blue sky gallery

Embracing the bucket (and other overlooked details)

Christopher Rauschenberg's "India Pushtogethers" at Nine Gallery showcases beauty, destabilization, and charm in travel photography collages

Christopher Rauschenberg is a familiar presence in Portland photo circles. Since settling in the Rose City more than forty years ago he’s had a finger in most local photo pies: Blue Sky Gallery, Portland Grid Project, and Photolucida are some of his handiwork, not to mention regular stints of teaching, mentoring and patronage. You might say he’s Portland’s glue guy. Look behind the scenes of any local photo institution and you’ll likely find his fingerprints—perhaps literally, on his camera as he snoops through its grimy back alley. 

Rauschenberg’s been such a background presence that his own photography sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. But making pictures has always been priority number one. He’s been pumping them with factory-like proficiency since childhood. Although his work has evolved in some ways since then—most notably with a shift from monochrome to color around 2000— almost all of it can be categorized as “Shoot First, Ask Questions Later”. His current show at Nine Gallery is no exception. Titled India Pushtogethers, the exhibition features documentary photographs shot in early 2020, then manipulated afterward into novel forms.

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VizArts Monthly: New openings and moments of nostalgia

June's art openings offer the perfect opportunity to take your newly-vaccinated self out into the world and see some art.

A shift is in the air. Summer is just around the corner, and an ever-increasing number of vaccinated Oregonians are beginning to venture outside more often. This month, many art happenings reflect this slow change. The Oregon Jewish Museum and Yale Union are both reopening with new (and, in Yale Union’s case, final) exhibitions. 1122 Gallery has reopened and rebranded as 1122 Outside. Other art spaces, like Ampersand Gallery, look backward, prompting reflection on 2020 by featuring works created during isolation. There are still virtual art-viewing opportunities and panel discussions for homebodies, too—check out the options at Blue Sky Gallery and more below!

Work by Howard Fonda, image courtesy Ampersand Gallery
Work by Morgan Rosskopf, image courtesy Well Well Projects

Color Burn
June 5 – 27, 2021
Well Well Projects
8371 N Interstate Ave, #1 (Sat-Sun 12 PM – 5 PM)

In this two-person exhibition, mixed-media artists Morgan Rosskopf and Manu Torres spin together fine art and floral design to create an aesthetic experience of opulence, maximalism, and defiant beauty. Using a combination of high brow and low brow materials—Rosskopf works primarily with paper collage, while Torres uses artificial and natural flowers—both artists abandon convention, restraint, and subtlety. Color Burn promises to cultivate a layered, textural, and celebratory sense of visual density.

Marianne Nicolson: A Feast of Light and Shadows
June 30 – August 29, 2021
Yale Union
800 SE 10th Ave (Weds-Thurs 4 PM – 8 PM, Fri-Sun 2 PM – 6 PM)

In Yale Union’s final programming before the transfer of building ownership to the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, artist Marianne Nicolson will build a site-specific installation by utilizing the abundant natural light in the Yale Union gallery to produce a “ceremonial feast of light and shadows.” Nicolson is an artist-activist of the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw First Nations, part of the Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwak’wala speaking peoples) of the Pacific Northwest Coast. This is her first solo exhibition in Portland.

Lawrence Halprin
June 23 – September 26, 2021
Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education
724 NW Davis St (reopening for summer, Weds-Sat 11 AM – 4 PM)

Over the course of Lawrence Halprin’s sixty-year career, he brought innovative ideas to urban design and sparked a shift in landscape architecture throughout the United States. This exhibition delves deeply into Portland’s mid-century Open Space Sequence, which, under Halprin’s direction reinvented public space but also replaced a thriving Jewish immigrant community with fountain plazas and urban greenspaces. Starting in July, as part of the Architectural Heritage Center’s Walking Tours programming, they’ll offer tours of a neighborhood in South Portland that was once home to the majority of the city’s Jewish community. (The neighborhood now features Halprin-designed fountains.) The Architectural Heritage Center will also present a companion exhibition, South Portland and the Long Shadow of Urban Renewal, which “examines the rise, fall, redevelopment, and future of South Portland.”

Work by Howard Fonda, image courtesy Ampersand Gallery

Howard Fonda: Quand la cage est faite, l’oiseau s’envole
May 15 – June 20, 2021
Ampersand Gallery and Fine Books
2916 NE Alberta Street, Suite B (Fri – Sun 11 AM – 4 PM or by appointment; limited entry, masks and distancing required)

Howard Fonda’s newest painting series, Quand la cage est faite, l’oiseau s’envole (translating to “When the cage is made, the bird flies away”) is nostalgic, inspired by natural areas the artist has visited. During times of confinement in 2020, Fonda began this series of landscapes and bird imagery based on a combination of far-off and more recent memories. The results feel characteristically Fonda: dreamlike and contemplative, but comforting, too. Fonda’s small studies of birds celebrate the Pacific Northwest’s abundant varieties of birds and reflect on fleeting, fluttering moments with these creatures.

