Elizabeth Leach

Ready or not, live shows on the way

ArtsWatch Weekly: As Oregon begins to open up, live performances get ready to join the crowd, indoors and out

… AND THIS WEEK, THE GATES BEGAN TO CREAK OPEN. On Tuesday, days after the Portland Trail Blazers began to allow small crowds to see their home games at the Moda Center (they were among the last teams in the National Basketball Association to let fans return) Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced that she would largely open the state up once 70 percent of its citizens 16 and older had received at least one coronavirus vaccination. She expected that to happen, she added, sometime in June. The order would include, as Aimee Green reported in The Oregonian/Oregon Live, “the lifting of capacity limits on restaurants, bars, stores, gyms, sporting venues, movie theaters and limitations on the number of people who can gather indoors or out for events such as road races and festivals.” While many experts consider that level of vaccination too low for a full reopening – as Green notes, “70 percent of Oregonians 16 and older partially vaccinated will probably translate to less than 50 percent of the overall population fully vaccinated” – all sorts of places are making plans.

Artist rendering of The Lot at Zidell Yards, a socially distanced performance venue with stage, large movie screen, food carts, and a series of seating pods. Capacity will be 300, but may expand.

That includes the relatively new outdoor venue The Lot at Zidell Yards, an open entertainment complex on Portland’s South Waterfront, on the west side of the Ross Island Bridge. On the same day that Gov. Brown announced the state’s reopening plans, The Lot announced a summer season of concerts and movie screenings beginning in late May, with distanced seating pods, food and drink carts, and an audience capacity of 300, which could expand if state regulations relax even further. Concerts range from popular acts such as the Dandy Warhols and Jenny Don’t & the Spurs to a show from members of the Oregon Symphony’s brass sections and, on the July 4 weekend, a scaled-back version of the Waterfront Blues Festival. Big-screen movies, produced in partnership with the Hollywood Theatre, range from Crazy Rich Asians to Rear Window and Thelma and Louise.

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The Gallerists

In photographs and words, K.B. Dixon profiles three leading Portland gallery owners: Martha Lee, Charles Froelick, and Elizabeth Leach


TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


No one (or almost no one) goes into the gallery business for the money—they go into it for the art.

I once published a piece titled An Artist’s Alphabet. It was a satiric tour of the art world in dictionary form. A was for Aerial View: “When an artist looks down on you.” B for Brushstroke: “The painter’s declaration that ‘Kilroy was here’.” C for Craft: “To the Classicist what ‘invention’ was to the Romantic.” D for Dada: “The movement that was, in a sense, MOMA’s papa.” E for Easel: “The rack upon which an artist’s hopes are tortured.” F for Form: “The shape ships are in.” And G for Gallery Owner: a person I cavalierly defined as “Satan in a black turtleneck.” I was, of course, parodying a barnacle-encrusted stereotype. When it comes to gallerists the opposite is true in most cases—most cases outside of New York, anyway.

Gallerists are, in fact, the hidden heroes of the art world. They are the people who promote our established artists and who bring new artists to our attention; the people who provide those artists a place to exhibit their work and a chance to pay their rent. They have a unique and valuable set of skills—they are part aesthetician, part businessperson, part soothsayer.

The three gallerists here have been a vital part of our artistic community for decades. They have played a major role in the creation and development of this city and states cultural history.


MARTHA LEE: Owner of Russo-Lee Gallery


“It doesn’t seem that long ago,” Martha Lee writes, “that I sat with Laura Russo as she worked on her introduction for the gallery’s 20th Anniversary catalogue…and suddenly here it is ten years later and we are celebrating our 30th.” That was in 2016. “While much has changed, so much remains the same. The Laura Russo Gallery remains firmly rooted in a deep commitment to the Pacific Northwest art community. The fourteen years I worked with Laura instilled in me a passion for the art and artists of this region. And since taking ownership of the gallery over [ten] years ago, my own commitment to promoting and celebrating the careers of local artists has only grown stronger.”

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Riding the musical merry-go-round

ArtsWatch Weekly: Thanks and farewell to David Shifrin, music virtual & live, news briefs, a gallery sampler, saving public art, left turns

IN A WORLD SO VOLATILE AND ABSURD that the president of the United States declares war on the post office (!), it might seem difficult to find a solid rock of stability, something to cling to with assurance and trust through snow or rain or heat or gloom of night. Yet for forty years David Shifrin has been just such a rock in Oregon: a musical anchor, guiding and safekeeping the estimable Chamber Music Northwest to a creative blend of traditional and contemporary music-making through a combination of grace, good humor, generosity, vision, variety, and a positively swinging clarinet.

