VISUAL ART

Art on the Road: Trieste pilgrimage

Hordes follow James Joyce's trail to this Italian city. A fascinating pioneer of art history and archaeology has his own Trieste tale to tell.

TRIESTE, Italy –

Scores of people come to this ancient seaport town each year to pay homage to James Joyce, who wrote his Ulysses here. The city accommodates them by putting up plaques at about every corner, bridge, staircase, churchyard ever touched by his foot, seemingly not a millimeter of Trieste not once traversed by the master.

My first-day pilgrimage, though, honored a different man – one who is a serious contender on my who to take to a deserted island list. (Remind me to do a week of blogs about the rest of them.) Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the founder of art history and art criticism as we know it, and known as the father of modern archaeology, is buried here.

The man’s life reads like a Russian novel. Born into extreme poverty in Prussia, his father a cobbler, he dug his way out by his wits. Scholarly excellence landed him at a number of universities, studying first theology, then medicine, but ultimately falling in love with ancient languages and developing a passion for Greek art. He devised a system of learning new languages in what is claimed six weeks, eventually able to converse in 12 of them. He was appointed to ever more prestigious posts as researcher/librarian/envoy for German aristocrats and then various Italian cardinals who opened their ancient art collections to him and enabled him to participate at the digs of Pompeii and Hercanuleum. As papal antiquarian and later secretary to Cardinal Albani he had found a space that allowed for his intellectual acumen to blossom. And, one might add, his homosexuality to be silently tolerated.

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Violin virtuoso Charles Castleman pays Linfield a kingly visit

The 77-year-old performer and teacher leads free chamber concerts this week at the McMinnville college

If you haven’t heard of the Castleman Quartet, don’t feel bad. This summer violin-development program has been going nearly half a century, but until recently, it was confined to the East Coast, where violinist Charles Castleman first presided over it as a graduate student in Philadelphia. Given that Castleman has been making connections in the classical music world for seven decades, it’s not surprising that he knew a piano teacher at Linfield College. A couple of years ago, they brought the program to McMinnville, and it returns for its third season this week, featuring several days of recitals on campus with violin students from around the country.

Charles Castleman works with a student during the Castleman Quartet Program at Linfield College. Photo courtesy: Linfield College

The 77-year-old Castleman is something of a rock star in the violin world. His parents were not musicians, but played classical recordings at home, and Castleman’s introduction to the violin came when he was little more than 2. His mother took him backstage at the Boston Pops, where he met conductor Arthur Fiedler, who would lead the orchestra for half a century. Fiedler was impressed with the young Castleman’s musical knowledge, but observed that he didn’t yet have the size or coordination to play an instrument.

“He suggested that when I was 3 or 4, I should start,” Castleman recalled when I sat down with him last week. “He said, ‘You should play the violin, and you should play the piano at the same time so you don’t just hear horizontally.’ So he was a mentor for quite some time. I played a solo for him, when I was 5 or 6, with the Pops.”

His first teacher was Emanuel Ondricek, and he later studied with Ivan Galamian, David Oistrakh (who had “an enormous impact on my bow arm,” he told an interviewer in 2005) and Henryk Szeryng (who had significant “impact on my choice of fingerings and choice of bowings in performance,” Castleman said in that same interview). Castleman is, according to his website, “perhaps the world’s most active performer and pedagogue on the violin.”

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Coast calendar: Second-look photos, author art, and a hootenanny

Calendar highlights include photos of subjects "entitled to reverence," Rick Bartow's sketches of famous writers, and a night of music and merriment

As a journalist, I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing photographers, pros who could take what I saw as a simple, even uninspiring, scene and render it into a work of pure art — often in the most fleeting of moments, or brutal circumstances. Those are the photos that make you want to take a second and third look, the photos that keep you returning over and over again.

That’s what juror and world-renowned artist Robert Adams looked for in selecting pictures for a new show, The Sacred, at the LightBox Photographic Gallery in Astoria. A total of 165 camera buffs submitted their work; 52 made the cut. Here’s how Adams described his choices:

“Clouds,” by Dennis Witner is one of 52 photos in “The Sacred” show at Astoria’s LightBox Photographic Gallery.

“The photographer Dorothea Lange said that she wanted to make pictures that are ‘second-lookers’ – pictures that reward repeated viewings. It has been my privilege to assemble an exhibition made up of such photographs. The pictures record what is ‘entitled to reverence,’ as the dictionary defines the word ‘sacred’ – times and places and people that point beyond themselves. We stand today in particular need of such testaments. I was asked to select a few of the photographs for ‘honorable mention,’ but this seems unnecessary. As is apparent, the photographers brought honor to themselves by first selflessly honoring their subjects.”

