Enigmatic “Theory of Nothing” proffers a peaceful place to be

Adam Rupniewski’s installation in the Art Harvest Studio Tour combines sculpture, music, and poetry for a must-see experience

The 26th annual Art Harvest Studio Tour of Yamhill County is now live, and for those who missed out on the first weekend, take heart: It goes three more days, and this weekend’s weather looks picture perfect, with sunny days and highs in the low 70s. That means lots of crispy orange and yellow leaves swishing at your feet as you hike through wine country meeting our amazing artists.

These calls are subjective, of course, and while studio tours inevitably feature at least one artist who has “must-see” work on display, Adam Rupniewski’s Theory of Nothing installation, tucked away in a second-floor ballroom in downtown McMinnville, is so wildly unique that you really must see it. Trust me, Mac has more than a dozen artists on this countywide tour, so you can’t go wrong by starting your travels downtown on Third Street, where book artist Marilyn Worrix’s sprawling upstairs apartment hosts several artists, including Rupniewski.

From Adam Rupniewski’s “Physiology of Dreams” collection, “Mona Linda,” oil pastel on paper, is one of many pieces on display as the Art Harvest Studio Tour of Yamhill County continues Oct. 12-14.

Rupniewski was born in Poland in 1958 and emigrated with his then-wife and baby son after that country’s martial law expired in July 1983. He lived in several European nations before coming to Oregon in 1986, sponsored by the Presbyterian Church in Portland. He earned his MFA in 1998 from Portland State University, which is where he first showed Theory of Nothing.

Before arriving at the exhibit’s latest incarnation, the viewer traverses a long, wide hallway displaying Rupniewski’s Physiology of Dreams cycle (nearly all works in oil pastel on paper). The cycle was inspired by two unusual dreams, one from a period of seclusion in the Massif Central mountains of Ardèche, France, and the second from a week-long film festival featuring work by the remarkable Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. Rupniewski elaborates in his artist’s statement:

“In each period for a few days nearly every morning I was balancing on that border between the dreaming and waking states, I would see different combinations of paintings and often some reminiscence from Tarkovsky’s movies in combination with some art work, including Rembrandt’s paintings … his self-portraits. And entire compositions poured from this state … abstract, yet with tangible imagery flickering in them. The images that you want to keep, a taste of something that you like … fades … you still remember some logic of your dream … but even this is evaporating.”

Although individual pieces in “Theory of Nothing” do not display titles because they work collectively, this (by itself) is called “The Heart of the Light.” Photo courtesy of the artist.

After I visited the Theory of Nothing installation and chatted with the artist, we exchanged emails, and I told him that I was worried I wouldn’t find words to do it justice. Rupniewski paints, sculpts, writes poetry, makes music, and arranges all these elements into a beautiful, calming whole that defies easy description. The centerpiece, on the floor, consists of 81 steel and hydrostone tiles with impressions from the streets of Portland. Around the periphery are hints of global traditions and history: screen tiles with a distinctly Japanese look; egg imagery; a concentration camp. The wall features etchings of Rupniewski’s poetry (I found Grace particularly moving). It’s all bathed in soothing purple light and the artist’s own aural design — music he created and mixed that has hints of both indigenous and industrial worlds. It’s not something merely to look at, it’s a space to be in. As with so much art, what you get from it, I suspect, depends largely on what you bring to it.

The installation is his “artistic exploration of space within as defined by the Hindu word Akasha, and the space out there that was investigated and defined during the Renaissance to give birth to linear, or scientific, perspective,” he writes in a brief explanation of the work. “The installation is a metaphor for the Christian concept of Rapture or the state captured by the Hindu term Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi.”

“It is not about words,” he adds. “But the space between them. It is about you — the real you beyond words and descriptions.”