Work by Lindley Warren Mickunas, image courtesy Blue Sky Gallery

What A Body Moves Through
May 6 – June 26, 2021
Blue Sky Gallery
122 NW 8th Ave (by appointment only)

In What A Body Moves Through, three emerging photographers (Tyler Clarke, Bryson Rand, and Lindley Warren Mickunas) contend with various understandings of the body, focusing on the expansion of bodily understanding through social, political, sexual, and gendered lenses and histories. The exhibition vacillates between the traditional (in black-and-white photography styles) and the contemporary (through visuals of queerness, femininity, and moments of sexual tension). These nuances allow for plenty of self-reflection and increased bodily awareness. The exhibition includes a Zoom panel discussion on June 9th at 5 PM (register at the link to attend).

Work by Jane Schoenbrun (still from We’re All Going to the World’s Fair)

Capturing an Oneiric State: Dreams and Film with Jane Schoenbrun
June 5, 2021, 1 PM – 3 PM; $80 sign-up fee
Northwest Film Center
Virtual

Jane Schoenbrun, director of recent Sundance horror film We’re All Going to the World’s Fair and founder of the Radical Film Fair, will teach a one-day virtual workshop on the artistic use of cinematic tools to create dreamlike, ephemeral experiences. Referencing iconic surreal filmmakers like David Lynch and Maya Deren, Schoenbrun will illustrate methods of dream-making throughout film history and address ways in which contemporary artists can translate their own dreams to immerse their viewers in oneiric states.

Image courtesy Chehalem Cultural Center

Black Matter
June 22 – July 31, 2021
Chehalem Cultural Center, Parrish Gallery
415 E Sheridan St, Newberg (Tues – Thurs 9 AM – 6 PM, Wed – Sat 12 PM – 6 PM)

Curated by Oregon City-based artist Tammy Jo Wilson, Black Matter features a large group of creators including Zina Allen, Jamila Clarke, Jeremy Okai Davis, Santigie and Sapata Fofana Dura, Maya Vivas, MOsley WOtta, and many more. The exhibition aims to address representation imbalances by focusing on works by contemporary Black Oregon artists. Other goals for the exhibition include broadening cultural awareness and appreciation of Black artists without the filter of a Western art canon or requirement of a political agenda. Each artist featured expresses their personal experience of being, first and foremost, human.

Work by Noelle Herceg, image courtesy Anti-Aesthetic

Architecture of Dreams
May 21 – August 21, 2021
Anti-Aesthetic
245 W 8th Ave, Eugene (by appointment)

The group exhibition Architecture of Dreams uses modes of surrealist art-making to consider interior and exterior states. Each artist considers the unconscious alongside visuals of everyday life. Displaying works by seven artists working in varying mediums, the show also features writing components, including surrealist artist statements, collage poetry, a zine, and a day of surrealist games hosted by Kesey Farm Project. Artists showing work include Vicki Krohn Amorose, Jill R. Baker, Noelle Herceg, Wendy Heldmann, Tallmadge Doyle, Mary Evans, and Leah Howell. Set an appointment to see their diverse works in person, including sculpture, videos, drawings, anthotypes, paintings, projections, installations, and ceramics.

Work by Alyson Provax, image courtesy 1122 Outside

Alyson Provax: Into Gentle Ruin
June 11 – 30, 2021 (June 11 opening night 6 PM – 9 PM)
1122 Outside
7629 SE Harrison (masks and distancing required)

For this solo exhibition at the freshly-reopened 1122 Outside, prolific artist Alyson Provax will display a wide array of her works ranging from 2014-2021. With consideration of memory and nostalgia, the work encourages reflection on the past as well as the present. The mix of Provax’s new and older works includes letterpress on paper, animations, mirrors, and billboard vinyl.

Work by Jim Lommasson, image courtesy Oregon Historical Society

I Am My Story: Voices of Hope
May 14 – August 22, 2021
Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Ave (Tues – Fri 12 PM – 5 PM, Sat 10 AM – 5 PM, Sun 12 PM – 5 PM; masks and distancing required)

Designed by The Immigrant Story, this exhibition focuses on the stories of six women (originally from Burundi, Congo, and Eritrea) who have immigrated to Oregon. In collaboration with acclaimed Portland photographer Jim Lommasson, the exhibition reveals pieces of each woman’s history of survival: genocide, war, prejudice, injustice, courage, and hope. In addition to large-scale portraits of each woman, Lommasson has extended his What We Carried storytelling project for this exhibition, wherein he photographs objects each woman brought with her on her immigration journey.

Women of Art ~ A Visual Life, 2

A profile of three of Portland’s most creative photographers. Part 2: Laura Kurtenbach.

