VISUAL ART

Empowerment and impermanence: making a mandala in Newport

The touring monks of Gaden Shartse Monastery in India will spend six days sharing Buddhist teachings and raising funds for the Tibetan culture in exile

As a photographer and communications consultant for nonprofits, Tripp Mikich worked for more than a decade with Tibetan monks touring the United States. He assumed that work was finished when he moved recently to Lincoln City. But while he was visiting his hometown of Placerville, Calif., over Christmas,  he went to view a sand mandala made by the monks of Gaden Shartse Monastery in India.

The monks offhandedly mentioned they were going to be in Newport. His response: “‘Are you serious?’ It was a happy surprise to find out they were coming to my new backyard.”

Mikich, who says his own practice is rooted in the tradition of Vietnamese zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, is working with the Gaden Shartse monks to share information about their visit March 12-17. The Gaden Shartse Monastic College was founded in the 15th century in Tibet. When China invaded that country in 1949, Gaden Shartse survivors fled to India and eventually started a new monastery. The monks are on a two-year tour to share Tibetan culture with Americans with stops in Florida, New Hampshire, Los Angeles, Seattle, Nebraska, and the Oregon Coast.

Shanu, youngest of the Gaden Shartse Tibetan monks on the tour, works on a Manjushri Sand Mandala. The thin funnel in his hand is called a "chakpur" and is especially made for this task. A thin metal stick is used to "ratchet" or vibrate the funnel so it sends a controlled, thin stream of sand in fine lines to make the details and background colors. Rather than being laid "flat," the sand is fact mounded into ridges and troughs, creating a brocade-like effect. Photo by: Tripp Mikich

Shanu, youngest of the Gaden Shartse Tibetan monks on the tour, works on a Manjushri sand mandala. The thin funnel in his hand, called a chakpur, is especially made for this task. A thin metal stick is used to “ratchet” or vibrate the funnel so it sends a controlled, thin stream of sand in fine lines to make the details and background colors. Rather than being laid flat, the sand is mounded into ridges and troughs, creating a brocade-like effect. Photo by: Tripp Mikich

During their six days in Newport, they’ll offer public talks and host Tibetan Buddhist sacred rituals and ceremonies, as well as two family-friendly, all-ages workshops on Tibetan butter sculpture, Tibetan calligraphy, and the making of sand mandalas.

Continues…

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.

Continues…

In like a lion: March VizArts Monthly

A round-up of new shows at spaces big and small

Spring is creeping up on us between snowstorms, and new work and some big announcements (good and bad) are blossoming all over town. The big story last month was the Oregon College of Art and Craft closing its doors. In happier news, Tannaz Farsi was named the 2019 Bonnie Bronson Fellow. If you’d like to see what artists get up to on local residencies you can check out the Leland Ironworks 2018 residency show this First Thursday at PNCA. While you’re out, you can catch exciting new shows at Upfor, Williamson Knight, the Oregon Jewish Museum, and more.

Che Guevara by Alberto Korda

Korda Y El Espíritu De La Revolución Cubana (Korda and the Spirit of the Cuban Revolution)

Through July 21, 2019

Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
1420 Johnson Lane
University of Oregon Campus, Eugene OR

Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez was better known as Alberto Korda or simply “Korda” when he took the photograph of Che Guevara that can now be found on countless T-shirts and posters. This romantic image of the revolutionary is considered to be one of the most reproduced images in history. Though he received almost no royalties for the constant unauthorized reproduction of his iconic image, Korda’s photography career continued to flourish in Cuba. He is also known for an iconic portrait of Fidel Castro. The Guevara portrait is on display as well as many other vintage prints published by Havana’s Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa, and Latin America (OSPAAAL). All confirm Korda’s enduring influence on Cuban art and artists.

