DE May

ArtsWatch Weekly: Dance ’til we drop. Rach around the clock.

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts, and a glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY? That, as ArtsWatch reader and Oregon composer Jack Gabel reminds us, is the title of a 1969 Jane Fonda movie about marathon dances, those Depression-era competitions that went on and on until the prize money finally went to the last man and woman standing.

Alessandro Sciarrone’s dance FOLK-S, Will you still love me tomorrow?, which played a few nights ago at Portland’s annual TBA Festival, might not have the same tinge of desperation. But as Andrea Stolowitz writes for ArtsWatch, it’s a marathon nonetheless. And it’s dance until almost everyone drops.

"FOLK-S, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?": Dance 'til you drop. Photo: Andrea Macchio

“FOLK-S, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”: Dance ’til you drop. Photo: Andrea Macchio

“The lights bumped up,” she writes. “An actor came forward and said, ‘Tonight we will perform a dance traditional of the Tyrolean region. We will keep performing this dance until either no one of you is left in the audience or no one of us is left on stage. Anyone who leaves the theater will not be allowed back in.‘ And with that gauntlet thrown, the dance started again.”

Later, as the crowd and stage begin to thin: “They danced through heat and sweat and in twosomes and fivesomes, and sometimes alone. Audience members began to leave. And still the five danced. And you could think that so long as someone was there to watch them maybe they would dance forever. And on they danced. Until another actor left. We sat there, shocked. It was happening. We were down to four. And more audience left.” That was not, as you might surmise, the end. Still, just to reassure you: No horses were harmed in the making of this dance.

In TBA goes local, ArtsWatch’s Jamuna Chiarini slips behind the scenes for quick-hit interviews with several Portland dancers and choreographers who’ve been showing their work on the festival’s stages.

TBA continues in venues across the city through Sunday, with some visual arts exhibitions lasting until October 11.


Photo: Third Rail Repertory Theatre

Photo: Third Rail Repertory Theatre

OPENING THIS WEEKEND. Maureen Porter (above) stars as Aphra Behn, “poet, actress, spy, and one of the first professional female playwrights of the Restoration,” in Third Rail Rep’s production of Liz Duffy Adams’ comedy Or, opening Friday at Imago.

Also new on Portland stages this weekend:

A big, full-bore revival of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town at Portland Center Stage.

La Luna Nueva, Milagro’s wide-ranging festival of performance for kids ranging from First Nations storytelling to West African and taiko drumming, Mexican legends, flamenco guitar, Tahitian dance, and more.


SABINA POOLE IS ON A MISSION. It’s a good mission. You might even say, fascinating. In a nutshell, over the past year and a bit she’s visited 70 artists in their studios around Oregon, gathering photographs and interviews for a book coming out in October, Connective Conversations | Inside Oregon Art, 2011-2014. She’s begun to run excerpts – intriguing snippets, really – weekly in ArtsWatch. “My method was, I hoped, unobtrusive,” she writes. “… My role was to document the artists in their unique environment – in the lighting they were used to, in the rooms they lived and worked in, surrounded by the things they loved and cared about, even if that meant dogs and children or other unanticipated creatures.”

The series so far:

Introducing Connective Conversations. The nitty gritty on the project and Poole’s rules of engagement.

Renee Couture: A trailer with a view. A visit to the wild woods east of Roseburg, where Poole hikes uphill to her studio trailer in Peele, which “is near a place called No Fog. No kidding.”

DE May: Inside a studio, darkly. Among Poole’s notes on finally getting to see the reclusive Salem artist: “HATES daylight, only likes to be up and about in the dark – hence his darkened windows, and all the shadows. … darkness is key to his work, and ethos. Interesting relationship with goldfish.”

Renee Couture inside her trailer studio. Photo: Sabina Poole

Renee Couture inside her trailer studio. Photo: Sabina Poole


WELCOME TO ARTSWATCH WEEKLY. We’ve been sending a letter like this every Tuesday for a couple of years now to a select group of email subscribers. We’ll continue to do that, and now we’re posting it weekly on the ArtsWatch home page. In ArtsWatch Weekly, we take a look at stories we’ve covered in the previous week, give early warning of events coming up, and often head off on little arts rambles that we don’t include anywhere else. You can read this report here. Or, you can get it delivered weekly to your email inbox, and get a quick look at all the stories you might have missed (we have links galore) and the events you want to add to your calendar. It’s easy to sign up. Just click here, and leave us your name and e-address.



