elizabeth malaska

The Artists Series 4: Visual Artists

Ten more portraits in black and white by K.B. Dixon of Oregon artists who are helping to define what Portland and the state look like


TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


This is the fourth installment of portraits in The Artist Series. The first two focused on Oregon writers. Part 3 and this installment, Part 4, focus on visual artists—the gifted, award-winning painters, sculptors, and photographers who have made invaluable contributions to the cultural life of this city and state, people whose legacies are destined to be part of our cultural history.

For an introductory look at their work, I refer you to their digital digs—their virtual ateliers.


STEPHEN HAYES: PAINTER


A “deft blending of representation and sheer abstraction underpins Hayes’s eminence as a supreme kind of painters’ painter in the Pacific Northwest.” – Sue Taylor, Art in America.

Examples of Hayes’s work can be found at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery and at https://www.stephenhayes.net

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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.

In the Frame 5: Cultural Lights

In a fifth collection of black & white images, K.B. Dixon continues his photographic portraiture series of Oregon arts and cultural leaders


TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY K.B. DIXON


The photographic portrait is a complex thing—an image gathered at the center of four corners. It is what the camera sees, what the photographer sees, what the viewer sees, and what the subject hides or reveals. The facts of it can be explained to some degree, but not the experience of it. It is a magic trick, a sort of transcendental transcription. It is pulling a rabbit out of your hat, or in this case out of your DSLR.

The portraits gathered here are the latest in a series titled In the Frame—a photographic chronicle of the talented people whose contributions to the art, character, and culture of this city have made it what it is today, people whose various legacies are destined to be part of our cultural heritage.

As with the previous portraits in this series, these have been taken in situ using available light.


JERRY MOUAWAD


Writer, Artistic Co-Director, and Founding Member with Carol Triffle of Imago Theatre.

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Viz Arts Monthly: The post-holiday edition

The gears are grinding as the arts world shifts into 2019

Well, we made it. Hello, 2019. While some galleries are still shaking off their holiday hangover, there’s still good stuff to see. If you’re making new year’s resolutions, why not resolve to see more art in person! Some good shows are closing soon, so take this chance to see them before they go. Besides the ones listed here, make sure to check out the closing events at PICA’s Abigail DeVille show—two film screenings feature a local documentary about police violence and independent films from houseless youth. And if you haven’t had your fill of New Year’s celebrations, the Portland Japanese Garden will host an evening of music, games, tea, dancing, and performance for Japanese new year on the 13th. Also worth celebrating: five Portland artists have received the prestigious Painters and Sculptors grants from the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Congratulations to Addoley Dzegede, Lisa Jarrett, Elizabeth Malaska, Wendy Red Star, and Blair Saxon-Hill.

Ōtagaki Rengetsu (Japanese, 1791–1875), Samurai Footman with Poem, 1867, hanging scroll; ink and light color on paper, 12 13/16 x 17 1/2 in., Collection of Mary and Cheney Cowles.

Poetic Imagination in Japanese Art
Through January 13
Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Avenue

There’s still time to catch this exhibition of, as Laurel Reed Pavic noted in her ArtsWatch review, “calligraphic texts, imaginary portraits of poets, monochrome ink paintings, and landscapes from the eighth through the twentieth century,” all drawn from the collection of Mary and Cheney Cowles. Maribeth Graybill, the Curator of Asian Art at the Portland Art Museum, calls the collection “without question one of the finest collections of Japanese art in private hands.”

Print by Christoph Ruckhäberle

Paradise Lost: Christoph Ruckhäberle
Through January 13
Ampersand, 2916 NE Alberta Street

Bursting with color, these collages, photogravures, and wood prints by German artist Christoph Ruckhäberle evoke a bustling world of shapes and figures. Many of the prints come from some process of recycling, whether it’s taking material from paintings made by Ruckhäberle or creating collages from makulatur, a German word that refers to wastepaper from test prints. This small, lively show should be a nice shot of color in the midwinter months.