Which explains, I suppose, my feeling that any attempt to describe this space would fall far short. I took no photos; with my cheap phone-camera and the lighting, they wouldn’t have turned out anyway, and even with a good camera, any single image would capture only a sliver of the whole. Rupniewski later sent me a few photos but lamented that “they are not the best.” I agreed that they didn’t really capture it. Which is why, as I said, you simply must see it.

But don’t stop there. Rupniewski is one of three artists at 516 N.E. Third St.; Worrix has plenty of her amazing hand-crafted books on display just a few steps away from the work space where she makes them. Paper carver Doug Roy is also here, and I guarantee you’ll find yourself getting as close as you can to his pieces so you can marvel at the detail.

From there, hit the road: You’ll find more than 40 artists in McMinnville, Newberg, Amity, Dundee, Carlton, Yamhill, Sheridan, and Willamina. There’s something for everyone: watercolor, oil, acrylic, bronze, copper, steel, glass, stone, pastels, charcoal, silver, wood, paper, clay, fiber, tiles, beeswax, digital, and mixed media. Eight dollars gets you in everywhere all weekend. So visit the website and map out your own artwalk.

Lance Nuttman (left), Beth Sobo Turk and Steve Cox star in “The God Game,” which opens Friday at Gallery Players of Oregon in McMinnville.

WE’VE LONG SINCE PASSED the point where it’s safe to talk politics and religion in mixed company, so it’s intriguing and exciting that my home court theater, Gallery Players of Oregon, is doing just that. Suzanne Bradbeer’s play The God Game, opens Friday in McMinnville for a four-weekend run. Marla Nuttman directs, with her husband, Lance Nuttman, and Beth Sobo Turk and Steve Cox rounding out the cast.

Lance Nuttman (who recently played Winston in Pentacle Theater’s production of Nineteen Eighty-Four) plays a Republican senator whose wife (Sobo Turk) is a devout Christian. They are about to celebrate 20 years of marriage when a visitor arrives: the gay and agnostic campaign manager (Cox) of the GOP’s Republican presidential nominee, who offers the senator the VP spot on the ticket. Clearly, they have things to talk about.

Photography by Joel Zak, such as “Step into the Boat,” is featured at The Gallery at Ten Oaks in McMinnville through Dec. 2. A reception for Zak is Saturday.

ONE DAY LATER, The Gallery at Ten Oaks in McMinnville will hold a reception for Joel Zak of Salem, whose photography will be showcased on the gallery’s main floor through Dec. 2. Light appetizers will be provided at the reception, and beverages of the sort one would find in wine country will be available for purchase. The reception is 3 to 6 p.m. Oct. 13 at 801 S.W. Baker St.

Author R.O. Kwon reads from her work Tuesday at Linfield College.

FINALLY, R.O. KWON FANS TAKE NOTE: The author of what the New York Times called a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 will read from her work at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, in Linfield College’s Nicholson Library. Kwon’s debut novel, The Incendiaries, focuses on the dynamic of religion, violence, and love through the perspectives of two college students attending an American university. Kwon was born in Seoul and raised in Los Angeles. She received her bachelor’s degree from Yale University and her master’s from Brooklyn College. Her writing has also appeared in The Guardian, Vice, BuzzFeed, Noon, Time, Electric Literature, Playboy and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others. The presentation is free and open to the public.

ART JOURNAL: My obsession of the moment (Stanley Kubrick) continued to play out this week with progress made in Michael Benson’s book Space Odyssey, which is about Kubrick’s collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke, as well as another viewing of the film, interrupted by pauses (which Kubrick surely would have frowned on) to take notes. But my in-house highlight of the week was watching Tony Zierra’s wonderful documentary, Filmworker. It’s about Leon Vitali, the British actor Kubrick featured in Barry Lyndon as the title character’s stepson. Vitali spent the rest of the late director’s life as his extraordinarily loyal (and overworked) assistant. Informative, enlightening, and at times poignant. If you love Kubrick’s films (or just movies in general) you need to see this one.

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