blue sky gallery

Live theater’s back in town

ArtsWatch Weekly: In a pandemic era first, Triangle opens a show indoors. Plus: Art in the Pearl, Venice & elsewhere, virtually and "real."

“WE HAVE TO MOVE FORWARD,” Don Horn, who founded Portland’s Triangle Productions more than 30 years ago, said on the phone. “I would rather have the house used than vacant. I think spaces die if they’re not used.”

Somebody had to be first. And in Portland theater, when Triangle opens a 10-performance run of Rick Cleveland’s solo play My Buddy Bill next Thursday, Sept. 10, it’ll be the first time since Covid-19 restrictions shut down theater spaces almost half a year ago that anyone in the greater metro area’s put on a show inside an actual theater space, with a paying audience in the seats. (At least a couple of other companies in Oregon have done live shows, too: Medford’s Collaborative Theatre Projects has been doing indoor radio plays with paying audiences, and Ashland’s Oregon Cabaret Theatre has been doing The Odd Couple.)

Grocery stores, hardwares, and big box stores are open. Restaurants are open, for sidewalk and some indoor seating. Zoos and gardens and aquariums are open. Beaches and hiking trails and camping sites are open, at least many of them, and you can book rooms at motels and vacation getaways. A little bit of outdoor theater and concertizing’s happened. Museums and art galleries have reopened, with restrictions. But live theater, dance, and music have lagged behind, mostly because of strict limits on audience size and spacing inside performance halls, the cost of running shows for the resulting relatively tiny audiences, and the tougher logistics of making tight theater spaces safe enough to use.

Buddy and buddy in the Oval Office. Photo: Barbara Kinney/White House/1997

Triangle’s auditorium, inside The Sanctuary at Sandy Plaza on close-in Northeast Sandy Boulevard, ordinarily seats 154 people. Because of a state restriction of 25 people in such a space at a time, the audience for My Buddy Bill will be limited to 23, leaving room for one actor (Joe Healy, playing Rick, the playwright) and one tech person. The bigger the cast and crew, the smaller the allowable audience. In the meantime, Horn and crew are busily getting everything ready so the space can meet multiple safety requirements. “I’ll be spending Friday cleaning everything out of the lobby so we can shampoo,” he said. 

Continues…

Weathering the Storm

Portland’s innovative photographic arts center Blue Sky Gallery rides out the pandemic

In his book The Gathering Storm Winston Churchill wrote, “The veils of the future are lifted one by one, and mortals must act from day to day.” He wrote these words about a time of immense danger and extraordinary uncertainty throughout the world, when fear, anxiety and hopelessness gripped nations and paralyzed faith and optimism for the future. It was a time of seemingly insurmountable crisis, much like what the world is experiencing today, when many of us feel powerless as events outside of our control threaten our security. In our own time of peril most of us are somehow finding the courage to soldier on and take some kind of action to move our lives forward as the coronavirus pandemic continues. But there is no roadmap for moving forward. We must all find our own paths through the crisis.

Many of us seek solace in the exploration of beauty, art and creative expression to help ease our feelings of stress, loneliness and sadness. Art galleries have often been treasured destinations for those who trust in the healing power of the visual arts. However, since the pandemic has compelled many galleries to close their doors, in some cases permanently, art has become largely inaccessible to the visiting public. The crisis has required galleries to re-examine the relationship between art and the ways in which viewers experience it. Since the quarantine started in late March, many galleries in Oregon and elsewhere have likewise had to rethink strategies for sharing art with their patrons.

Portland’s Blue Sky, the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts has been in the vanguard of local galleries that have adapted successfully to the demands of the pandemic. As its patrons began sheltering in place, Blue Sky got to work figuring out creative ways to bring art directly to its audience. This is the story of how the gallery has weathered the coronavirus pandemic.


OREGON ARTS: COPING WITH COVID


Blue Sky Gallery, in the DeSoto Building, on Portland’s North Park Blocks. All photos courtesy Blue Sky Gallery.