Member Show
Through January 30
Blackfish Gallery, 420 NW 9th Ave

Stalwart of the Portland art scene since 1979, Blackfish Gallery is member-owned and operated by artists representing a broad spectrum of the local art community. This annual show highlights recent work by each current member, and kicks off the 40th anniversary of this community hub for countless regional artists.

Photo By Rebecca Reeve

Sun Breathing: Rebecca Reeve
January 3 – March 2, 2019
UpFor, 929 NW Flanders St

UK artist Rebecca Reeve brings a show of photographs of eerie, beautiful landscape interventions to Portland for her first solo exhibition at Upfor. Painting directly onto portions of the landscape or elements within it. Reeve returns to the same sites over and over, describing it as “watching the change in seasons and the earth breathe.” This allows her to develop a relationship with the area that informs her final photos, which represent a patient collaboration between Reeve and the light, flora, and natural elements of the landscape.

Sculpture by Joanna Bloom

Exaggerated Stories: Joanna Bloom
January 4-February 2
Adams and Ollman, 209 SW 9th Avenue

Regional artist Joanna Bloom’s first exhibition at Adams and Ollman “elaborates upon her experiments with the ritual forms of the trophy and the bowl.” These chunky, enigmatic ceramic sculptures draw on the right history of self taught art, ceremonial objects, and the landscape of the Pacific Northwest. Crowns, bowls, floral shapes, and other loose and lovingly-sculpted forms play with associations of achievement, glory, and recognition while reveling in imperfection and rough-edged personability.

Altar installation view

Altar: Lynn Yarne
January 16-March 1
Open Signal, 2766 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard

This vibrant mixed-media installation weaves the real-life stories of “nine elders from Portland’s Chinatown/Japantown” from a collection audio recordings, images, and animations. Yarne explores representation, local history, and community memory in the second- and third-hand stories that she’s pieced together in this altar to local mythology. A very long list of contributors and collaborator helped produce the three video pieces in the show Don’t Forget Who You Are Or Where You Are From, Digital Collage Power Portraits, and Power Shirts.

Visual Magic: An Oregon Invitational
January 19-May 12
Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
University of Oregon Campus, 1420 Johnson Lane, Eugene

The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in collaboration with the George D. Green Art Institute presents a smorgasbord of beloved Oregon artists. Including recent work by 45 artists who emerged in Oregon during the 1960s and ’70s, the show features paintings, sketchbooks, ceramics, and mixed-media work from an influential generation of Oregon artists. Featured artists include Rob Bibler, Sharon Bronzan, Jon Jay Cruson, Humberto Gonzalez, George Johanson, Connie Kiener, Nancy Lindburg, Lucinda Parker, Isaka Shamsud-Din, Richard Thompson, and Phyllis Yes.

The Bridge by Amy Bernstein

Entre chien et loup: Amy Bernstein
Through January 22
Downtown Stumptown
128 SW 3rd Avenue

The newest recipient of the Stumptown Artist Fellowship, Bernstein is known in Portland for her ebullient, spare and gestural abstract paintings. The title of her exhibition comes from a French expression meaning “between the dog and the wolf.” While it usually refers to the time of day between dusk and night, Bernstein employs it here to describe our current era, which she calls a “divided time of possible selves.” To her it symbolizes “an investigation of an indiscernible time of light and darkness, a time of unimaginable metamorphosis and imminent revolution whose direction is not totally clear.”

 


 

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that an exhibition of work by Hank Willis Thomas is at the Portland Art Museum. In fact, that show will open October 5.

 

 

People & Conversations 2018

2018 in Review, Part 3: ArtsWatch goes behind the scenes for conversations with 22 creators who talk about their lives and art

By Sarah Kremen-Hicks

Theaters have their curtains. Paintings have their frames. Books have their covers. The act of presentation, of framing, of giving things edges, shifts the subject to the work itself and hides the artist away, if only a little bit. ArtsWatch’s writers have spent the past year seeking out the artists behind the frames and bringing them to you. Here are 22 glimpses behind the curtain from 2018.

 


 

Michael Brophy in his North Portland studio, 2017. Photo: Paul Sutinen

A conversation with Michael Brophy

Jan. 3: Prominent Northwest painter Michael Brophy talks with Paul Sutinen in an interview that begins with being “the kid that drew” and becomes a meditation on medium and viewership:

Where did that lightbulb come on for you to say, ‘OK, I saw all that stuff in London and now I want to go to art school.’

