angela allen

A flood of memory, a mosaic of the future

ArtsWatch Weekly: The Vanport Mosaic Festival goes virtual, bringing the legacy of the great flood of 1948 into contemporary Portland

ON MEMORIAL DAY IN 1948 A RAILROAD BERM BURST in the lowlands just south of the Columbia River and north of Portland, sending a swiftly moving wall of water over the edge and inundating the city of Vanport, killing 15 people, leaving 17,500 homeless, and essentially wiping the city off the map. Vanport had been hastily constructed six years before to house workers and their families building warships in the Kaiser shipyards of Portland and Vancouver. At its height it had had a population of 40,000, making it the second-biggest city in Oregon at the time. In the decades since, the disaster has been forgotten by many, lost in the march of “progress” (Delta Park and the Portland International Speedway now sit where Vanport once thrived). For others it’s become an almost mythological touchstone, an emblem of what Portland and Oregon had been and what it would become, especially in its attitudes and actions about race. As Brett Campbell put it in his 2015 review of Rich Rubin’s play Cottonwood in the Flood, which debuted at an early Vanport Mosaic Festival and was set in Vanport in the 1940s, the city became, “along with Celilo Falls, Oregon’s Atlantis.” 

Henk Pander, “Vanport,” watercolor, 40 x 60 inches, from his series of large history paintings of the flood and its aftermath. Pander will be part of the Vanport Mosaic virtual festival in an online conversation, “Painting History,” with Chisao Hata and other artists who have depicted Vanport in their work. Image © Henk Pander 

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Going, going, gone: 2019 in review

A look back at the ups and downs and curious side trips of the year on Oregon's cultural front

What a year, right? End of the teens, start of the ’20s, and who knows if they’ll rattle or roar?

But today we’re looking back, not ahead. Let’s start by getting the big bad news out of the way. One thing’s sure in Oregon arts and cultural circles: 2019’s the year the state’s once-fabled craft scene took another staggering punch square on the chin. The death rattles of the Oregon College of Art and Craft – chronicled deeply by ArtsWatch’s Barry Johnson in a barrage of news stories and analyses spiced with a couple of sharp commentaries, Democracy and the arts and How dead is OCAC? – were heard far and wide, and the college’s demise unleashed a flood of anger and lament.

The crashing and burning of the venerable craft college early in the year followed the equally drawn-out and lamented closure of Portland’s nationally noted Museum of Contemporary Craft in 2016, leaving the state’s lively crafts scene without its two major institutions. In both cases the sense that irreversible decisions were being made with scant public input, let alone input from crafters themselves, left much of the craft community fuming. When, after the closure, ArtsWatch published a piece by the craft college’s former president, Denise Mullen, the fury hit the fan with an outpouring of outraged online comments, most by anonymous posters with obvious connections to the school.

Vanessa German, no admittance apply at office, 2016, mixed media assemblage, 70 x 30 x 16 inches, in the opening exhibit of the new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University. Photo: Spencer Rutledge, courtesy PSU

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ArtsWatch Weekly: Breaking cultural ground in Beaverton

Work begins on the new, $51 million Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, a long-held dream for the city's center-in-the-making

ON A DRY AND CHILLY MORNING, BEAVERTON BROKE GROUND Wednesday on a significant slice of its future. The official groundbreaking of the long-awaited Patricia Reser Center for the Arts drew a big crowd to the site of what’s hoped to be a new city center, at The Round in the Creekside Urban Development District, near a MAX light rail station, City Hall, and Beaverton Creek. The 45,000 square foot arts center, which is expected to open in 2021, puts a huge stamp on the western suburb’s push to re-establish its own identity separate from downtown Portland: As the metropolitan area grows, its cultural and economic scenes expand with it and assert their own identities.

Patricia Reser speaks at Wednesday’s groundbreaking for her namesake public arts center in Beaverton. Photo: Joe Cantrell

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Art on the Road: Colors of India

Angela Allen takes a photographic journey to the world's second most populous nation, discovering a unique sense of color along the way


STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANGELA ALLEN


“Its unique sense of color,” the late Indian photojournalist Raghubir Singh said, was India’s primary cultural contribution. 

Singh was mainly a street photographer who shot color film in the mid- and late-20th century when black and white reigned as the photojournalist’s and art photographer’s choice. He called India “a river of color” and published a book in 1998 with that title. (He died in 1999 at 57.)  He captured the crush of people in a country of 1.06 billion, the streets’ cacophony, the jumble of creaking rickshaws, overflowing buses, unruly motorcycles — and camels. Always, movement is relentless among the saturated colors. Singh’s photos didn’t always have a focal point, in the linear Western way. He went after fluidity and continuity.

When I traveled with a group of photographers last year with our cameras to Rajasthan, Singh’s birthplace in northern India, color and movement were easy to find. Life is forever in motion, though admittedly, I often sought out calm rather than chaos. Some say India is an assault on the senses. Traveling through the country is a sensuous experience like none other, photographically and personally. It is never boring.

