OREGON

‘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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‘Caught up in the riptide’: ‘Sweat’ at Linfield Theatre

Lynn Nottage's drama of working-class life is difficult and ambitious -- and Linfield College is putting on a production that leaves the audience gobsmacked

You might be forgiven lowered expectations when a college theater launches a production of a work as ambitious and difficult as Lynn Nottage’s Sweat, which opened last week at Linfield College in McMinnville and continues this weekend. Actors lack the experience generally seen on a professional stage; some may not have had theater training beyond the rehearsals. Young people who perhaps haven’t even thought of having children play parents, etc. It’s not ideal.

All that said, Linfield’s Sweat, which I saw on opening night, is a triumph and reminder that local theater can leave you as gobsmacked as anything you might see in Portland or Ashland. After the heartbreaking final scene, there were tears in the audience. During a talkback session, one audience member quietly noted that she couldn’t talk about it; she needed some time. One man said, “I’ve lived that.” I saw the play in 2015 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, so I knew how it ends. And I was gobsmacked all over again.

I found myself sitting almost dead center, next to Ronni LaCroute, whose sponsorship helped make the production — and the hiring of guest director Adleane Hunter — possible. Behind me was Miles Davis, the college’s president. He’d brought with him a young man from McMinnville High School who had, apparently, never seen a play before. I can’t even. Talk about setting the bar high! Who knows what seed that experience planted? All told, it was a memorable evening.

Nicole Tigner (left) plays Jessie and Elise Martin plays Tracey in a scene from Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning “Sweat,” which continues its run at Linfield College Theater in McMinnville 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Photo courtesy: Linfield College Theatre
Nicole Tigner (left) plays Jessie and Elise Martin plays Tracey in a scene from Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Sweat,” which continues at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at Linfield College Theatre. Photo courtesy: Linfield College Theatre

Sweat opens with two tense exchanges. A parole officer (Linfield junior Robert Santos, lending solid credibility to the play’s smallest role) interviews two parolees: Jason (Sam Hannigan, a junior from Hood River) is an angry young man sporting white supremacist tattoos who seems coiled to strike at any moment, and Chris, a young black man (played by Isaiah Alexander, one of three guest artists featured in the cast) who is more subdued and defeated. We learn that they’ve been in prison several years and recently met for the first time since an incident that got them locked up. Yes, the audience eventually sees what the incident was, and yes, it’s horrible.

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This is America: Linfield stages working-class epic ‘Sweat’

Adleane Hunter of California directs a cast of students and others in Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama of identity, economics, and race

Lynn Nottage’s 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Sweat brilliantly, humanely, and powerfully depicts what the playwright terms “spaces that are under-illuminated” — those spaces occupied by millions of working-class Americans whose lives are a daily struggle even if they have a job.

I saw it at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015, and of all the plays I’ve seen there since the early 2000s, it ranks high in my top ten. The final exchange of dialogue and, particularly, the last line, is one of the most powerful I’ve heard in an American play.

This month in McMinnville, Linfield College’s theater department tackles the play, led by guest director and producer Adleane Hunter, who has been doing theater in Southern California and elsewhere since the 1980s. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, Nov. 7-9 and 14-16, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10. A series of special events, including an opening night talkback, accompanies the production.

I sat down with Hunter, who first visited Linfield a couple of years ago because her granddaughter is a student there. She’s familiar with Nottage, one of the best playwrights in American theater today. I asked her about that last line — and don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you.  

“I was so moved by it, I actually felt manipulated, because I didn’t see it coming,” she laughed as we had coffee at the campus Starbucks. Unlike many playgoers, Hunter strives for as spoiler-free an experience as possible. She does not read reviews or even the program notes before the lights go down. Even so, Hunter says, she can usually chart a play’s trajectory early on.

Adleane Hunter has come from Southern California to be guest director of Linfield College's production of "Sweat." Photo by: David Bates
Adleane Hunter of Southern California is guest director of Linfield College’s production of “Sweat.” Photo courtesy: Linfield College

Not with Sweat.