Continues…

VizArts Monthly: Options for going out or for staying in

Art to see in January both in galleries and from your couch

Welcome to January 2020! Let’s ease into it at a relaxed pace, shall we? Most of Portland is still emerging from the haze of the holiday season, and the events calendar is correspondingly mellow. Many downtown galleries are hosting this month’s opening receptions on the first Saturday of the month instead of the traditional First Thursday, likely in order to get a bit of distance from the aftermath of New Year’s Eve. A couple of group shows offer festival-inspired atmosphere and even mystical divination. The month also promises an abundance of work from local emerging artists along with some weird and beautiful shows at Northwest neighborhood galleries; there are plenty of reasons to venture across the bridge or down the hill. Or, if you’re loath to leave your cozy blankets, we have some great online projects for you to check out as well!

Doll-like figurine pictured on a black background with a serene expression and hands in prayer, surrounded by sculptural elements and ornate accessories, all 3D printed in a shiny off-white polymer material.
Work by Pinar Yoldas, image courtesy Upfor Gallery

Absence of Myth: Iyvone Khoo and Pinar Yoldas
January 4 – February 29
Public opening: Saturday, January 4, 5 – 7pm (artists present)
First Thursday reception: February 6, 6 – 8pm
Upfor Gallery
929 NW Flanders St

Possibly the most unusual show opening in Portland at the start of this new decade is Upfor’s Absence of Myth which brings together works made by two artists in a variety of media that question humankind’s responsibility to the Earth as we step forward into the uncertain future. London-based Iyvone Khoo’s psychedelic photography and assemblage-style sculpture make use of marine plastic waste that regularly washes up on beaches across the globe. She combines this manmade flotsam with images of bioluminescent plankton, a not-so-subtle reminder that we share the planet with many others. Turkish-American artist Pinar Yoldas gets speculative with her cute and creepy “designer babies.” The babies are 3D printed figurines that represent possible evolutionary paths for the human species, an ironic commentary on the foolishness of humans’ age-old desire to control nature. Absence of Myth isn’t exactly uplifting, but it’s not entirely pessimistic either — Khoo and Yoldas both combine the sharp observational eye of science with a poetic, open-minded empathy that even could pass for hopefulness. 

Black and white photograph of a young woman with cropped blonde hair and simple, outdoorsy clothes, reclining on a slightly messy bed inside a small log cabin with two paned windows behind her.
Donna Gottschalk, Self-Portrait in Maine, 1976, image courtesy Blue Sky Gallery

Brave, Beautiful Outlaws: Donna Gottschalk
January 2 – February 2
Blue Sky Gallery
122 NW 8th Ave

In the context of today’s kaleidoscope of sexual and gender identities, the word “lesbian” might seem almost conservative by comparison. But openly identifying as a lesbian was once a radical action that was often met with bigotry and even violence. Artist Donna Gottschalk was among the early members of the Gay Liberation Front in New York City in the late 1960s and later helped found lesbian separatist communities on the West Coast, all the while documenting her compatriots in intimate black and white photos. Blue Sky hosts this traveling exhibition commemorating those who, in Gottschalk’s words, “insisted on being, whatever the consequences.” 

Framed graphite drawing of ornate neoclassical building facade featuring fluted columns and arched windows, with a figure seen from behind walking through a door on the far right.
Milano Chow, Exterior with Columns II, image courtesy the artist

Johanna Jackson and Milano Chow
January 4 – February 1
Opening reception: Saturday, January 4, 6-8pm
Adams and Ollman
418 NW 8th Ave

Johanna Jackson works across a wide range of media including (but not limited to) painted ceramics, watercolors on paper and tin, knitted sweaters, hooked rugs, and, once, even a shriveled carved apple. No matter the medium, evidence of her idiosyncratic hand is consistently apparent. Jackson’s work, featured this month at Adams and Ollman in a show titled Some Transitional Objects From My Extended Phenotype, is wobbly and lumpy. The colors are sun bleached and muddied. She shows little regard for the mystique or virtuosity that is so often prized in art but her humble objects possess a powerful presence that makes them feel like self-made creatures or like dreams that have sneaked into our reality. Milano Chow’s work is on view in the gallery’s small adjoining room. It offers complementary surreality achieved through very different means, meticulous trompe l’oeil drawings that depict ornate architectural facades in graphite, ink, and photo transfer in delicate shades of gray. The combination of technical detail and atmospheric ambiguity is captivating, and unlike anything else being shown in Portland right now.