I knew the minute I saw paintings, like in the National Gallery. The scale of things—my mind was blown by the size of things. An artist I don’t think about much, Francis Bacon, there was a room of Bacon’s paintings [at the Tate Gallery] and it terrified me. I didn’t know that art could do that. I had to leave the room. I had a kind of like a panic attack.

I think they call it ‘epiphany.’

Yeah, so after that I just knew what I was going to do. Just as simple as that.

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Interview: Tahni Holt talks about ‘Rubble Bodies’

Veteran Portland choreographer Tahni Holt discusses life after a collapse in her new dance

Rubble Bodies brings up the possibilities for me of something after a collapse, where we don’t actually know how it’s organized yet,” Portland choreographer Tahni Holt told me over coffee last week as we talked about her new dance. This idea she said, “gives me freedom and curiosity about how to combine things in interesting ways that aren’t habitually organized in my body at this particular moment in time.”

Holt has been working on Rubble Bodies since 2015. Originally a solo called Apples and Pomegranates, it is now a group work-in-progress in collaboration with composer Luke Wyland, visual artist Elizabeth Malaska, New Orleans trombonist Willis Ross, singer Holland Andrews, and dramaturg Kate Bredeson. Although Holland is part of the work, she will not be performing in this weekend’s show, though she will take part in the work’s official premiere in the winter.

Holt is a choreographer and founding director of FLOCK Dance Center here in Portland, and she has been creating performances, programing and teaching for the past 19 years.

Rubble Bodies will share the bill with New Orleans-based Shannon Stewart this weekend at Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance. (I also interviewed Stewart about her work Relatives, which you can read about here.)

“Rubble is this amazing word,” Holt observed. “It brings up this very strong image of all these bits and pieces. When I think about this work and what I’m manifesting, it’s a lot of bits and ways of imagining the materiality of my body.”

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Elizabeth Malaska: The ancient within the modern

An interview with painter Elizabeth Malaska must be wide-ranging, because that's the way she approaches her work

By PAUL MAZIAR

When I got the chance to sit down with painter Elizabeth Malaska to discuss some of what I see in her new exhibition, Heavenly Bodies, at Russo Lee Gallery, I was moved by her intensity and congeniality. It’s an unlikely pairing, maybe, and that’s consistent with her work. Her canvases bear the historical past and the immediate present, and a wide-ranging research of art history and contemporary art grounds her subjects—it also frees them.

I was also astonished to find that her answers kept covering questions that I had yet to ask. Her practice of art-making addresses her own life, the outside world, social and political concerns, and again, art history.

Elizabeth Malaska, “Reflections (1)”, charcoal, Flashe on paper/Courtesy Russo Lee Gallery

“I don’t believe in the Modern world: It’s such a thin veneer,” Malaska insists. “We’re trying to protect ourselves from the vulnerability of Being, basically, and we’re making so many concessions to do that. Any time I have a chance to point to how the ancient lives within the modern, to widen those rips within the fabric of our modern ego, I want to do that.”

Her work addresses the problem of being attentive to and open-minded about the contemporary world, while rejecting its narrowness, which is the cause of so many of its ills.

One thing I’m reminded of, having talked with Malaska, is that it seems that we always have—as creative and engaged thinkers with creative and engaged bodies—an entire history to draw upon. To reduce our concerns and attentions to the temporal only would be a mistake. Likewise, it’s just as grave an error to avoid the present.

Looking at Malaska’s paintings, I’m aware of the fact of my male form, of the power (as ever) and the sensibility of women, of the need for change in our society, the fragility of life in all forms. The handling of paint throughout this show mirrors these and other ideas, as much as it entertains, going from lush, wild and otherworldly—as in the strange, heartbreaking/heartbroken being in the foreground of Wake to Weep—to totally refined, unified, exacting. A walk through Heavenly Bodies is really a timeless walk.

I have restitched our conversation to group her thoughts on several specific topics.

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