Blaine Fontana

And suddenly it’s October. Among other things – pumpkin patches, Yom Kippur, the World Series, Halloween – that means we’re two days from First Thursday, Portland’s monthly gallery hop of new shows. This week’s visual art calendar is a doozy, from open studios to Warhol with lots between.

A few of the highlights:

James Lavadour Ruby II, 2016 oil on panel 32" x 48"

James Lavadour, “Ruby II,” 2016, oil on panel, 32″ x 48.” PDX Contemporary.

James Lavadour at PDX Contemporary. It’s always a good day when new work by Lavadour, the veteran landscape expressionist from Pendleton, comes to town. This show, called Ledger of Days, furthers his exploration of the land and its mysteries. “A painting is a structure for the extraordinary and informative events of nature that are otherwise invisible,” he writes. “A painting is a model for infinity.” Lavadour is also one of the moving forces behind Pendleton’s innovative and essential Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year. Watch for what’s coming up.

The new Russo Lee Gallery: 30 years. What you’ve known for years as Laura Russo Gallery is celebrating three decades with a showing of new work by its distinguished stable of artists – and with a new name. The name is a fusion of the gallery’s long tradition and current reality. After founder Laura Russo died in 2010, her longtime employee Martha Lee bought the business and continues to operate it. This show promises to be a statement of sorts, and will have a catalog available.

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In the studio: Blaine Fontana

From his riverside workplace in a North Portland art hub, the muralist and public artist fans out around the globe

The winding sidewalk to North Coast Seed Building Studios is caught in a vice-grip between the hurried freight cars of the Union Pacific rail line and their fellow travelers, the cargo ships along the Willamette River below. Both sides are neatly ordered, and the hustle and bustle of behind-the-scenes raw materials and merchandise on the move make this industrial area between the Fremont and Broadway bridges in North Portland seem plucked from another time. Tall, bushy, and abundant dill plants spring from the space between the macadam and the gutter, fighting for space with monumental rosemary bushes. Maybe accidental escapees from the former seed storehouse, the out-of-place plants are a nice reminder of how tenacious life can be. There’s little pause between the trains as they create a small wind chamber; their weathered exteriors carry both loaded social commentary and amateur graffiti messages.

Blaine Fontana: the artist amid his art.

Blaine Fontana: the artist amid his art.

For the last seven years the artist Blaine Fontana has worked here. Inside, his studio looks like many in and around this sprawling artistic compound: projects stacked by studio doors; found pieces that look their age, but have enough of the right lines and material to deserve an eyeful. Near its high rafter ceilings Fontana’s studio has windows that face west and fill the room with an almost unfiltered light. The space is divided into sections, giving the unmistakable impression of a creative warehouse. With its stacked materials and framing of wooden beams, it’s playful, too. The smells of fresh lumber and 1950s filing-cabinet steel fill the air. Fontana is of a similar nature. He’s focused, grounded, driven, always on the hunt for something new to appreciate. He’s a tall man, with black swept hair and some well-placed tattoos. Around the edges of his thoughtful composure lurks a little of the bad boy.

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