This is Part Two of a three-part series profiling the visual lives of three exceptionally creative photographers based in Portland. Part One introduces the series and features Grace Weston. Part Three is devoted to Susan Bein. The following profile of Laura Kurtenbach comprises Part Two of the series.


LAURA KURTENBACH


Lured (from the series Femme Noir)

Laura Kurtenbach began her journey with fine art photography as a young girl growing up in Central Illinois, where she enjoyed an early exposure to the visual arts, gaining an understanding of both the creative and technical aspects of image-making. In school she grew to love the arts through drawing, painting, sculpture and photography, and by her senior year in high school she was well-acquainted with the dark room, spending countless hours processing photographic film and acquiring strong technical skills along the way.  After high school she attended Columbia College in Chicago, earning a BA in photography and fine art. She went on to do graduate work at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where she received her MFA in photography.

In her professional career, Laura worked for almost fifteen years for a major international publication as a photo technician and printer, finely honing her photography and post-processing skills on the job and in her free time. Her job allowed for much travel time, during which Laura photographed mostly documentary subjects. Later she began a new career in academia, teaching photography in a variety of educational institutions, including Northwestern Illinois University at Evanston, the Wright City College of Chicago, Columbia College in Chicago, and the Newspace Center for Photography in Portland. She is currently an adjunct professor of photography at the Academy of Art University and Portland State University. Laura now has over two decades of professional experience as a practitioner in the photography industry and an educator in fine art and documentary photography.

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VizArts Monthly: Spring reflections on social upheaval

From new backyard spaces to established galleries, March's Vizarts Monthly offerings tackle the racial reckoning and Covid-induced isolation of the past year

It may feel difficult to believe, but the spring equinox is upon us, and our art scene is in bloom with plenty of new exhibitions to see in the sunshine (or the rain. Let’s be honest, it is Oregon). Several exhibitions this month expand upon the social, environmental, and racial justice movements of 2020, centering topics like police violence against Black men and art collaborations with those experiencing houselessness and poverty. Many galleries are still accepting viewers by appointment only, so plan ahead and make a day of it!

Figure sitting on a bed in a room with a window and scattered children's toys
Work by Jon Henry, image courtesy Blue Sky Gallery

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Fertile, Grounded, Virtual & Here

ArtsWatch Weekly: Portland's festival of new performance goes online; finding the humans in the frame; fresh flicks; new theater & more

RIGHT ABOUT NOW EVERY YEAR FOR THE PAST ELEVEN YEARS before 2021 the hustle and bustle’s hit performance spaces large and small in Portland and environs – an energetic outpouring of new work at just about every stage of development, from first reading to workshop to staged reading to full-blown premiere production. In an ordinary year the Fertile Ground festival of new works presents more than 100 pieces of theater, dance, film, and other performance, by Oregon artists, from first-timers and unknowns to projects from the biggest performance companies in town. It’s been a creative free-for-all, predictable in its unpredictability, a sprawling mega-event in which you never know what you’re going to see next, and that’s a very big part of the fun.
 

Scene from Myhraliza Aaza’s “Oh Myh Dating Hell,” debuting at 9 p.m. opening night – Thursday, Jan. 28 – in this year’s online Fertile Ground festival of new works.

This year, of course, is far from ordinary – and so, Fertile Ground 2021 is far from ordinary, too. You might say it’s breaking new ground, which might be as fertile as the old, but in very different ways. Fertile Ground opens today – Thursday, Feb. 28 – and continues through Feb. 7 entirely online, with a lineup that’s both curated and vastly reduced: thirty-six projects, all created to be streamed online, making their debuts over the run of the festival and available to view on the festival’s Facebook and YouTube channels through Feb. 15. Streaming the shows is free, although the festival is happy to accept donations.

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‘Our Diversity Is Our Strength’

In a divided nation, a photography exhibition at Blue Sky Gallery celebrates the many faces and stories of immigrant Americans

A ballerina. An artist with an alter ego. Jewish refugees on a train. Kids playing at home while their mom works. A psychiatrist forced out of his homeland. Black Lives Matter marchers. A vineyard worker, a winemaker, a chef. Just people, with remarkable stories, told in a remarkable series of photographs in the collection Our Diversity Is Our Strength at Portland’s Blue Sky Gallery.

The images, by a broad selection of photographers, are of immigrants and the children of immigrants – part of the panoply of people who make up the large and diverse American multiculture. They are people who have brought the world with them, enriching and expanding their new homeland with everything from food to art to ideas. And they are here at a tense and crucial time.

“Never has it felt more important to share photographs and stories of people who have come to this country for the opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families and who have given so much to our country and communities,” the show’s curators, project director Paige Stoyer and Jim Lommasson, wrote in their exhibition statement.