A choral Rach around the clock. ArtsWatch visited St. Mary’s Cathedral to hear the vitalchorus Cappella Romana perform Rachmaninoff’s immensely moving, century-old All Night Vigil: “It seemed to traverse time, reaching far back to simple lines and harmonies and recombining them in complex ways.”

Henk Pander," Observation Post," pen and ink. Courtesy of the artist.

Henk Pander,” Observation Post,” pen and ink. Courtesy of the artist.

HENK PANDER: AFTER THE APOCALYPSE. Paul Sutinen considers the Dutch-born and -trained Portland artist’s “delicious” show of recent large drawings at Nine Gallery of “apocalyptic fantasies.” He likes what he sees.

THE UNDERSTUDY: DRIVING IT HOME. Gavin Hoffman’s “antic, pacing, begging, whining, very funny stand-up comedy routine of an opening scene,” I write, is key to understanding Theresa Rebeck’s actors’  vehicle of a comedy at Artists Rep.

ONCE UPON A TIME: TRUE STORIES. Christa Morletti McIntyre discovers a whole family of personal storytelling at Alberta Abbey in Portland Story Theater’s season-opening show.

NEW MUSIC, NEW BLOOD, NEW HORIZONS. ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell looks back over several months of Oregon music news and recaps some of the scene’s biggest trends.

Rebecca Ridenour and Keith Cable in Post5's "Equivocation." Photo: Russell J Young

Rebecca Ridenour and Keith Cable in Post5’s “Equivocation.” Photo: Russell J Young

SKULDUGGERY IN HIGH PLACES. Marty Hughley speaks forthrightly of Bill Cain’s audacious comedy-drama Equivocation at Post5 Theatre: “Equivocation is a bear of a script to tackle. For Post5, a young company blessed with more pluck than resources, it counts as a remarkably ambitious choice.”

THE HOUSE ON THE WALL, THE HOUSE IN YOUR HEART. Samuel Eisen-Meyers discovers “loss, dread and revitalization” in Ritsuko Ozeki’s recent show of prints and paintings at Froelick Gallery that were prompted by Japan’s massive earthquake and tsunami of 2011 that led to the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.

STILL WAITING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS. “Gogo’s feet stink. Didi reeks of garlic. And, no, Godot never does show up. I take a deep dive into Northwest Classical’s “itchy and morosely funny” revival of Waiting for Godot at the tiny Shoebox Theater.

“I LOVE WHAT YOU’VE DONE WITH THIS ROOM!” Visiting Leslie Baum’s exhibit at Hap Gallery, Patrick Collier writes, is a bit like “how one might encounter an orchestrated suburban living room (but in a good way.)” He adds: “Despite the bright colors that abound, I read this collection of work as a subtle critique of the more comfortable constructs of making and seeing, plus a little elbow to the ribs of those self-seduced, dulled attendees of the soirée.”

Leslie Baum, an inexplicably social situation. Photo: Hap Gallery

Leslie Baum, an inexplicably social situation. Photo: Hap Gallery


And finally…

We end with a couple of requests. First, if you have friends or family members who you think would enjoy our newsletter and our cultural writing online, could you please forward this letter to them? The bigger our circle of friends, the more we can accomplish. Second, if you’re not already a member of ArtsWatch, may we ask you to please take a moment and sign on? What you give (and your donation is tax-deductible) makes it possible for us to continue and expand our reporting and commenting on our shared culture in Oregon. Thanks, and welcome! Becoming a member is easy:

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DE May: Inside a studio, darkly

Sabina Poole's survey of Oregon artists' studios around the state continues with Salem's mysterious DE May

The assignment to photograph D.E May was met, at first, with little enthusiasm. Only because I looked at the address written on the Google Document: Salem, Oregon, it said.