The show opens with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, and runs through Sept. 5.

The Coaster Theatre is promising a night of music and merriment at its Cannon Beach Hootenanny on Aug. 25. The evening of folk, blues and rock ‘n’ roll showcases local musicians: Adams & Costello, The Floating Glass Balls, Maggie & the Katz, and Thistle & Rose. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show are $15 and can be purchased online, at the box office or by calling 503-436-1242.

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VizArts Monthly: Big news in various forms

Converge 45 returns for its third year, Cathy Wilkes at YU, tarot art at Union Knott

The big, big news in the Portland arts community is that soon-to-be defunct Marylhurst University’s Art Gym isn’t gone forever! According to the press release issued by the Oregon College of Art and Craft, “all Art Gym operations, collections, and upcoming exhibitions will move to the OCAC campus,” effective October 1.

That’s not all. Next, we’ve got Converge 45 entering its third year, with its first site-specific installation and the return of KsMOCA. Cathy Wilkes comes to the YU, and a whole bunch of good shows are opening at smaller galleries. There’s lots to see this hot August–stay hydrated, stay curious, stay cool.

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Art on the Road: North Holland

Bergen's Museum Kranenburgh highlights Leo Gestel's eloquent mysteries and Ans Wortel's "organic allegories of people"

Most people who travel to Holland and are interested in art congregate in one or more of Amsterdam’s major museums. Outside of the city you can find some small jewels off the beaten path, though, that warrant a closer look. They provide introductions to Dutch art movements that are perhaps less well known but worthwhile getting to know. As a bonus you also escape the throngs of people you meet everywhere else, particularly during the summer months where the entire world seems to descend on this small country.

Leo Gestel, “Woman Between Flowers,” 1913, oil on canvas, collection Germeentemuseum Den Haag; at the Kranenburgh. Photo: Friderike Heuer

A 40-minute drive north of Amsterdam lies the small village of Bergen. Close to the North Sea, nestled among pine forests and dunes that are now a national nature preserve, the village was historically an artist colony, home to the Bergen School, a group of painters in the early 1900s who embraced cubism and expressionism and shared a taste for rather dark colors. Two museums in the area have large permanent collections of this School. One is the Stedelijk Museum in Alkmaar, about three miles south of Bergen, which also houses an amazing number of exquisite 16th and 17th century paintings.

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Connecting artists and visitors along 363 miles of coastline

So far, the inventory for the Oregon Coast Public Art Trail includes 125 works, including sculptures, murals and functional art, in 27 communities.

The Oregon Coast is a natural draw for artists, some of whom return the favor by creating a piece of public art. If you live nearby, it’s easy to find these public works, but vistors might never see them. Plans are afoot to change that, with the coast-wide, self-guided Oregon Coast Public Art Trail.

Marcus Hinz, executive director of the Oregon Coast Visitors Association, came up with the idea while traveling the 363-mile coast.

“I would see public art in random places and wondered how anyone would ever find them,” Hinz said. “After a while, it dawned on me that one, there is a lot of public art on the Oregon Coast, and two, that our agency has never done a great job partnering with the coastal-art-culture community. The goal of this project is to help residents and visitors connect with artists, gain a deeper sense of place, and improve artists’ livelihoods.”

Georgia Gerber’s pair of Tufted Puffins roost near City Hall in Cannon Beach. Photo: Oregon Coast Visitors Association

He hopes it will also serve as a marketing tool, attracting tourists at times of the year when they wouldn’t normally visit.

What art will be featured on the trail hasn’t been decided. Kevan Ridgway, founding partner of tourism marketers Minds Aligned Group and a resident of Cannon Beach, has been charged with finding the pieces.

So far, he’s reached out to 27 communities along the coast and put together an inventory totaling about 125 works, including sculptures, murals and functional art, such as benches or trash cans. To be included on the trail, the art must be accessible by the public 24/7. But beyond that, the criteria are still being worked out. Ridgway is encouraging people with information about a
public art piece to email him at oregoncoastarttrail@gmail.com.

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Fragmentation in motion: An interview with Jaleesa Johnston

A free screening and animation workshop for black femmes, women, and non-men in Portland, hosted by the first and the last

This past April, I had the pleasure of interviewing artists kiki nicole (they/them) and ariella tai (they/them) about their work through the first and the last—an experimental film/video and new media arts project. This endeavor offers a platform to amplify and support the artistic work of black femmes, women, and non-men through screenings, skillshares, and workshops based in Portland. During our discussion, nicole cited the influence of another Portland-based black femme artist, Jaleesa Johnston (she/her), whom they were excited to curate into their year of programming.