 

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme: We know what it is for, we who have used it

Installation View, We know what it is for, we who have used it

We know what it is for, we who have used it: Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme

Through April 7, 2019
Disjecta
8371 N Interstate Avenue

This new, multi-media exhibition by Palestinian artist duo Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme confronts the imagery and effects of violence, cultural erasure, and the art of resistance. Using Adrienne Rich’s poem, Diving into the Wreck (1971–72), as a “script,” this research-based project looks at the history of sites of disaster and violence as well as personal histories to search for evidence of what can be salvaged from destruction. Abbas and Abou-Rahme traveled to Palestinian villages in Israel that were destroyed in 1948 to ask what happened to the people, places, and things that were destroyed and displaced. This exhibit extends their project And yet my mask is powerful which began in 2014 when the artists first encountered Neolithic masks exhibited at the Israel Museum. These 9,000 year old masks are the oldest known masks at the time of writing. Abbas and Abou-Rahme created 3D printed reproductions of these masks and photographed Palestinian youths wearing them at locations in Palestine that have been destroyed by conflict or occupation. This promises to be a conceptually-deep and affecting show.

M. Acuff

Image from M. Acuff

Polyglot Plume: M. Acuff

Through March 31
Carnation Contemporary
8371 N Interstate Ave

This show of gallery member M. Acuff examines “the slow, invasive, inescapable violence of capitalist-driven climate change.” Interested in contradictory images and materials, Acuff wants to convey aspects of climate change that can’t be truly visualized – the scale and widespread effects of industrial development, chemical contamination of the environment, and habitat loss. Carnation Contemporary describes this work as “bearing witness to the remote forces of our common ruination.”

Chris Mullins

All Parts – Chris Mullins

Behavior: Chris Mullins

Through Mar 23
Opening Reception Thurs, March 7th 5:00–8:00pm
Caplan Art Designs
1323 NW 16th Ave #1001

PNCA alumnus Chris Mullins makes densely layered, often meditative paintings that hint at landscape and a sense of space along the lines of James Lavadour. This show of new paintings represent Mullins’ recent work with poured paint, a technique that makes way for more accident and less of the artist’s hand in the surface. Noting that no painter can be prepared for “every contingency,” Mullins says “the fun then is in allowing for the emergence of simple relationships.” This often leads to what he calls “a submerging of oneself” making the resulting images more aligned with “behavior” than selfhood.

Breadfruit - Alika Cooper

Breadfruit – Alika Cooper

Wabi Sabi Lobby: Alika Cooper and Eric Wesley

Through April 13
Private Places
2400 NE Holladay Street

This small, strange, but affecting show in one of Portland’s more hidden art spaces features a work of complex fabric art by Alika Cooper and sculpture by Eric Wesley. Located in a shared studio in an industrial neighborhood, Private Places may be difficult to find for new visitors (instructions on their site say to ring the doorbell for Holladay Studios) but this project curated by local artist Bobbi Woods is worth checking out for anyone interested in the current wave of independent art spaces in town.

Thank You - Mel Bochner

Thank You – Mel Bochner

Enough Said: Mel Bochner

March 7 – May 26, 2019
Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education
724 NW Davis Street

A colorful, fun, and insightful major exhibition by acclaimed American Jewish conceptual artist and painter Mel Bochner. This exhibit draws from the collection of Jordan Schnitzer and highlights the ways that Bochner has visually explored the forms of language as well as its meaning. Editioned prints and unique pieces display Bochner’s skillful, complex printmaking techniques as well as his bombastic usage of words and letters. Colorful graphics wrapping the museum’s windows shout their message from across the Park Blocks, making this one hard to overlook.

Ulama Ule Alley Oop - Ronny Quevedo

Ulama Ule Alley Oop – Ronny Quevedo

Ronny Quevedo

March 7 – April 27
Upfor
929 Nw Flanders St

Working in multiple mediums, Ecuadorian artist Quevedo “posits profound interconnections between the circular movements engendered by sport and the expansive pathways forged by the artist’s personal migration story from Ecuador to the Bronx,” according to Hyperallergic. The result is a show of energetic drawings, diagrams, and otherwise assembled images that harvest the designs of basketball courts and other seemingly-abstract sports iconography.