“I was drawn into this play in a way that I wasn’t projecting what was going to happen,” she said. “Often I’ll see plays and I can pretty much guess how it’s going to end, but I couldn’t with this play. I was very emotional. It’s so humanistic, it’s so profound. But it’s real, it’s organic.” 

Sweat explores the world of eight characters of various ages, genders, and ethnicities whose lives are bound up with a factory in Reading, Pa. Nottage was drawn to Reading — literally so; she spent more than a year there doing research — because she saw in the 2010 Census that it had the highest share of citizens living in poverty in the nation. According to notes for the show compiled by OSF, Reading’s unemployment in May 2010 was 14.7 percent. By way of comparison, Yamhill County’s hovers around 4 percent. The writing is exquisite, both in terms of plotting and dialogue. Yet, despite the poetry and emotional content of the piece, it functions not only as art but also (it seems to me) as an act of journalism. Bearing witness to life in the United States.

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Calendar: Coasting through the slow season

It's quiet at the beach, but there's still plays to watch, photos to see, poetry to hear, and banners to bid on

It’s the slow season on the Oregon Coast, that time between summer crowds and holiday madness, but enough is happening to provide an excuse to get out of the house.

In Newport, it’s time for the Nye Beach Banner Auction. Many of the 43 artists involved in creating this year’s banners chose to honor Newport’s sister city, Mombetsu, Japan.

Rowan Lehrman, who contributed this banner to last year’s Nye Beach Banner Project, is one of 43 artists participating in this year’s auction.

“It is an honor to create a banner for your enjoyment,” writes Rhona Chase in her catalog statement. “This year’s Sister City theme inspired me to discover the similarities between Newport, Oregon, and Mombetsu, Japan — both port towns that pride themselves on a crab-based economy.”

For the first time, pre-auction bidding will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 9 and 10. The auction, with musical entertainment, happens 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday in the Newport Visual Arts Center; bidding closes at 7 p.m.

The 11-year-old Nye Beach Banner Project celebrates local artists, beautifies the community, and raises money to support youth arts education and public art through the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts.

“Walking around the narrow streets of Nye Beach in Newport, it’s hard not to notice the creativity of area residents — banners hang from light posts like beckoning sentries, inviting residents and tourists alike to watch for the next piece of original artwork at the next street corner,” Tom Webb, director of the Visual Arts Center, said in a press release. “We encourage the community to attend the banner auction and support their efforts.”

The auction is free and open to the public.

ALSO AT THE VISUAL ARTS CENTER, the  Oregon Coast Council for the Arts presents Drawing in the Northern Light, an exhibition of photographs and poems by Joseph Ohmann-Krause, in the Upstairs Gallery through Dec. 28. An opening reception will be from 2 to 5 p.m. Dec. 7, with an artist talk at 3:30 p.m.

The traveling exhibition comes from The Little Gallery at Oregon State University. According to the exhibit catalog, the images and poems are inspired by Vilhelm Hammershøi  (1864-1916), a Danish Symbolist painter who painted in the northern light.

Joseph Ohmann-Krause's photographs and poetry, inspired by Danish Symbolist painter Vilhelm Hammershøi, are in the Upstairs Gallery of the Newport Visual Arts Center.
Joseph Ohmann-Krause’s photographs and poetry, inspired by Danish Symbolist painter Vilhelm Hammershøi, are in the Upstairs Gallery of the Newport Visual Arts Center.

Ohmann-Krause, professor of French at OSU, first came upon Hammershøi’s work in 2015 through a catalog of the artist’s paintings. “The term northern light is used here less in geographic or cartographic terms, and more as an aesthetic or visual compass needle,” writes Ohmann-Krause. “The north is less a reference to the polar star than it is to a protection against the direct sun, le plein sud in French, a warm attractive light much favored by Matisse or D.H. Lawrence, or several generations of painters and writers who, in the early 20th century, were drawn southward to the Mediterranean, to colonial Africa or to Mexico in search of more radiance. The northern mists of romantic nationalism had long hidden the industrial squalor that it contained.”