It is not like I am a stranger to Salem. I’m not, I lived there for 10 years, and I’d always thought of it as tediously flat and uninspiring. But then, I had never met May, either.

May will entirely change your opinion of what he calls “Islandsalem” in a heartbeat.

Artist D.E. May, who, by choice, works in relative darkness in his studio. Usually a thick blind is pulled down over the window in the left of this photo. /Sabina Poole

Artist D.E. May, who, by choice, works in relative darkness in his studio. Usually a thick blind is pulled down over the window in the left of this photo. /Sabina Poole

I am an analog-appreciating girl. So when I received from May’s gallery representative, Jane Beebe (PDX Contemporary) the proper directives and etiquette to be in touch with the artist, I listened intently.

Writer’s Note: In the summer of 2014, I began my travels around Oregon to photograph the artists who had received studio visits from the curators and critics of the Connective Conversations | Inside Oregon Art 2011-2014, The Ford Family Foundation and the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts Curator and Critic Tours and Lectures program for the years since the program’s inauguration in 2011. I travel light, only one camera, no lighting equipment, one lens. My goal is to show these artists in their environment—authentic, uncontrived, at ease.

May reluctantly answers his phone. (“You have to call, let the answering machine pick up, and start talking…He will either pick up and take the call or leave it. In any case, leave a message, he might call you back. Or he might not.”) I would learn later that he got his first phone in 1999 at the age of 47—it was a landline. Add to that he doesn’t “do” email, and there seemed no real electronic way to communicate with this man. I was instructed that if I did dare call, no contact should be attempted prior to 1:00 pm (“You know, because he stays up really, really late. He does that night thing.”) He was sounding more and more interesting. And, all of this in Salem?!
After a few post-1 pm calls to the aforementioned answering machine during which I talked away to myself quite happily all the while imaging May in a room vacantly listening-in, there was an out-of-breath pick-up. Within a short amount of time we had arranged to meet and photograph May at his studio. Then he read me his actual address, a a downtown Salem location, and, he added, “It’s kind of hard to find, I’ll put up signs.” Undeterred, I packed up my camera and made the drive down I-5 on a brilliantly sunny, summer day. The broad and bright light of day would make a perfect, natural light source, and I was confident. This was going to be good.

I arrived, realized I was precariously near a Salem theatrical landmark, parked my car at the city curb, and looked for the door. The location was in a downtown cluster of mixed-use buildings, in a rather non-descript area I had never really noticed before. The number I was instructed to look for was stickered on a glass door heading up a flight of stairs. And there, true to his word, stuck to the door with looped over masking tape, a 3 x 5 cardstock handwritten sign: “Sabina—Upstairs.” I pulled the sign off the door, and ventured up the narrow stairway; another sign waited for me on another door, “Sabina: This Way” it instructed with a small arrow. Then another that finally said: “Sabina—Knock.” I knocked, and the door was instantly opened by a gentleman in a porkpie hat. Quite dapper, I thought. “DE May, I presume?”

And, there I was inside the two small rooms that comprise May’s studio. I won’t try to describe the detail and organization of the space—it was intricate, to the point of beautifully obsessive: fantastically catalogued materials, brilliantly coordinated, tabulated, classified, boxed, stacked and shelved. Pieces and parts of a mind and thoughts represented in snippets and piles of maps, papers, stamps, blocks of wood, of the most eccentric quality and quantity; a place of imaginative cleverness and ingenuity. I was stunned, then, oddly comfortable in a very ‘spirit of efficiency’ kind of way.

Work laid out for more attention by the artist, D.E. May and his studio space./Sabina Poole

Work laid out for more attention by the artist, D.E. May and his studio space./Sabina Poole

This studio defied narrative. Instead it filled one’s head with intentions of being elsewhere—travel and adventure and possibility—was it the maps, entirely covering one wall? Or the books of collected stamps? The small pieces of paper, letters and notes to be or never to be written? The prospect of what might go on those pieces of paper: ideas to be recorded; notes to be printed? Parts and parcels to be conveyed? Or maybe pieces joined, stacked, assembled, categorized together in some way as yet unimaginable?