A red envelope with an embossed and stamped seal of a dragon, Chinese characters, and decorative elements.
Golden Night Market, image courtesy Littman Gallery

Golden Night Market
January 6 – 31
Opening Reception and Night Market: January 8, 5 – 7pm
Littman Gallery
1825 SW Broadway

Curator Thién Mùi Easland brings together seven Portland artists to share work inspired by their own personal experience and cultural heritage. The show is loosely organized around the theme of a colorful night market akin to those Easland enjoyed in childhood. The group includes artists like Daniel Sandoval, who paints psychedelic graffiti-influenced dreamscapes and Christian Orellana-Bauer, whose past video works have addressed big issues in contemporary politics and small moments of self-discovery. The show promises “light, color, and culture,” which sounds like a perfect way to brighten up a gray January day.

Image of the "blood moon" (full moon with eclipse), overlaid with "20/20" in red and green gothic font.
20/20, image courtesy Womxn House

20/20
January 16 – February 10
Opening reception: Thursday, January 16, 7 – 9pm
Womxn House
3636 N Mississippi

Womxn House on Mississippi Ave is also hosting a group show offering good vibes and positive community to start this shiny new decade off right. 20/20 will be a “tarot themed vision quest” featuring eleven artists and live tarot readings by Emily Carsten and J’ena SanCartier (make sure to reserve your spot ahead of time via the gallery’s website). Artists like Elizabeth Malaska, Pace Taylor, and Isis Fisher contribute work to this mystical exhibition. Whether or not you believe in divination, it’s always fun to have your fortune told and being surrounded by beautiful art makes it even more appealing.

The Hibernation Options
Winter in Portland is notorious for keeping folks inside — it’s tough to work up the motivation to hop on your bike to an art show across town when it gets dark at 4:00 PM and the entire soggy city is slowly growing a layer of moss. Are you one of the many still in hibernation mode? Don’t worry, you can enjoy local art from the comfort of your own couch! Check out these pajama-friendly options for days when your brain needs stimulation but your body just won’t budge.

Archival black and white newspaper photograph of Yale Union building, a flat-roofed two-story brick building with large arched windows on the ground floor and narrower arched windows on the second story. Headline reads "Yale Laundry will Be Open for All Customers About August 15."
Yale Laundry circa 1908, image courtesy yaleunionlaundrystrike.net

Yale Union Laundry Strike

Long before Yale Union went by “YU” for short and was filled with contemporary conceptual art, it was a busy commercial laundry called Yale Laundry. The laundry, like most textile-related businesses of the day, was not a pleasant place to work — indoor temperatures regularly rose over 100 degrees, soiled linens transmitted infectious disease, and scalding hot presses caused frequent injuries. To add insult to injury, the mostly female workers made the equivalent of just over three dollars per hour for their suffering. A months-long strike began in September 1919, and led to unionization and other industry-wide repercussions throughout the city. To commemorate the centennial of this act of worker solidarity, Yale Union has unveiled a new website with an interactive timeline and lots of historical resources that document the strike and contextualize it within the larger history of the often racialized and gendered textile industry. The Laundry Strike website is easy to navigate and endlessly interesting, and is a great example of an arts institution looking to its own inherited history for socially and politically significant narratives.

Logo reading "The Inside Show" in blue and orange hand-drawn letters.
The Inside Show logo by Gabriel “Chino” Whitford, courtesy CRCI

The Inside Show at CRCI

The first two episodes of Columbia River Creative Initiative’s The Inside Show are available on Youtube, along with clips of some of the individual skits that comprise this offbeat variety show. The Inside Show includes features on microwave cookery, hair braiding demos, party tricks, and a deadpan fashion show, all of which were written and performed by inmates at the Columbia River Correctional Institute, where the series is filmed. The show is funny and charming, and impressively watchable considering the technical and logistical constraints of working inside a minimum security prison. My favorite segment was David “Ohio” Phipps’ painting lesson, in which he teaches two of his fellow artists to render a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle in poster paints. You can find out more about the CRCI program, which operates in conjunction with Portland State University’s Social Practice Department, on their website, or you can just enjoy the show for what it is — a unique comedy series starring a diverse group of people having a goofy good time. 