 

Still from Mickalene Thomas, Do I Look Like a Lady

Still from Mickalene Thomas, Do I Look Like a Lady

Do I Look Like a Lady? (Comedians and Singers): Mickalene Thomas

March 9 – August 31
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR 97205

This exhibition highlights the recently-acquired video installation by internationally renowned artist and former-Portlander, Mickalene Thomas. Thomas has said that a 1994 exhibition featuring Carrie Mae Weems was a crucial moment in her development as an artist.
This powerful, high-energy video collage of performances by African-American actors and singers throughout the 20th century engages with themes of beauty, identity, and representation while celebrating the individual voices of performers including Jackie “Moms” Mabley, Eartha Kitt, Whoopi Goldberg, and Whitney Houston.

Image via Dan Paz

The sun never knew how great it was until it struck the side of a building: Dan Paz

March 7 – April 13
Opening reception 6 – 8pm, March 7
Williamson | Knight Gallery
916 NW Flanders St

Taking its title from a quote by the architect Louis Khan, this solo show by Dan Paz curated by Yaelle Amir explores the role that light has played in the oppression of historically marginalized individuals. Williamson | Knight describe it as an examination of “how light is manipulated in carceral environments to craft a controlled collective space.” Including video, sculpture and performance, the show “demonstrates different methods of performing in, modifying, and refracting light to uncover how psychological and physical development is affected by lightness and darkness,” which is something those of us living near the 45th Parallel should understand well.

Commentary: How dead is OCAC?

It's Craft Spring as various groups mobilize to keep Oregon College of Art and Craft alive

What happens when you try to close the debate before the debate ever gets started? At this point the Oregon College of Art and Craft board is starting to find that out.

During the week since my last commentary on the OCAC board’s decision to close the college and sell the campus, a lot has happened, much of it in the form of good, old-fashioned community organizing and behind-the-scenes negotiating. Of course, you don’t have to look far on social media to detect some anger and vitriol, too.

The primary center of popular opposition to OCAC’s plan to close happens to be… Friends of OCAC, which was started in December “to share the importance of this historic and celebrated institution with a new generation of Portlanders through events and projects designed to connect, support, and grow the widespread OCAC community,” according to its website.

Friends of OCAC has asked its supporters to sign a letter that invites the OCAC board to come to a town hall to discuss OCAC’s financial situation and do some “constructive brainstorming” to support the school and its programs. The group suggests Monday, February 25. OCAC agreed to a much smaller meeting this weekend (or maybe even today) with a few representatives from the Friends, the faculty and the board.

The February 20 protest against the OCAC’s decision to sell the campus and shut the college without significant debate within the OCAC community.

I was drawn to a couple of sentences that support the idea that transparency (or democracy or whatever you choose to call it) has been a problem at OCAC and suggests a way to remedy that problem.

“Over the past few years, and especially during the merger and closure decision-making processes, the extended members of the community have felt left out of the information loop. Friends of OCAC wishes to address these concerns by connecting OCAC’s extended network back to the school, inviting them home and making them feel welcome.”

The first five signatories on the letter are Dakotah Fitzhugh (community member), Mardy Widman (a much beloved former OCAC staffer), Judilee Fitzhugh (OCAC alum and an adjunct faculty member in the fibers department), Marilyn Zornado (Extension program instructor), and Georgiana Nehl (drawing/painting and foundations professor emerita). And then more than 1,000 names follow, many of them well-known former students, faculty members, staffers and active arts supporters. When I look over the list, I think, “These people are enough to prove the viability of OCAC in some form or another going forward, just by themselves.” They are still taking names, so you can join this august group yourself. All your asking for is an open discussion about the future of the college.

Generally, the signatories give their name and their relationship to OCAC. I quite enjoyed the connection that Shay Gallegos offered: “I have a friend that has gone here and it has been incredible in her life. It’s so sad knowing that a great institution like this might close. Please take the time to think of how great it has been for past students as well as hopefully future ones!!” Exactly.