We made our way through Rajasthan (Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Jojawar and smaller villages ) and then to Uttar Pradesh, where the holy city of Varanasi seethes with energy on the Ganges River. Hindus journey there to die, believing that sending their ashes down the river will lead them on to the next life. They also bathe and play in the river, celebrate festivals and holidays, wash their clothes, boat, do business, water their animals, pray. The Ganges, too, throbs with life  and with death’s ashes. We were warned not to take photos of cremation ceremonies, out of respect, so you won’t find any here.

This photographic journey begins backwards from our route. My pictures start at the Ganges, not the world’s largest river but the one with the most spiritual currents, and end with moments in villagers’ and farmers’ lives.

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Early in the morning in Varanasi, people wash, do their laundry, swim, cook, sell, fish, worship, socialize, and usher their dead into the next world along the 1,569-mile-long Ganges River.

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Now see this: a year in pictures

2018 in Review, Part 6: A baker's dozen pictorial stories from ArtsWatch's photographic artists tell a visual tale of Oregon in 2018

By SARAH KREMEN-HICKS

Writers do tend to go on a bit, don’t we? Maybe we ought to step back now and then, put the pens down, and let the pictures tell the story. In the following photo essays from 2018, ArtsWatch’s photographers serve up visual treats by the baker’s dozen.

 


 

Doug Whyte, executive director of Hollywood Theatre, a historic Portland landmark showing classic and contemporary films. Photo: K.B. Dixon

In the Frame: Eleven men

Jan. 2: K. B. Dixon finds the face of Portland in eleven photos of men who have helped shape its cultural milieu. “A good picture tells a story, and nothing tells a story better—more eloquently, more efficiently—than the human face. The story these eleven faces tell, in part, is Portland’s. These are talented and dedicated people who have contributed in significant ways to the character and culture of this city, people whose legacies are destined to be part of our cultural history.”

 


“The Point Reyes, Tomales Bay.” Photo: Austin Granger

Austin Granger’s commonplace miracles

March 17: “The one of the Point Reyes boat is sentimental. I’ve photographed that boat so many times that it’s become almost a living person. I’m making a record of the winter of its life. I’m interested in how things change. I’m interested in time. What is photography about if not time?” Austin Granger talks with Angela Allen about photography and his favorite subjects: a boat and his daughter.

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New World to Real World

An Oregon classical bassist steps toward the future in Miami with the legendary Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony

By ANGELA ALLEN

In February, I joined several other members of the Music Critics Association of North America at the New World Symphony in South Miami Beach, Fla. For three days we heard concerts and rehearsals, wandered around the building designed by architect Frank Gehry, and spoke to “fellows” and to the institute’s leaders, including Michael Tilson Thomas, the forward-thinking NWS artistic director.

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Kyle Sanborn, a gifted musician, knows he’s on his way to playing many more Beethoven symphonies and Brahms concertos in his orchestra blacks. Born and reared in Portland, he is a first-year fellow – don’t call him a student – at the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Fla., a laboratory in its 30th year of educating classical music’s next generation.

A “fellow” compares more closely to a post-doc (or post-doctoral fellow) than to a student. New World Symphony fellows are taking hold of a real-world orchestral experience in Miami – and being paid a generous stipend for it.

Miami’s New World Symphony performed in February. Photo: Angela Allen.

Sanborn, 26, plays the bass and joins 86 other accomplished musician-fellows (audio, directing, and library fellows are part of the mix) on a clear and steady track to classical music careers. The art is alive and well, if the NWS signals its future. Fellows have finished college or conservatory, some have completed graduate school, and all are taking the next strides in their musical lives. The average age is 23 to 27, though there’s no age limit on applying for these coveted and competitive spots. About 1,000 musicians apply for 30 to 35 spots that open every year.

No question, those talented and driven enough to be accepted to NWS are on the path to become the 21st century’s first-class musicians. Of the 1,050 alumni recorded in the most recent annual report, 90 percent make their living from music, and many play for top-drawer orchestras.

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Austin Granger’s commonplace miracles

When things go right, "I have the uncanny sense that the photographs were already there, just waiting for me. They feel predestined."

STORY by ANGELA ALLEN

PHOTOGRAPHS by AUSTIN GRANGER

Portland photographer Austin Granger, who grew up in northern California and studied philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz, prefers to load film into his Fuji GF670 or Deardorff 5 by 7 instead of pushing a card into a digital camera. Sticking to the old rituals, he’d also rather shoot in black and white than in color. Sixty of his images are on display through April 10 at LightBox Photographic Gallery in Astoria.

Granger calls photography “at once commonplace and utterly miraculous.” Among his landscape and nature images, the influence of Group f/64 photographers Ansel Adams and Edward Weston is apparent, Granger readily acknowledges. Adams is one of his heroes, and sharp-focused, meticulously framed photos are among his images’ hallmarks, as they are of his mid-century California predecessors.

“Self, Alvord Desert, Oregon,” self-portrait, 2016.

The 76-page catalog for Granger’s LightBox exhibition is titled Correspondence. “When I’m photographing well, I have the most uncanny feeling that the pictures are predestined,” Granger said. “I recognize them. They echo the feelings inside myself. They correspond.”

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