Hand-drawn logo reading "SPOILER ROOM" in angular all-caps lettering, with two musical note cartoon characters on either side, one happy, one sad.
Image courtesy Spoiler Room

Spoiler Room

Want to party without actually going to a party? Spoiler Room is here for you! This recurring DJ night gets live-taped and edited as it happens, and the results are posted online so you can boogie vicariously through past attendees. The aesthetics are a melange of low-tech nostalgia, with VJs wielding 90s era handheld camcorders and playing terrific hour-long mixes of upbeat techno. Project episodes in your living room for an at-home club experience, or just set up your phone on the kitchen counter while you do the dishes. Either way, you will be basking in the positive energy of dozens of party people, and perhaps you’ll even be inspired to get out of the house and join in.

This June, the arrival of summer isn’t the only big transition on the horizon. Bullseye Projects exhibition space closes after twenty years on NW 13th Ave, Adams and Ollman will relocate to a nearby space on NW 8th Ave, and Nationale announces a relocation back to Burnside where it will share space with Beacon Sound and enjoy a larger, more detached exhibition space. Blue Sky’s Executive Director Lisa DeGrace will step down to become the development director at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. DeGrace goes out on a high note with the En Foco Fellowship shows (featured below). Whether you enjoy the late sunset for a First Thursday art crawl in town, hit the Portland Art Museum, or head down to Eugene to check out a set of compelling shows at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, there’s plenty to see this month!

Daniel Robinson – Open Road, 2019
Recent Paintings: Daniel Robinson
Through June 15
Charles A. Hartman Fine Art
134 NW 8th Ave

Robinson’s finely-detailed paintings glow with a love for Oregon scenery and light. From industrial riverside docks to scrubby, golden hills in Eastern Oregon, these paintings capture vistas that balance conjuring an Oregon of the past and rendering it with a modern crispness. Grain elevators, bridges, farms, and boats mark human presence in the natural landscape.


Open During Construction: PSU BFA showcase
Through June 14
Littman + White Galleries
1825 SW Broadway

With a title that captures the current conditions for PSU art students, the Littman Gallery celebrates a new crop of graduates. MK Gallery and the AB Lobby Gallery, in PSU’s Art Building host the other parts of the show not represented by Littman’s selection. Artists this year include: Anastasia Bubenik-Hartley, Coral Cloutman Tabitha Copeland, Courtney Gallardo, Linneah Rose Hanson, Allison Jarman, Jake Johnson, Patricia Kalidonis, Safiyah Maurice, Kira Paragon, Tiffany Adele Peterson, Vinh Pham, Timothy Tran, and Zach Whitworth.


PNCA 2019 MFA Exhibition
Through June 11
PNCA Glass Building 2139 N Kerby Ave.

The first twenty-six PNCA graduate students to study in the new “Glass Building” exhibit their work in the cavernous, beautiful former Bullseye Glass building in the North Industrial district. Thesis and capstone projects from three different programs will be on display. The MFA in Collaborative Design is represented by Amber Marsh and Ophir El-Boher; the MFA in Print Media by Devyn Park, Emma Flick, Heather Coleman, Jaynee Watson, Jessi Presley-Grusin, TK Yoeun, Lauren Goding, Russell Wood; and the MFA in Visual Studies by Julian Adoff, Shokoufeh Alizadeh, Jen Bacon, Kelly Brand, Heather Boyd, Sarah Cabbell, Robin Cone-Murakami, Alexis Day, Josh Hughes, Jess Iams, Diego Morales-Portillo, Lauren Prado, Rhonda Tuholski, Brittany Vega, Brittany Windsor, Yuyang Zhang.


DE May Untitled (Finish a Piece A Day)
 Artworks by D.E. May: Dan May
June 5 - June 29
PDX Contemporary 
925 NW Flanders

Discussing the work in this show, Hallie Ford Fellowship recipient Dan May said “If there are five steps to building something, I am interested in steps two and three.” May passed away in February of this year. Indeed, May’s use of ledger paper, continuous form paper, and used cardboard communicates a sense of mid-project work, issued from some parallel universe office where blocks of color stand in for numbers. The visual language of templates, diagrams, and plans form a peculiar, playful conceptual framework. 


