caring for her husband of 56 years, Robert (Roberto), who died last year, and the Talking Earth interview was something of a reemergence into public life. That fact was delivered with an exclamation point a few mornings later when I met in a Southeast Portland bakery with Ruth Gundle of Soapstone, the women’s literary organization, which has named LaMorticella the first recipient of its biannual Soapstone Bread and Roses Award. Meant to honor a woman writer who has created opportunities for other writers and helped sustain the writing culture in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington, the award, which includes a $500 check, will be presented at a private luncheon on March 8, which not coincidentally is International Women’s Day. “We wanted to honor women who’d been here over the long haul, who’d been mainstays of the literary community,” Gundle said. “Barbara was the obvious choice.”

Two days after talking with Gundle I met with LaMorticella in a Northeast Portland coffee shop near her daughter’s house, and there was that voice again: warm, earnest, smart, almost always with a touch of humor near the surface. It reminded me that although we usually read poetry and therefore think of it as a literary art, it is also oral and musical, and so ideally attuned to live performance or the radio dial. “Poetry is an audible art. Or should be,” LaMorticella commented. “When I finish a poem I always read it out loud. And if it doesn’t work out loud, I change it.”

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Barbara LaMoricella, up close.

In the KBOO studio LaMorticella took the long view of a life in words, going back to Barrington’s childhood in Brighton-on-the-Sea, England, and surprising her audience with stark revelations delivered in the most congenial of tones, underlining without having to say so directly that personal history shapes a writer’s art. Barrington was born in wartime, she informed her listeners, “… into a bombing raid, and … you were born into a world which in one poem you said, ‘This is the world I came in, and I have to learn to love it.’”

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‘She never wanted to leave anyone out’: Bonnie Merrill, 1935-2019

Collaborators remember a Portland dance pioneer’s generous spirit

Generations of Portland dancers—with one conspicuous exception—turned out to see Minh Tran’s concert Anicca (Impermance) last weekend at Reed College. Tran’s work, inspired by the recent deaths of his parents, premiered just a week after one of his teachers, Bonnie Merrill, succumbed to leukemia on Valentine’s Day. Tran’s piece, already weighted with grief and memory, felt like a kind of elegy for Merrill, an influential Portland dancer, instructor, and choreographer, and a founding mother of the city’s contemporary dance scene.

Merrill's work We Gather was performed at the citywide Portland arts festival Artquake in 1994. Photographer unknown.

Bonnie Merrill dances a solo in Donald McKayle’s “Collage.” Photo courtesy of the Merrill family.

Merrill kept her Portland dance card full for close to 40 years. She worked with modern and ballet companies, public school students, and collegiate dancers from Portland State, Lewis and Clark, and Reed. She created more than 100 works that were performed on film, onstage, and in city streets. Along the way, she forged creative alliances with musicians and visual artists, and earned accolades including the only Oregon Governor’s Award for the Arts given to an individual dance artist.

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‘From Maxville to Vanport’: redressing erasure through music

Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble project revives the stories of Oregon towns where African Americans created community in an otherwise unfriendly state

The story of African Americans in Oregon has too often been a tale of erasure. From the frequently unacknowledged racist origins of the state’s long legal exclusion of black immigration, to obliteration of neighborhoods and displacement of communities of color, to stifling of voices of protest, stories of African American Oregonians that don’t fit the dominant culture’s whitewashed utopian image have been suppressed, ignored, or forgotten.

As more Oregonians — and Americans in general — belatedly recognize the stubborn persistence of our legacy of racial injustice, calls for change grow louder. Yet it’s hard to move forward without knowing where you’ve been. And Oregon’s African American history contains stories of inspiration as well as intolerance. “Things have changed, but history is not erased by change,” wrote Zadie Smith, “and the examples of the past still hold out new possibilities for all of us.”

PJCE performing with Kalimah Abioto’s short film ‘Water’ in ‘From Maxville to Vanport.’ Photo: Kimmie Fadem.

From Maxville to Vanport resists Oregon’s racist erasure through music, stories and film. Premiered last spring and returning Thursday to Corvallis and Sunday to Portland, Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble’s production tells the story of two now-vanished Oregon communities with significant African American populations whose legacy still resounds today.

It’s the culmination of an extended collaborative process involving a team of Oregon artists and historical organizations that began with producer Douglas Detrick, executive director of PJCE, and Portland singer Marilyn Keller, a Jazz Society of Oregon Hall of Fame member who became what Detrick called “the face and voice of this project.”

“Having performed old time blues and jazz from the ancestors,” as lead singer in Black Swan Classic Jazz Band, Keller insisted that “it had to be a project that spoke directly to my African American heritage.”

Vanished Towns

Built in 1923, Maxville, a railroad logging town near Wallowa that operated until the early 1930s, included 50 or so African Americans and their families. Vanport, hastily created in 1942 to house workers who came to Portland to build warships, numbered at its peak 40,000 inhabitants, making it Oregon’s second largest city, according to the Vanport Mosaic project. (Read Bobby Bermea’s ArtsWatch feature about the flood and the project.) The city was wiped out in the notorious 1948 Memorial Day flood, drowning or displacing thousands of African American residents.

PJCE performing with video of the Vanport flood.  Photo: Kimmie Fadem.

“Both were places of refuge and opportunity to Oregonians of color, immigrants, African Americans especially, all coming to a state where they were not very welcome otherwise,” Detrick said. “We wanted to explore creatively why these places played outsize roles in the state’s African American history.”

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