VISUAL ART

Fraying Around the Edges

Fighting the hockogrokles: Amid the storms of pandemic and racial reckoning, Friderike Heuer's photo montages sail into the new reality

“When […] I first dabbled in this Art, the old Distemper call’d Melancholy, was exchang’d for the Vapours, and afterwards for the Hypp, and at last took up to the now current Appellation of the Spleen, which it still retains, tho’ a learned Doctor of the West, in a little Tract he hath written, divides the Spleen and Vapours, not only into the Hypp, the Hyppos, and the Hyppocons; but subdivides these Divisions into the Markambles, the Moon-palls, the Strong-Fives, and the Hockogrokles.”

–Physician Nicholas Robinson, 1732

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FREE ME OF THE HOCKOGROKLES. … Isn’t that what we all wish when the sadness hits again, no matter how justified the emotion is in response to external events?

I came across these inventive nomenclatures for depression when reading up on a 17th and 18th century English woman poet, Anne Finch, who took the topic of melancholy, solidly in male hands at the time, and ran with it. Wrong word. She didn’t run with it. She inspected it, talked to it, turned it inside out, related it to science, and, in the end, seemingly threw up her hands in resignation and surrender.

I had dug out her poem on melancholy, among other reasons, to reaffirm the notion that artists across history resort to creative action when grappling with hard times. Clearly, I was wishing for company in my own attempts to integrate current events, and the feelings they incite, into my artistic practice, with the latest results shown in today’s photomontages.

“Ardelia to Melancholy”

At last, my old inveterate foe,
No opposition shalt thou know.
Since I by struggling, can obtain
Nothing, but encrease of pain,
I will att last, no more do soe,
Tho’ I confesse, I have apply’d
Sweet mirth, and musick, and have try’d
A thousand other arts beside,
To drive thee from my darken’d breast,
Thou, who hast banish’d all my rest. 
But, though sometimes, a short repreive they gave,
Unable they, and far too weak, to save;
All arts to quell, did but augment thy force,
As rivers check’d, break with a wilder course.

Freindship, I to my heart have laid,
Freindship, th’ applauded sov’rain aid,
And thought that charm so strong wou’d prove,
As to compell thee, to remove; 
And to myself, I boasting said,
Now I a conqu’rer sure shall be,
The end of all my conflicts, see,
And noble tryumph, wait on me;
My dusky, sullen foe, will sure
N’er this united charge endure.
But leaning on this reed, ev’n whilst I spoke
It peirc’d my hand, and into peices broke.
Still, some new object, or new int’rest came
And loos’d the bonds, and quite disolv’d the claim. 

These failing, I invok’d a Muse,
And Poetry wou’d often use,
To guard me from thy Tyrant pow’r;
And to oppose thee ev’ry hour
New troops of fancy’s, did I chuse.
Alas! in vain, for all agree
To yeild me Captive up to thee,
And heav’n, alone, can sett me free. 
Thou, through my life, wilt with me goe,
And make ye passage, sad, and slow.  
All, that cou’d ere thy ill gott rule, invade,
Their uselesse arms, before thy feet have laid;
The Fort is thine, now ruin’d, all within,
Whilst by decays without, thy Conquest too, is seen.

 – From: Anne Finch, The Poems of Anne Countess of Winchilsea. Ed. Myra Reynolds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1903. 15-16.

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Friderike Heuer, from her current series of photo montages “Setting Sail.” Each image is 20 x15 inches, printed with archival ink jet print on German Etching Paper, and the images shade from lighter to darker as the series grows.

FINCH HAD HER SHARE OF DIFFICULTIES in her lifetime, including a predisposition for depression, perhaps even bipolar disease. She was exposed to political storms that threw her and her husband from comfortable positions in monarchic circles into an unsecured existence when they distanced themselves from the ascendance of William and Mary after the revolution of 1688 deposed King James.

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Resourcefulness and resilience: Local thesis shows in a global pandemic

Graduating art students pivot from in-person thesis shows to an array of virtual offerings

By BRIANA MILLER

There is a lot going on in the world right now, and in the midst of it, a newly minted class of fine art and craft students is setting out into the world. The timing couldn’t be better – we need their hope, creativity, resiliency, and ingenuity now more than ever. Equally, the timing couldn’t be worse – nearly all of their final in-person thesis shows were cancelled because of Covid-19 related closures. But art and artists are attuned to change, and as the pandemic forced colleges and universities across the Portland Metro area to close their campuses, their art departments moved swiftly to adjust expectations and find meaningful ways to culminate their degree programs. 