Mark Aghatise, What Men Do We Know, 2017
2018 En Foco Fellowship Exhibitions: Study One: Mark Aghatise 
and The Soft Fence: Gioncarlo Valentine
June 6-30
Blue Sky Gallery
122 NW 8th Ave

Blue Sky hosts two arresting, personal solo exhibitions by Mark Aghatise and Gioncarlo Valentine. Both artists are recipients of the prestigious En Foco fellowship. Founded in 1974, En Foco’s mission is to support photographers of color and diverse cultures working in contemporary, fine art, and documentary photography. Aghatise’s manipulated and collaged photographs take on the “bifurcation of self that occurs in contemporary urban life,” according to the artist. After moving to New York City, he developed a keen awareness of the tendency of cities to split an individual’s persona into public and private versions. The work in Study One is the result of working with his subjects to capture reflections of how they present in public and at home. Gioncarlo Valentine’s show, The Soft Fence, seeks to explore the performance of masculinity in Black culture. Valentine, who grew up queer and femme-presenting, calls the photographs “a series of questions about access, performance, proximity, Black manhood, and Black brotherhood.” Aghatise will give an artist talk before the main opening at 5pm on Thursday, June 6. Valentine will speak at 3pm on Saturday, June 8. 


Assessed valuation of of all taxable property owned by Georgia Negroes, from W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Georgia Negro: A Study (1900). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Color Line
June 15 - October 27
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Ave

Activist, sociologist, historian and overall polymath W.E.B. Du Bois created an incredible exhibition for the 1900 Paris Exposition to communicate the conditions of race in America in systemic, poetic, and personal terms. The exhibit won a gold medal in 1900 and later became part of the Library of Congress’s permanent collection. It will be shown at the Portland Art Museum in June along with the Paris 1900 City of Entertainment exhibition. Color Line includes more than 300 photographs of African-American citizens along with exceptional charts and graphs – what we would now call data visualizations or infographics. The colorful diagrams and charts communicated statistics and other measurements of the stark inequalities and injustices of the racial divide in post-Civil-War America. The photographs, taken in collaboration with Booker T. Washington and Thomas Calloway, show the strength and humanity of African-Americans at the time. Defying stereotypes, the photographs show the businesses, universities, homes and professions of the first generation of African Americans to rise after abolition. This multi-faceted exhibit is both historically significant and personally affecting, and should not be missed.


Exhibitions at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
University of Oregon Campus
1420 Johnson Lane
Eugene, OR

Phillip Haas
Sculpture Breathes Life Into Painting & Music: Philip Haas
Through June 9

Philip Haas’s new work will have its world premiere at the JSMA before it embarks on a year-long tour in the U.S. and abroad. For two weeks, an series of eclectic performances will intersect with the life-size sculptures representing the arts of painting, music, and sculpture. Motorized sculptures, totems, found objects, film, spoken work and other strategies form Haas’s unique artistic vocabulary, which he describes as “sculpting by thinking.” During the performances at JSMA, Haas will wear his sculpture while delivering a commentary to the audience. This promises to be a unique experience!

Jonathan Roensch, Braxton Williams, 2019, Photogaph, 11 x 14 inches. 
Common Thread: Reflections on Aesthetic Culture
Through September 8

Following on the success of 2018’s student-organized show Don’t Touch My Hair, this revealing, personal exhibition addresses many of the same themes. This time the conversation centers on clothing and other wearable expressions of identity and aesthetics. Organized by the UO student curatorial team of Taite Stull, Cassidy Shaffer, and Kristen Clayton, this exhibition aims to provide a glimpse into the diverse culture of the University of Oregon’s student body.

Video Still from “Passage”
Passage: Mohau Modisakeng
Through August 4

Previously shown as South Africa’s entry in the 2017 Venice Biennale, this affecting, three-channel video meditates on two different meanings of the term “passage.” In Setswana, the experience of being alive is referred to as a passage, with the Setswana word for life, botshelo, meaning to “cross over.” Then there is the far more tragic history of the word, referring to the legacy of enslavement that caused a “dismemberment of African identity,” in the words of Modisakang. Dreamlike, a birds-eye view of a passenger in a small wooden boat on a vast black body of water fills each projection as the water begins to rise.