Johnston will be facilitating a screening and workshop as part of the first and the last’s programming this weekend, July 28 and 29. I had the opportunity speak with her about her incisive body of work and conceptual process, and how all of the above will inform these upcoming events.

Lesson #1: Fractioning Gaze(s)” by Jaleesa Johnston

Johnston describes her artist practice as interdisciplinary: The ideas and concepts come first, followed by mediums for their expression. “If I don’t know that medium, I just find a way to learn it or teach it to myself,” she said, reflecting back a sense of determination that nicole and tai emphasized when I spoke to them earlier this year about the work of various self-taught black femme artists.

“Pretty much all of the themes and ideas that I deal with have to do with black female subjectivity and understanding what it means to stand within this in-between space of being both the subject and object in my work, and historically being seen as both subject and object,” Johnston explained. She described how blackness becomes a “liminal space” that can be defined, in certain senses, but also remains undefined. “That actually can be very beneficial and very freeing,” she continued. “I can use that to harness and activate a radical space that allows me to expand beyond the confines of what blackness has conventionally meant or historically meant.”

On July 28, Johnston will screen an excerpt of the video “Compared to What” (2017) by Ayana V. Jackson. A US-born photographer and filmmaker, Jackson often references 19th and early 20th century presentations of black bodies through her self-portraiture. Her performative and photographic work calls into question the ways the camera has historically been used to construct identities.

“It’s an animated video piece, but through photography, stitching together different photos,” described Johnston, who first encountered the film when she was teaching a photography class at Pacific Northwest College of Art. That same semester, Jackson visited the school and came to speak to Johnston’s students.

“It was through seeing her piece that I started really thinking about what’s not said,” she remembered.

The film piqued Johnston’s interest in the difference between live performance and performance that is mediated by photography or video. “Watching her video piece, I just was thinking about the body…the body in fragments caught through snapshots,” she said. As she encountered the film, Johnston considered how live performative work is often presented comprehensively, from beginning to end in real time for an audience, while performative video or photography can sometimes allow for more discretion and choice-making around what is revealed and what is obscured.

In this sense, for Johnston, what is is not said and what is not seen becomes paramount.

“There’s this fragmented piece of body that is actually still finding a way to function and interact and come alive on the screen,” Johnston reflected of the film.

Following the screening, on July 29, Johnston will facilitate an animation workshop seeded by the notion of fragmentation, a concept that shows up in her own work as well, in pieces such as “Lesson #1: Fractioning Gaze(s)” and her collage work, Between Contact. In this skill-building workshop, participants will have the opportunity to learn how to create a .gif through Photoshop and an animation through PowerPoint.

“Antique White and Flesh” by Jaleesa Johnston

Johnston expounded on the phrase “Fragments from the (W)hole,” her choice of title for this offering. “As people, we break off little bits of ourselves, and that’s what people get to see and interact with, but they all tie back to this part of us that is a larger, whole person,” she said. “There are moments where I feel whole, and then there are other times where I feel like a void, like an actual hole.”

Johnston spoke to the notion of fragmentation as a mode of moving through the world, the act of sharing pieces of oneself that connect back to a unique and complex human identity—yet, without revealing its wholeness. For her, there are a range of affective states evoked by this fragmentation, experiences of “feeling fully present and alive, and then moments of feeling like you’re not really here, not really there.” It is critical to consider, as she articulated, “what that means in terms of blackness, and what that means for how we [black folx] have constructed our identity, especially given the history of blackness as its constructed through photography.”

“My rat race of a mind has wired all these things together that I hope to communicate during the workshop,” said Johnston, musing over the marriage of concept with practical skill-building.

Ultimately, she hopes to give others, especially black femmes, opportunities to work with the camera and to create a kind of narrative—one that “allows for this complicated sense of being to exist.”

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Join the first and the last for a screening of Ayana V. Jackson’s work with Johnston on July 28 at 6 pm and an introductory animation workshop on July 29 at 6 pm. These events will be hosted at Alberta Abbey with the Black Life Experiential Research Group (BLERG). Both events are free and open to the public, and the animation workshop will be catered by Platanorising.

the first and the last is accepting donations for their projects and artists via Venmo @firstandlast. Follow @firstandthelast.blk on Instagram to learn more.