Meanwhile, I’ve been exchanging emails and phone calls with architect and former Portland City Council candidate Stuart Emmons, who has been trying to drum up some interest for OCAC in the city’s philanthropic community. “I really think it can be saved,” he said. “It can be saved and it should be saved.” He’s put together an in-depth strategic plan that leads to solvency over the next three years, and he’s trying to advocate for a some sort of property sale-leaseback plan that will keep the college going while it sorts things out. He thinks that better recruitment of new students, debt delay (the college owes a local bank more than $1 million, he said) and a better approach to fundraising will lead OCAC out of its current situation.

He also thinks that the board should favor proposals that would keep the OCAC campus in the craft education business, an entirely reasonable suggestion. His frustration with OCAC seems to be similar to that of the Friends group—the board doesn’t seem to be open to any other approach than its own. And the board’s approach to it all seems to be tag it, bag it and bury it as swiftly as possible, and then maybe we can forget it. Emmons, though, is like the kid who looks into the coffin and hollers, “Hey, grandpa’s not dead.” And then watches gramps shudder, wheeze and sit bolt-upright to the amazement of all. Or maybe I’ve seen too many movies (“The Shipping News” is a good example of the genre.)

Because how do we know that OCAC is actually dead if the board won’t explain the situation to us? Classes are being taught there even as I type.

Anyway, Emmons has many lines in the stream (just to move my metaphor away from grandpa and his premature burial)—potential buyers of the property or major donors to a re-dedicated college or craft center.

Finally, a large and growing alumni group has emerged and has also petitioned the OCAC board. Here’s the first paragraph of the group’s letter:

“As members of the alumni of the degree programs at the Oregon College of Art and Craft, together with the greater OCAC community, we have been devastated by the news of the Board of Trustee’s decision to terminate the degree programs at the college. We are further alarmed by rumors of the rapid pace with which steps are being taken to entertain offers to sell the campus or otherwise dismantle this incredible institution. As critical stakeholders in the make-up of the college, we urge you to delay any decisions that would bring about a permanent end to OCAC. Instead, we appeal to you to partner with us and other important stakeholders of the college to explore alternative solutions to the current crisis.”

And the group has an additional request. “Before it is too late, please give us the necessary time to bring new calls for support to potential donors, to civic and cultural leaders and to the greater Portland community. We also request that an alumni representative not serving on the Board be in attendance during the presentation of any offers to purchase the college or the property.”

The names on the petition, like the Friends list, is full of artists, many of them recent OCAC graduates.

Will the resisters triumph? In a way, they already have, because they are reminding us of important lessons we learned and perhaps forgot, or lessons we never learned and should have—lessons that have to do with working together for the common good.

Recital runs from Copland to ‘Monet paintings in sonic form’

Flutist Abigail Sperling, recent winner of an Oregon Arts Commission fellowship, will perform Feb. 28 at Linfield College

Abigail Sperling is everywhere.

That’s the impression one gets from her official biography. At Linfield College in McMinnville, she’s a flute professor. She is also coordinator for winds and percussion and flute instructor at Chemeketa Community College in Salem. In Corvallis, she’s a guest lecturer at Oregon State University. She also plays, including for OSU’s Music a la Carte, for the Corvallis-based Chintimini Chamber Music Festival, and as a substitute in the Oregon Symphony.

“I have been lucky to travel for my studies and performances and be part of the amazing regional, national, and international flute community,” Sperling said. “It’s typical for someone at my career stage to be doing this sort of hustle, I think.”

Abigail Sperling, flute instructor at Linfield College in McMinnville, has been named a 2019 Fellow by the Oregon Arts Commission. Photo courtesy: Linfield College

However, the occasion for this feature isn’t to marvel at Sperling’s resume but to note two significant events in her professional life. She has a recital coming up next week, and it will feature some intriguing works that we’ll explore shortly.

First, let’s talk Oregon Arts Commission. Last week, the statewide nonprofit announced a batch of fellowships, and Sperling was among those who scored. She’ll receive $3,000 to commission a new piece of music for flute and piano. Taking on the task will be a Linfield colleague and composer, Andrea Reinkemeyer, an assistant professor of music composition and theory.