In May’s studio, there were punctuated light sources, mostly table lamps on desks, but, curiously, all the windows were boarded up, covered with brown perforated fiberboard, thick shades pulled over the fenestration. Light struggled to find ways in from the glorious summer day outside, barely making the room any lighter than a solitary desk-lamp-lit room late at night. Obviously, this was light May was accustomed to and preferred—the shelter of eclipse. That’s when May began to tell me about how he loathes daylight. He described how he and his friends sleep the day and function during nighttime—a nocturnal existence. He blocks out the light, if he has to be up during the daylight hours, to find it tolerable.

Finding pieces to work with, D.E. May keeps his materials intricately organized and boxed./Sabina Poole

Finding pieces to work with, D.E. May keeps his materials intricately organized and boxed./Sabina Poole

What else did I learn? May hasn’t had a car since 1977, but if he drove one now he’d prefer one from the Citroen DS series from the 1950s. He visits a local dive bar almost every night and visits the city library almost as often, but he admits, he is not a reader of books. He mentions a current search to obtain a 1965 Val Surf skateboard, and a casual yet ongoing attempt to pen a screenplay for the past 30 years. It’s a murder mystery featuring Sherlock Holmes and Marcel Duchamp together in New York City.

May collaborated with the shoot, sitting here and then there, showing me his work-in-progress, placing himself at his work spaces, letting me shoot from angles and distances throughout the studio, talking about his work and the darkness in the room. I encouraged him to turn off whatever lights he did not normally have on and pull shades all the way down on windows as he would have if I were not there. At that point, we were left in a dimness; the lights cast very concentrated spheres of illumination. May’s porkpie hat threw a silhouette of distinction.

When I got home, I jotted down some notes to remember May by and my visit to his Islandsalem studio. I wrote:

“HATES daylight, only likes to be up and about in the dark—hence his darkened windows, and all the shadows. He wants to be in shadow…. darkness is key to his work, and ethos. Interesting relationship with goldfish.”

And, no, I will not be saying anything about the goldfish.

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DE May’s exhibition of new work, No Specific Region, opens November 5 at PDX CONTEMPORARY gallery, 925 NW Flanders. I’ll see you there.

DE May, untitled (674 front view), 2015 graphite, colored pencil and ink on found postcard 3 1/2" x 5 3/8"/Courtesy PDX Contemporary

DE May, untitled (674 front view), 2015
graphite, colored pencil and ink on found postcard
3 1/2″ x 5 3/8″/Courtesy PDX Contemporary

Next week: artist Julia Oldham.

The Ford Family Foundation with the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts are pleased to announce the upcoming October 2015 release of the book, Connective Conversations | Inside Oregon Art, 2011-2014. Connective Conversations is The Ford Family Foundation’s Curator and Critic Tours and Lecture Series program, conducted in partnership with the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts. The full-color book will be available at the 2015 Oregon Arts Summit’s Visual Arts Ecology workshop, supported by the Foundation; and, subsequently, available for purchase [locations TBA]. The book is a collaborative work representing the series launched in 2011, which brought national curators and critics to visit Oregon artists in their studios across the state, to present lectures and to participate in community dialogue. The book contains images of the 70 Oregon artists and their studio spaces visited between 2011-2014.

Connective Conversations | Inside Oregon Art, 2011-2014 | The Ford Family Foundation and the University of Oregon Curator and Critic Tours: Edited by Kate Wagle | Design and Layout by Pace Taylor | Photography by Sabina Poole | Advised by Carol Dalu and Kandis Brewer Nunn.

Connective Conversations | Inside Oregon Art is part of The Foundation’s seven-pronged Visual Arts program launched in 2010 to honor the interests in the visual arts by the late Mrs. Hallie Ford, a co-founder of The Foundation. Principal goals of the overall program are to help enhance the quality of artistic endeavor and body of work by Oregon’s most promising visual artists and to improve Oregon’s visual arts ecology by making strategic investments in Oregon visual arts institutions. Some program components The Foundation directs; others, it elects to work with regionally-based institutions such as it has done in partnering with the University of Oregon with the first four years of the Curator and Critic Tours and Lecture series. Such collaborations are invaluable in maximizing the delivery and impact of the program components for which The Foundation is most grateful.