ArtsWatch writers spent a lot of time in museums and galleries during 2022, looking at exhibitions large and small, familiar and unexpected, historical and contemporary and cutting-edge. They visited studios, talked with artists, tracked the multiple forms and faces of Northwest visual art.
It’s been a year of loss, too, with the deaths of several prominent people in Oregon’s art world: painter Gregory Grenon, sculptor Lee Kelly, painter and printmaker George Johanson, art space developer Jim Winkler, art residency founder Matt Jay, and gallery owner Michael Parsons.
2022: THE CULTURAL YEAR IN REVIEW
A sampling of what our writers discovered:
Feb. 14: Grieving Julie Green: “I paint to point.” Sarah Sentilles meditates on art and grief by remembering the life and work of artist Julie Green, the Oregon artist and Oregon State University professor who died in October 2021 and was known for her decades-long project The Last Supper, in which she depicted the last meals of Death Row inmates on ceramic plates.
Feb. 15: Ward Shortridge at Blue Sky Gallery. Shortridge, Blake Edwards writes, had a knack for capturing people authentically and generously. His photographs in the Blue Sky Gallery exhibit Beauty That Thrives Under the Ravages of Time showcased his ability to “see right into people’s hearts.”
Feb. 25: Pat Boas at Oregon Contemporary. Patrick Collier reflects on the glories of Boas’ abstract wallpaper and painting installation: “I am thrown back to my grandparents’ house where I took pleasure in appreciating the symmetry and mirroring of repeated patterning in their 1950s fiberglass curtains. The effect here is similar, except Boas’ wall vibrates, and like high voltage, crackles and hums. It crawls, slithers, and hypnotizes.”
March 8: Arvie Smith show demands you straighten up your spine and look. David Bates tells the tale of the eminent Portland artist’s often satiric paintings of American history, culture, and racial injustice, and of how Salem’s Hallie Ford Museum of Art gathered paintings for the exhibit from around the country.
March 25: Frida Kahlo, off the conveyer belt. Christopher Gonzelez visited the Portland Art Museum’s big exhibit of work by Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and the Mexican modernists and decided that the best way to take it in was to not go with the flow of the crowd, but to set his own pace, making his own discoveries on his own terms.
May 4: BANKSYLAND: Where nothing is as it seems. The unauthorized exhibition spotlighting the pseudonymous street artist and activist debuted in Portland and moved on for a multi-city run. Banksy’s relationship to the art, Jennifer Rabin, writes, is as murky as the role of the show’s organizers. This is one of ArtsWatch’s most-read stories of the year.
June 7: Pace Taylor at Nationale. Taylor’s show Breathe when you need to explored the concept of masking through portraits. Hannah Krafcik visited the artist in their studio to learn more about the works’ multilayered inspiration.
June 12: Lauren Carrera: On beyond Victorians. Bob Hicks writes about the making of the Portland artist’s installation Museo du Profundo Mundo at the Newport Visual Arts Center, a show that reimagined the curiosities and collections of natural history museums.
June 24: The promise of “Opacity.” Lucy Cotter considers Takahiro Yamamoto’s quietly stunning blend of visual art and dance at the Portland Art Museum, a five-hour work that “inhabits the fertile middle-ground between performance art and dance.” In Reflections on “Opacity” at PAM, dancer and ArtsWatch writer Hannah Krafcik visits the work and talks with its creator.
July 15: Downtown Portland: Michelangelo v. dinosaurs. In an accidental smackdown of extravaganzas, a touring exhibition of reproductions of works by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel and elsewhere was showing just a block from Mike Bennet’s Dinolandia, an unassuming but joyous ode to the critters of yore. All in all, Laurel Reed Pavic preferred the playfulness of the dino show.
July 18: Loss, Memory & Connection at the Reser. Beth Sorenson reflects on the new Beaverton arts center’s ambitious exhibitions Invisibilia and 1,000 Moons, which explored Asian heritage and the legacy of Japanese American incarceration camps.
July 31: Ruth Ross: Red Scare, Ripped Threads. In words and photographs, Friderike Heuer relates the stories behind the Portland artist’s show at Gallery 114 of fabric collages, cyanotype photography and embroidery, an exhibit that dealt in fascinating ways with childhood trauma, family history, the Rosenberg spy trial, and the excesses of the 1950s McCarthy era.
Sept. 15: A sculpture to celebrate Louis Southworth. Ester Barker tells the story of Eugene sculptor Pete Helzer and his shaping of a life-sized bronze sculpture of Southworth (1830-1917), fiddle in hand, a man born to slavery in Tennessee who moved to Oregon and bought his freedom with money earned from playing his fiddle at dances and working in the mines. He became a major figure in the coastal town of Waldport, and the statue is a centerpiece of the town’s new 12-acre park.
Oct. 17: Guardino Gallery’s day of coming alive. Beth Sorenson profiles Donna Guardino and her eclectic and approachable gallery, which in its 25 years has helped spur a renaissance in a once moribund part of the city. “I don’t want to be pegged as just doing abstract or just big works,” Guardino tells Sorenson. “I wanted art that was accessible and affordable.”
Oct. 25: Elizabeth Leach Gallery at 40. Laurel Reed Pavic talks with gallery owner Leach, and considers the gallery’s impact on Portland’s art scene: “The focus on bringing national artists to Portland, on situating local artists in a national or even international context, and on establishing the city as a cultural hub – that contribution should be undisputed. That Leach has lent her weight and cultural capital to entities like Crow’s Shadow and PICA means that her influence in the city is felt far beyond the blue-chip world.”
Dec. 14: Motoi Yamamoto’s labyrinth of salt. K.B. Dixon photographs Staying in Time, the Japanese solo exhibition at PLACE. Made entirely of salt and meticulously shaped into labyrinthine form, it was a temporary artwork reflecting on the temporary nature of life itself. Once the exhibition was over, the salt was returned to the sea.
Dec. 23: Farmers in the lumber room. The gallery’s show Inheritance spotlights agricultural workers in Ghana with paintings by Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, and Black farmers in America, with remarkable photographs by Ivan McClellan, David Slader writes.