“When I started working at the college, she sent me a recording of her work Wrought Iron for flute and percussion,” Sperling said of Reinkemeyer. “I sat down and listened to it and was really impressed. I remember thinking, ‘Now here’s someone who really knows what she’s doing.’ I wouldn’t say I was surprised, but it was super cool to hear something she had written for flute.”

Continues…

Racism through the eyes of the oppressors

Artist Anne Mavor's installation in Newport uses self-portraits and stories of her ancestors to explore identity, privilege, and white supremacy

When Portland artist Anne Mavor attended a meeting a few years ago to learn about Native Liberation, the movement to free native peoples from capitalism and colonialism, she was already thinking about collaborating with a Native American on a project. But after hearing the speaker’s thoughts, she changed her mind.

Anne Mavor’s portrait depicts the artist in her studio.

“The speaker said, ‘White people need to go and find your people, you need to discover who they are.’ As soon as she said that, I realized I was off track,” Mavor said. “I was just another white person hanging on the coattails of Native America. I asked myself, what would it look like if I claimed my white heritage?”

Her answer, I Am My White Ancestors: Claiming the Legacy of Oppression, is on exhibit through Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Newport Visual Arts Center. Mavor’s installation includes 13 life-size photographic self-portraits printed on fabric panels, each accompanied by audio and written narratives from the perspective of each character. The exhibit invites people to approach and understand racism and related oppressions from a historical and personal perspective.

Mavor, a Portland artist whose work ranges from painting to photography to book arts, hoped that in studying and portraying her ancestors, many of whom she already knew about through family genealogy research, she might learn more about herself.

Continues…

Catching up with art critic Chris Kraus in Portland

The local connections of the Los Angeles-based critic were on the surface during her January visit to PNCA

By SHAWNA LIPTON

Chris Kraus is a prolific Los Angeles-based writer, art critic, and editor, but her latest collection of writing published by Semiotext(e) in 2018, Social Practices, has an origin story linking it to Portland, Oregon.

The seed of the book was a piece called “Kelly Lake Store and Other Stories” composed when Stephanie Snyder, the curator of Reed College’s Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, asked Kraus to contribute a monograph to the gallery’s Companion Editions series. “Kelly Lake Store” includes a rejected application for a Guggenheim Fellowship requesting funds to operate a general store staffed by art students in a remote small town. Kraus was earnest in her desire to provide the town with such a store, but the application was also satirical, in that she does not really view such an undertaking as “social practice art.”

The title of Social Practices is similarly tongue in cheek. Kraus is skeptical of what is called social practice art, wondering why students would go to art school to pursue what might otherwise be considered hobbies or trades such as gardening or cooking. She is critical of the industry that has grown up around MFA programs and their centrality in the LA-art scene. She contends that not every occupation needs an art degree to grant it legitimacy.

Chris Kraus, Social Practices, Semiotext(e), 2018
ISBN: 9781635900392

However, I am not sure if this thesis truly comes through in the book, or if it has been imposed retroactively as a talking point in order to provide a through line for this eclectic mix of writings, mostly composed of catalogue essays and other short works of Kraus’s art criticism commissioned over the past 13 years. Some of the artworks and events she responds to took place even earlier, and she did not make editorial revisions to the pieces since their original publication, except in cases where they had been altered from her original intent.

Art critic Chris Kraus gave a public talk at PNCA earlier this month/Photograph by Matthew Bowers

Although “Kelly Lake Store and Other Stories” contains her personal joke about opening a rural general store on Guggenheim’s dime in the name of parodying social practice art, the book also contains many examples of socially-engaged and community-based art she finds profoundly meaningful. One example is the artist and “debt resistor” Thomas Gokey’s “Rolling Jubilee” established in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, which purchased defaulted debt on the secondary market and forgave it as a liberatory political act.

This is where Kraus’s art writing shines, in her intellectual excitement and enjoyment of subversive, politically engaged art and creative work. Kraus excels, not just at satirizing works she finds pretentious and self-important, but at writing about things she takes pleasure in, including work by her own friends, produced in communities she is a part of, proving a critic does not only need to “critique” but can also channel and communicate the spirit of the work using her own formidable literary talent.

Continues…