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‘Dinosaurs are the gateway drug to science’

Fossil fanatics Ray Troll and Kirk Johnson will visit Salishan Resort to talk about their latest book, "Cruisin' the Fossil Coastline"

Like many, I always associated Ketchikan-based artist Ray Troll with the crazy T-shirts sporting colorful fish or other wildlife and lines like “Ain’t No Nookie Like Chinookie” or “There’s No Ho Like Coho.” Troll’s art — irreverent, funny, sometimes dark — is an icon of Alaska, and likewise big, bold, and unique.

What I didn’t know was that as much as Troll is known for his wildlife and Alaskan-lifestyle art, he’s also equally well known — at least by some — for his love of fossils.

“It’s a lifelong thing,” Troll told me when we talked by phone this week. “I’ve been drawing dinosaurs since I was 4 years old. People know me for my fishing T-shirts, but my love of prehistoric things has been lifelong. Dinosaurs are the gateway drug to science. I was an early paleo enthusiast. I was using crayons; I still use crayons, but they are professional.”

Paleontologist Kirk R. Johnson (left) and artist Ray Troll have collaborated on a second fossil-filled book, "Cruisin' the Fossil Coastline."  Art by: Ray Troll
Paleontologist Kirk Johnson (left) and artist Ray Troll have collaborated on a second fossil-filled book, “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline.” Illustrations by: Ray Troll

Troll and fellow fossil expert Kirk Johnson are bringing their latest book, Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline, to the Oregon Coast. The pair will give a free talk and sign books Nov. 13 at Salishan Resort in Gleneden Beach. The talk is presented by the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, where Troll and Johnson, a paleontologist and director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, collaborated on the book, a sequel to Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway. The project took them nearly 10 years to complete, earning them a Guggenheim Fellowship and taking them from San Diego to the northern reaches of Alaska.

“He’s the word guy,” Troll said of Johnson. “I’m the picture guy.”

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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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Artists talking to artists

The inaugural Clatsop County Arts Summit will cover everything from lease-to-own art to copyright law

We bought our first “major” piece of art from a little gallery in Belize. It was an oil of a favorite stretch of beach where the hubs and I had taken to spending a few weeks every winter. It was a large painting, and we decided it would go over our bed in place of a headboard. Carefully, carefully, we packed the canvas home, then dropped it at the local frame shop to be mounted. Home, we headed to the bedroom to hang the piece, eager for this finishing touch that would complete our master bedroom.

“It’s too big,” my husband announced.

I looked on from the foot of the bed, nodding grimly. What the hell had we been thinking?

Fortunately, there were a few other spaces it would fit, and the painting found a home on our living room wall. But the lesson hasn’t left me, and now as I ponder a piece that we recently fell for, I can’t escape the doubts. What if?

Astoria artist Dave Ambrose will talk about how artists can use a lease-to-own program to get art into the hand of would-be customers during the Clatsop County Arts Summit next month. Photo courtesy: Dave Ambrose
During the Clatsop County Arts Summit next month, Astoria artist Dave Ambrose will talk about how artists can use a lease-to-own program to get art into the hands of would-be customers. Photo courtesy: Dave Ambrose

It’s a vibe Astoria artist Dave Ambrose picks up on all the time as would-be buyers peruse his work, wondering, will it or won’t work in my house? So Ambrose created his own lease-to-own program. He’ll share his tips on making that work next month at The Business of Art: Artists Teaching Artists, the inaugural Arts Summit hosted by the Arts Council of Clatsop County. The summit is designed both to promote arts in the county and to provide workshops and discussions to “educate, empower, and inspire professional artists.” It will run from 1 to 5 p.m. Nov. 12 in the Seaside Civic and Convention Center. Admission is free.

“Art is so subjective,” Ambrose said. “When people come to visit on our studio tour, I can watch them walk around the house and then they stop and look at a painting and they look at it and look at it, and I know they’ve connected. I say, you know you can take it home for $10 a month and see how it looks. I don’t have white walls, and background colors make art look completely different. You have to get it home and look at it. About 50 percent of the time they take it home, come back, and pay me in full.”

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