“Our role was to be responsive to the moment and work with the circumstances and not despite them,” said Jess Perlitz, who teaches sculpture at Lewis & Clark College and is the co-chair of its Department of Art. “Something about the arts is to be prepared and resourceful and resilient. We got to model that.”

For many schools, delaying or postponing the thesis exhibition wasn’t an option. Students left as campuses closed in mid-March, and because they were graduating, any plans to return were uncertain. As a result, institutions pivoted to thinking of the final exhibitions as virtual, building new online galleries or substantially enhancing existing web pages. 

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Focusing in Isolation: Part 2

Portland photographers reflect on their work during the pandemic

Desmond Tutu once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” These words were spoken by the celebrated human rights activist in a very different place and time, but they seem very apt in the present moment.  I can think of no more fitting words to cling to at this point in time. Still, it feels like a tall order. With the ongoing unrest surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent uptick in coronavirus infections worldwide, it’s hard to see any light in these very dark times.


OREGON IN SHUTDOWN: VOICES FROM THE FRONT


Although everyone has no doubt been affected by all that’s happening now, each of us will react in our own way. Some of us will experience a kind of paralysis and fall victim to anxiety and depression. Others may experience a newfound freedom to explore new possibilities in their lives. No matter the reaction, it is an important time for self-reflection for many. As I consider my own reactions to the current crises, I’ve been wondering how these events have affected some of my fellow photographers in the community. So I caught up with a few of these artists and asked them how the pandemic and other events have influenced their own creative work. The following is the second in a two-part series based on my interviews with ten of Portland’s finest photographers.  Today’s report features the work and voices of Zeb Andrews, Susan de Witt, Julie Moore, Motoya Nakamura and Deb Stoner.


ZEB ANDREWS


Zeb Andrews, “Multnomah Falls”

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Yamhill County galleries begin to reopen, cautiously

Limited hours and requests to wear masks are common as galleries start welcoming back visitors

Yamhill County is beginning to emerge from its COVID-19 quarantine, which in mid-March shut down virtually everything, laying waste to a broad swath of cultural and artistic work. Gallery Theater’s production of Proof was literally days from opening, until it wasn’t. The Terroir Creative Writing Festival, traditionally held in April, was put on hold, as was the Aquilon Music Festival.

It’s too early to speculate on what the rest of the year holds. Gallery’s board meets later this month to chart a course for the remainder of the 2020 season. Linfield College, traditionally a fount of recitals and concerts, plays, readings, lectures, and visual art shows, is quiet for the moment but has made it clear it will welcome students back into brick-and-mortar classrooms this fall.

Debby Denno’s work, such as "Fascinatin’ Rhythm," (colored pencil drawing, 8.25 by 11.75 inches), is featured this month at Currents Gallery in McMinnville.
Debby Denno’s work, such as “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” (colored pencil drawing, 8.25 by 11.75 inches), is featured this month at Currents Gallery in McMinnville.

There is good news. The art gallery scene is coming to life. I reached out to about 10 galleries last week and heard back from most. The governing principle for all is, basically, assume they’re continuing to do business online, and assume fewer hours for on-premises visits. And while not everyone requires it, I hope it’s not too political to suggest that you wear a mask. Prior to reopening, Yamhill County was reporting from zero to three new COVID-19 cases daily for about two weeks, including five days of no new cases. Late last week, we had nine new cases in two days, and over the weekend, nearly a dozen. This thing is not over yet.

At Currents Gallery in downtown McMinnville, they’re very aware of that. All seven owners are, by virtue of age, in the “vulnerable” category with regard to COVID-19, Marlene Eichner told me. So for the three days a week they’re open (Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays), they require visitors to wear a mask — either their own, or one provided by the gallery.

“We’re anxious to interact again with the art-appreciating public, to have engaging conversations about art mediums and techniques, and life in general,” Eichner said. “And maybe even have them walk away with a satisfying purchase. But above all, we want to support all community efforts to ensure a safe environment for everyone.”