David Shifrin, after forty years still caught up in the music. Photo courtesy Chamber Music Northwest

With the wrapping-up of the chamber festival’s virtual summer season, which drew 50,000 listeners worldwide for its 18 streamed concerts, Shifrin is finally passing the torch. Though he’ll continue to perform with Chamber Music Northwest on occasion, he’s passing the festival’s artistic leadership to the married team of pianist Gloria Chien and violinist Soovin Kim. In A hearty encore for David Shifrin, Angela Allen takes a look at Shifrin’s four decades of leadership and talks with several of the musicians who know him best, and to a person admire him. The reviews are in, and from his colleagues as well as the festival’s many fans, they are glowing.

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First Thursday: Solitude and connection

The galleries and art fans braved coronavirus, coughed in their elbows and sought shelter

As I biked downtown to visit a few galleries for First Thursday, I wondered if the news of pandemic would keep local audiences at home. I was happy to see that I wasn’t the only one willing to throw caution to the wind in order to support Portland’s art community — the Pearl District was full of small groups of all ages bouncing between shows.

Much of the artwork on view was hushed and intimate, though the crowds were chatty and restless as usual. It felt almost as though artists and curators were unwittingly building virtual shelters, providing protection, if not comfort, from the increasingly chaotic world outside. 

Abstract black-and-white drawing featuring organic-looking shapes overlayed with sharp angular forms and calligraphic designs, evoking a dark room layered with sheer curtains and wrought metal decor
Graphite and ink drawing by Erin Murray/Courtesy Holding Contemporary

My first stop was Holding Contemporary, where a show-scheduling snafu had serendipitously resulted in the last-minute pairing of Philadelphia-based Erin Murray and Portland’s own Leslie Hickey in a show titled What We See and What We Know. The gallery was mostly dark as I approached, and I wasn’t even sure it was open since I couldn’t see anybody inside. But the door wasn’t locked, so I went in and realized the sleepy lighting scheme was intentional, and lovely.

The other visitors were in the back, hovering near an alcove that contained a sort of side exhibition by André Filipek Magaña. There, the small pencil drawings of children’s cartoon character Dora the Explorer in various surreal situations and seemingly uncomfortable positions were funny in their way, but were a bit of a non sequitur in the context of the feature show.

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Artist Deborah Horrell, 1953-2018

The longtime Portland artist dies after a long battle with cancer. A celebration of her life has been set.

Deborah Horrell, 1953-2018. Photo courtesy Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Word has arrived that the longtime Portland artist Deborah Horrell died on August 24 after a six-year battle with lung cancer. She was 65. Her obituary is here.

“It is with heavy hearts that we inform you that our dear friend and gallery artist, Deborah Horrell, recently passed away after several years battling cancer,” her Portland gallery, Elizabeth Leach, announced. “Deborah was a beloved member of the gallery family and larger arts community, known for her dynamic and meticulously crafted works in glass, wood and ceramics, as well as her masterfully drafted drawings and paintings.

“Many of you may know that during the last 18 years Deborah had several periods fighting cancer. She always brought tenacity, immense strength and dignity to this herculean task. During those challenging years, Deborah deepened her infectious love for life, boundless affection for friends, colleagues and collaborators, expanded her witty sense of humor, and her passion for imaginative and creative fashion. Deborah dedicated her time to her family (husband Kit and dog Kenai), her studio art practice and giving back to her community. She served on the board of PICA: Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, participated in art residencies and major exhibitions around the country and was an ever-present and engaged patron and attendee of art and dance events throughout our community.”

A celebration of her life will be held October 6 at PICA, 15 N.E. Hancock Street. Details are here.

PAM’s temporary Turner

Art notes: A high-priced Turner is on short-term loan at the Portland Art Museum; Vancouver B.C. art at Leach; Carola Penn's 'Disruptions'

Hanging in a corner of the second-floor European galleries in the Belluschi Building of the Portland Art Museum is a painting that doesn’t usually live there – and not just any painting, but a masterpiece from J.M.W. Turner’s latter period, an 1835 work titled Ehrenbreitstein, or the Bright Stone of Honour and the Tomb of Marceau, from Byron’s ‘Childe Harold’. On short-term loan from an anonymous private collector, it arrived in mid-June and will be in Portland until mid-October.

J.M.W. Turner, “Ehrenbreitstein, or the Bright Stone of Honour and the Tomb of Marceau, from Byron’s ‘Childe Harold’,” 1835, oil on canvas, 48.4 x 36.6 inches.

The painting was included in an Old Masters auction at Sotheby’s London on July 5, 2017, where it was offered with an estimated sale price of $18.7 million-$31.2 million, and sold for $25 million. It had last sold in 1965 for $113,250. “Sotheby’s would have been hoping to get a bit more for the work, which was tipped to have the potential to break Turner’s auction record. But it’s still a good price for such a significant work,” Nicholas Forrest wrote for Blouin Artinfo on the day of the auction. Forrest continued: “One of the greatest works by J.M.W. Turner still held in private hands, Ehrenbreitstein is from a period that is widely considered Turner’s best. The painting depicts the ruined fortress of Ehrenbreitstein near Coblenz, and according to Sotheby’s is the most important oil painting of a German subject that Turner ever painted.”

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