Crow’s Shadow

Vision 2020: Ka’ila Farrell-Smith

The Southern Oregon artist, mentor, and anti-fracking activist creates visual art “rooted in Indigenous aesthetics and abstract formalism”

On her website, Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, a Klamath Modoc visual artist, describes her artistic practice as “channeling research through a creative flow of experimentation and artistic playfulness rooted in Indigenous aesthetics and abstract formalism.” Through painting, traditional Indigenous art practices, and self-curated installations, Farrell-Smith explores the “space in-between the Indigenous and western paradigms.”


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


Farrell-Smith, who lives in Modoc Point in Southern Oregon, received a BFA in painting from Pacific Northwest College of Art and an MFA in contemporary art practices studio from Portland State University. Her work has been exhibited around the Pacific Northwest and is in the permanent collections of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on the University of Oregon campus and the Portland Art Museum. As a co-director of the Signal Fire residency program, she helps connect artists to wild places.

“The Modoc are a resilient, fierce, passionate people,” says Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, “whose warrior ancestors inspire us in our current fight against the fossil-fuel industry” and the fracked gas pipeline that threatens ancestral homelands and waterways in Southern Oregon. Photo by Sam Gehrke Photography Studio, courtesy Ka’ila Farrell-Smith

Recently, Farrell-Smith was selected to attend artist residencies at Djerassi, UCROSS, Institute of American Indian Arts, and Crow’s Shadow. In 2020, she will have work on display in the Nine Gallery in Portland and Ditch Projects in Springfield. Her comments have been edited for length and clarity.

What should Oregonians know about the Modoc? What is the story we need to hear?

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Crow’s Shadow’s art of the land

The Hallie Ford Museum's generous retrospective of 25 years at the innovative eastern Oregon print center reveals a vital sense of place

Ghost Camp, a four-piece suite of lithographs by James Lavadour from 2002, all but jumps off the wall as you wander through the generous new exhibit Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts at 25 at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem. Lavadour prints and paintings have a way of leaping like that: they have what curators and dealers like to call “wall power.”

But something else is going on in this suite, too. In that familiar Lavadour way Ghost Camp is partly abstract and partly taken from the spacious hilly land of eastern Oregon and Washington near Pendleton, where he lives. A scrawl of lines seems almost arbitrary until you look a little closer and realize they are deft intimations of shapes on the horizon or buildings breaking up the open spaces. Searing streaks of color suggest trees, red and glowing and perhaps – who knows, in a runaway fire season like this one? – on the way to being charred.

James Lavadour (Walla Walla, b. 1951), “Ghost Camp,” 2002, ed. 16, suite of four, four-color lithographs with graphite pencil on Arches 88 white paper, 34 1/4 x 43 3/4 inches overall, CSP 02-114 a, b, c, d. Photo: Dale Peterson

Oh: and, sticking up from the top right print like a towering forest snag, the jagged teeth of a giant crosscut logging blade grind relentlessly at the sky. The suite is inspired by Lavadour’s memories of a forest he used to wander as a child – a forest that’s since been clear-cut, and essentially no longer exists. The lithographs are at once an honoring of the past, a preservation of history, a documentation of a present state of mind, an act of beauty, and a lament. The more you look the more you see; the more you see the more you feel.

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Governor’s Arts Awards, revived

After a 10-year hiatus, the governor's awards return with five honorees. Plus: some highlights from September's gallery shows.

With school in session and Labor Day in the rear view mirror, Thursday is the first First Thursday of the fall season (even if autumn doesn’t officially arrive until Sept. 22), and art galleries across the city are busily installing new exhibits.

We’ll get to that. But first, some good news from the state capitol in Salem: After a 10-year hiatus that began when the state and national economies cratered, the Governor’s Arts Awards have returned. Gov. Kate Brown’s office announced Tuesday morning that the revived awards, which also coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Oregon Arts Commission, will go to two individual artists and three organizations.

Governor’s Arts Award winner Arvie Smith’s “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” (2015, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches, collection of Nancy Ogilvie) was part of his APEX retrospective exhibition at the Portland Art Museum in 2016/17.

Portland painter Arvie Smith and Yoncalla storyteller Esther Stutzman are being honored with lifetime achievement awards. Pendleton’s innovative Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, Portland Opera, and the James F. and Marion Miller Foundation are also being honored.

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