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Accounts to follow: Irresistible colors

Don Bailey, Ernesto Aguilar, and Meghan NutMeg's Instagram accounts will fill your feed with color

This is the second in a series of stories about outstanding Oregon-based artists to follow on Instagram. The series focuses on accounts that are regularly updated with engaging content and high-quality images that allow followers to enjoy artwork regardless of location. Curated by the artists themselves, Instagram accounts offer a relaxed opportunity to view completed and in-progress artwork and to get a glimpse into the artists’ ideas, process, and studio practices.

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In his 1911 book Concerning the Spiritual in Art, painter Vasily Kandinsky wrote, “Color is a power which directly influences the soul.” Kandinsky was attempting to craft a theory of art, a philosophical rumination that considered how formal elements—things like line, space, texture, and color—could create an expression that would resonate with viewers. Like so many before and after him, Kandinsky was trying to articulate something that we know intuitively: color engages not only our senses, but also our emotions.

The Instagram accounts of Meghan NutMeg, Ernesto Aguilar, and Don Bailey draw viewers in through their irresistible profusion of color.  We feel something looking at the expansive skies in NutMeg’s landscapes, the pulsing patterns of color in Aguilar’s digital abstractions, and the vibrant synergy between past and present in Don Bailey’s oil paintings. Across all three artistic practices, color creates movement and vitality that gives the work its emotive and expressive power.

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Fire birds: Sweet!

Cynthia Longhat-Adams, whose avian art will be featured at the Lincoln City Cultural Center, says she was drawn to pyrography because she loves problem-solving

The Lincoln City Cultural Center takes wing Friday when its annual bird-themed show, …a thing with feathers, opens with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. in the PJ Chessman Gallery. Visitors – wearing masks and practicing social distancing – can visit the gallery from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Tuesday.

Featured artists in the show are sculptor and painter Robert Schlegel; painter, sculptor and printmaker Marilyn Burkhardt; multimedia artist Cheri Aldrich; and, working in a medium many may not be familiar with, pyrographer — or fire painter — Cynthia Longhat-Adams. Pyrographers use heat and tools to create art on a variety of surfaces, including wood, paper, and glass.

We talked with the Depoe Bay artist about the ancient art and her passion for it. Her comments have been edited for length and clarity.

“Brown Pelican” is among Cynthia Longhat-Adams’ pyrography birds.

Let’s start with the basics. What is pyrography?

Longhat-Adams: It’s very, very ancient. It started in Turkey and Germany. They would take a hot poker out of the fire and draw on wood with it. It’s taken on a new emergence in the 21st century. I’ve been doing it for 15 years.

How did it become your medium of choice?

I’ve been a creator all of my life in many, many mediums. There are new burning tools, basically a pen, that allow a consistent temperature. You couldn’t do the work I do with the old clunky wood-burning tools. I was introduced to these new tools about 15 years ago. The new tools are so much easier to handle; you don’t burn your hand off. It just took my heart. I love everything about it.

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Focusing in Isolation

Portland photographers reflect on their work during the pandemic: Part One

When I think about how the world has changed so fundamentally over the past few months, I find it hard to accept that I won’t suddenly recover from some crazy Alice in Wonderland Syndrome and come out from behind the looking glass. Time and space seem so distorted right now that navigating my way through each day is like moving through a perceptual minefield. And as more recent events seem to have supplanted the pandemic scare, my feelings of fear, sadness and loneliness have lately given way to feelings of anger, outrage and disbelief. 


OREGON IN SHUTDOWN: VOICES FROM THE FRONT


But unlike so many others, I am fortunate. As I remain vigilant about practicing self-isolation, all that is happening now has affected me more emotionally than practically. As a photographer I can still create work, even though the nature of that work has changed since the start of the pandemic. As I continue my photography safely at home, I’ve been wondering how the lockdown has affected other photographers in the community. So I caught up with a few fellow photographers and asked them how the current crisis has influenced their own creative work. The following is the first in a two-part series based on my interviews with ten of Portland’s finest photographers. Today’s report features the work and voices of Ray Bidegain, Jamila Clarke, Jim Fitzgerald, Heidi Kirkpatrick and Angel O’Brien.


RAY BIDEGAIN


Ray Bidegain, “Becoming Invisible”

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