‘It started with poetry’: A conversation with Darnell McAdams

The Portland-area photographer talks about his "Black Santa Project" and the storytelling link between poetry and photography

Those of us who write about the arts at some point trot out “visual poetry” to describe something other than actual verse — a painting, a film, even a tour de force staging of a dance or scene in a play. Though we’d likely stumble in trying to define what we mean, “visual poetry” seemed like the obvious descriptor for Black Santa, Darnell McAdams’ remarkable photography that was included in Photo Club PDX’s Photographic Intentions exhibit in Newberg earlier this year. Next month, The Black Santa Project will take up residence in Photo Club PDX’s Community Drawer at Portland’s Blue Sky Gallery, from May 14 through June 11.

While it may seem a stretch to fold his work into my series of interviews with poets this month, I wanted to circle back to McAdams because of a line from his bio that stayed with me: “It started with poetry.” Soaking up the sensual black-and-white imagery of Black Santa, one recalls the plainly self-congratulatory but nevertheless apropos remark by Orson Welles that “a film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.” McAdams brings a poet’s sensibility to his work, which I sensed even before learning that “it started with poetry.”

"Be Calm and Keep Breathing" is part of Darnell McAdams’ “Black Santa Project,” selections from which were part of a photography show at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg this winter. It will be exhibited May 14-June 11 at the Blue Sky Gallery in downtown Portland.

“Be Calm and Keep Breathing” is part of Darnell McAdams’ “Black Santa Project,” selections from which were part of a photography show at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg this winter. It will be exhibited May 14-June 11 at the Blue Sky Gallery in downtown Portland.

So I asked him about this.

Continues…

A bit cheeky but for the tongue to a sore tooth

Ashley Miller's Sweet Things at Blue Sky Gallery

Given the title of Ashley Miller’s exhibition, Sweet Things, one might expect her photographs to contain a certain amount of eye candy, perhaps something gooey, or on a conceptual level, saccharine and cloying. Not so much. Instead, the confection on view through Feb. 3 at Blue Sky Gallery has been lost to the sidewalk where the ants have found it. Innocence has been replaced by repulsion, and one gets the feeling that Miller finds this rather sweet in and of itself.

However, this may not be the takeaway for every viewer, left wondering why the artist created such grotesqueries. Yet, in that wondering, if one then bothered to read the PR for the show, one would understand that Miller is interested in “the subtexts of desire, consumerism, and overabundance present in product and food photography,” adding, “modern society is built on overabundance and addiction.” Plus, she would have us all implicated, our revulsion springing from recognizing our own state of corruption. Indeed, she confesses that she is just as much a victim as well; only she has an outlet, because “this state of anxiety is the starting point for my work…peddling the fetish.”

Continues…

Visual Arts 2018: The big picture

2018 in Review, Part 7: From museums to studios to brave new spaces, a recap of some of ArtsWatch's views and reviews from a year in art

The visual arts stories at ArtsWatch this year ranged far and wide and – as usual – didn’t even come close to covering all that went on in the world of Oregon art. While some may see that as a failure, we choose to see it as a windfall. We are fortunate to live in such an active arts community. If we could cover everything, it would mean a much smaller everything, and that doesn’t benefit anyone. Here is a neat (and incomplete) encapsulation of visual vrts stories in 2018.

We took you behind the scenes with interviews with Oregon artists that explored origins, processes, interests, and other machinations of established and emerging artists. Paul Sutinen interviewed, among others, Judy Cooke on the occasion of her fall show at Elizabeth Leach and Tom Prochaska on the occasion of his spring show at Froelick. Hannah Krafcik interviewed kiki nicole, and ariella tai about their work with the first and the last, an experimental film/video and new media arts project in Portland. Krafcik was then able to follow up in another interview with Jaleesa Johnston about her screening and workshop at the first and the last.

Judy Cooke, “Pink”, 2018, oil, aluminum, 14” x 10” x 1.5”

Continues…