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News & notes: Stapletons on sale, Bartow at the Whitney, ZZ Top, Dolly Parton, Esperanza does Blake, Jewish art

Rounding up the unusual suspects, from a beloved artist's auction to the Britt Festival, a big museum acquisition, a hoot of a concert, a rare poetic collaboration, and contemporary Jewish art.

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The late Portland actor, designer, and visual artist Tim Stapleton, in his studio.

Tim Stapleton died in 2020 from the effects of ALS, but his memory, and much of his artwork, live on. Stapleton, born and raised in Kentucky coal-mining country, became known and beloved in Portland as an imaginative stage designer, a talented writer of reminiscences, an occasional (very good) actor, and a highly skilled visual artist whose paintings often reflected the coal-mining town and people of his childhood.

Marty Hughley wrote two good recollections of Stapleton for ArtsWatch: Tim Stapleton: A good man passes on, and Farewell to the tangerine window. A third story, Tim & Samie: A rare partnership, tells the tale of Stapleton’s late-life collaboration with his friend and studio assistant, Samie Jo Pfeifer, who became in a sense his hands as ALS sapped the strength of his own. Pfeifer painted canvases as he directed her, and together they created a whole new approach to his art, moving it from bold representation to fluid abstractions.

Now Pfeifer and other friends of Tim have organized an online auction of many of his old works – paintings, mixed media, sketches and drawings, stage designs, coal country photographs – to help realize Stapleton’s dream of establishing a scholarship in art education for one or more young artist at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology on the northern Oregon coast. You can see the artwork, and maybe put in a bid or two, here.

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Rick Bartow, “Autobiographical Hawk,” 1991. Pastel and graphite on paper, 47 x 69 inches. It’s one of four works by the late Oregon artist just added to the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

THE WORK OF RICK BARTOW, the late, great Oregon Wyot artist whose contemporary paintings, drawings, and sculptures drew on both his Indigenous identity and the work of European artists such as Egon Schiele and Odilon Redon, has been seen, and collected, in many places, including more than a hundred museums and other public collections. Now, according to a release from the Richard Bartow Trust, one of those places is the Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York. The Whitney has added four pieces – Daydream, Autobiographical Hawk, Coyote Going, and Self in Monet’s Hat – to its permanent collections.

Bartow, who died in 2016 of congestive heart failure at age 69, was known and revered for works that often called on transformation tales – human to bird or beast, or the other way around, or somewhere between – and that also often seemed to invoke the spirit of Coyote, the Trickster. He was also an accomplished guitarist and singer-songwriter. You can read Jordan Essoe’s recent story for ArtsWatch about The Bartow Project, a series of films based on Bartow’s art and work; and this ArtsWatch appreciation published shortly after his death. And you can see much of Bartow’s work at his Portland gallery, Froelick Gallery.

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ZZ TOP DOES JACKSONVILLE – and that’s only the beginning. The Britt Music & Arts Festival is celebrating its 60th anniversary in the southern Oregon gold rush town of Jacksonville, and things are kicking off this Sunday, June 5, with a visit from old-time rockers ZZ Top. (An accompanying photo reveals that one of the current lineup is NOT wearing a white beard down halfway to his navel.) Sarah McLachlan follows up on June 12, and Nora Jones’s concert on the 22nd is already sold out.

There’ll be plenty more through September 11 (check the link for the full schedule), including the classical season with the Britt Festival Orchestra, June 17-July 3. The Britt Festival, plagued the past couple of years by intense fire and smoke during its high season (as the nearby Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland also has been), moved its calendar up a few weeks to try to avoid fire season.

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DOLLY PARTON HOOT NIGHT. And a hoot it’s likely to be. Siren Nation’s 16th annual celebration of all things Dolly will be this Saturday, June 4, at Northeast Portland’s Alberta Rose Theatre. Seven Portland musicians and groups – Alexa Wiley, the Gerle Haggard Band (good name), Lindsie Feathers, Miss Iris, Tara Velarde, The Apricots, White Bike – will be “singing their hearts out for the love of Dolly.”

Dolly’s popularity across genres and her iconic status in American culture are deep-rooted. A cross of Mae West and Will Rogers with a dash of Doris Day, she is also entirely her own, an entertainer of immense good will. At a time when the Savonarolas of school libraries are scouring the shelves with their little lists of bad things and banning books left, right, and upside down, Dolly just keeps giving away books by the thousands to kids, encouraging them to for heaven’s sake open up their minds and read – all of which helps make this show seem just what Dr. John ordered.

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William Blake, Esperanza Spalding, and “The Fly.”

ESPERANZA DOES BLAKE. An old friend, Wally Oyen, passes this one along. It’s short and more than sweet, an artistic collaboration that spans centuries. Esperanza Spalding, the terrific Portland-raised bassist and jazz singer, performs a setting of the great poet William Blake’s The Fly, originally published in his 1794 Songs of Experience (the companion piece to his Songs of Innocence). As befits both Blake and Spalding, the sound is singular and softly haunting. The performance was picked up here on the web page The Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings) and is well worth a quick click and a good listen.

Sponsor
Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festival Portland Oregon

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ART AND JUDAISM. You might not guess it looking at a lot of contemporary art, but historically, art and religion are deeply entwined. For centuries in Europe, as state and Christian church were expanding their cultural dominion, art and religion were virtually inseparable. And a great deal of Indigenous art from around the world is notable for a spiritual worldview that goes deeper than the word “religion” can describe.

Art and the Jewish world are longtime partners, too, and this month in Portland there’s plenty to see. While the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education opens an extensive new exhibition of the works of Judy Chicago (see Laurel Reed Pavic’s ArtsWatch review), an intriguing new look at contemporary Jewish art is opening at the Eastside Jewish Commons, 2420 N.E. Sandy Blvd. in Portland.

Called From the Ground Up, it’s a showcase of work by ten Portland Jewish artists following several months of immersion in the ancient texts and Jewish identity as part of a fellowship program called Art/Lab, which in turn is part of the “next generation” group Co/Lab: Reimagine Jewish, led by Rabbi Joshua Rose.

What does it mean to be a contemporary Jewish artist? Artists Michelle Alany, Justin Carroll, Rebecca Clarren, Jennifer Gwirtz, Amy Leona Havin (who is also ArtsWatch’s literary arts columnist), Daniela Molnar, Jessica Rehfield, Sonya Sanford, Leila Wice, and Ahuva Zaslasky explore the possibilities through June 12, with an opening celebration at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 2.

Senior Editor

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."

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