Our Diversity Is Our Strength arrives at a time of deep national division, with fear of the Other fanning the flames. One of Joseph R. Biden, Jr.’s first acts as the 46th president of the United States was to declare a moratorium on construction of The Wall, his predecessor’s high-profile and intensely controversial barrier across the Mexican border that’s been pegged at a cost of roughly $15 billion.

The greater cost has been both symbolic and substantive. Donald Trump’s demand for a border barrier played on fears in much of white America of a rising demographic tide of color. It emphatically rejected the nation’s aspiration to embrace newcomers, as voiced in The New Colossus, Emma Lazarus’s 1883 poem etched on the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled massesSend these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.” The push for a wall was a calculated statement that outsiders were not welcome in the United States – that they were interlopers, and would be forcibly blocked from entering, especially if they were not white. Soon children were being separated from their parents and detained in cages, and violence against people of color, by police and others, spiked.

Biden’s moratorium suggests a rational shift from the extreme racially based isolationism that gave the Trump movement so much juice. Yet we are also only three weeks removed from a riot in the nation’s capital that felt very much like a failed attempt to overthrow the elected government. “With the increasing hate speech we are experiencing, often against immigrants, and which dehumanizes entire groups of people, we are grateful to share these stories as an antidote,” Stoyer and Lommasson continue. “When we allow ourselves to stop and really see each other, to be willing to hear someone’s story, to see our common humanity, we understand we are not so different. It opens the door to mutual understanding and empathy.”

The photographs in Our Diversity Is Our Strength stop and see. They come in a variety of styles, from carefully posed to verité captures of moments in time. They come in rich colors, and in black & white. Their framing, balance, and technical quality are excellent. And each helps tell the story of a life, offering viewers an encounter, however briefly, with a human being they had not known. In Stoyer and Lommasson’s words: “We must find a way to first, always see the humanity in each other. It is the only way we will start to heal the deep wounds and divisions in this country.”

The entire portfolio of this year’s Our Diversity Is Our Strength project includes 37 photographs. The exhibition is on view through February on the community wall of Blue Sky’s library, and additional images will be available to see in the gallery’s Community Viewing Drawers through the end of 2021. (Blue Sky is open by appointment; you can schedule a visit here.) Below you’ll find a healthy cross-section of images from the show, each accompanied by a brief story about it from the photographer.


ESTHER PODEMSKI


“Heading for America, 1952. Leaving a displaced persons’ camp in Hanover, Germany – Esther, father Max and brother Ben depart from the train station. In the early 1950s the family left Poland illegally, traveling over-land to Israel with a paid guide. Traumatized by the fighting in Israel, Max and family headed back to Germany, again traveling illegally. In Germany, we lived in a displaced persons’ camp until the U.S. immigration barrier for Jewish refugees was lifted in 1952. Heading for America from Germany, final destination Portland, Oregon.”

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Eggnog & Nutcrackers to the 2020 rescue

ArtsWatch Weekly: Holiday shows in the St. Nick of time; making theatrical spirits bright, gallery art, new music, fresh flicks, passages

EGGNOG AND CHRISTMAS MUSIC ARRIVED A FEW WEEKS EARLY at our house, and really, who could blames us? – the quicker we can nudge 2020 toward the door, the sooner we can move on to something a little more promising. The early arrival of eggnog in grocery-store coolers was, I suspect, a calculated move by the dairy industry, which rightly surmised that a lot of people who’ve pretty much had it with this train wreck of a year would like an early start on the holiday season. As for those Christmas CDs (yes, we still listen to CDs), a lot of the greatest music known to humankind was composed for winter celebrations. Even popular holiday songs can feel like old friends and true companions. Winter Wonderland is an eminently hummable and whistleable tune, even if, after a certain number of repetitions, your podmates cry for mercy.

One of the things that goes with the season is The Nutcracker, a Russian tradition that became an American inevitability, performed annually to box-office hallelujahs everywhere from New York City Ballet to Miss Marcie’s Junior Terpsichorean Academy in Little Falls, Oklahoma (if such a training ground for budding balletic talent actually exists). For a stretch of several years it was one of my annual tasks to review the newest incarnation of The Nutcracker in town, an assignment that usually gave me enjoyment in the watching but consternation in the writing: What could I possibly say that was both pertinent and new? One year I found myself lost in description of the one thing that seemed, at that particular performance, most striking: the pleasure on the faces of the flock of star-struck little girls who had rushed down to the orchestra pit during intermission to get a little closer to the magic. Pertinent? On that day it seemed almost the whole point.

Sugar plums with a beat: Portland’5 Centers for the Arts presents a one-night stream Dec. 12 of Decadancetheatre’s live-recorded “Hip Hop Nutcracker,” set in Brooklyn in the 1980s, with Kurtis Blow as emcee. Photo courtesy Jennifer Weber 

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