Exquisite Gorge

Going, going, gone: 2019 in review

A look back at the ups and downs and curious side trips of the year on Oregon's cultural front

What a year, right? End of the teens, start of the ’20s, and who knows if they’ll rattle or roar?

But today we’re looking back, not ahead. Let’s start by getting the big bad news out of the way. One thing’s sure in Oregon arts and cultural circles: 2019’s the year the state’s once-fabled craft scene took another staggering punch square on the chin. The death rattles of the Oregon College of Art and Craft – chronicled deeply by ArtsWatch’s Barry Johnson in a barrage of news stories and analyses spiced with a couple of sharp commentaries, Democracy and the arts and How dead is OCAC? – were heard far and wide, and the college’s demise unleashed a flood of anger and lament.

The crashing and burning of the venerable craft college early in the year followed the equally drawn-out and lamented closure of Portland’s nationally noted Museum of Contemporary Craft in 2016, leaving the state’s lively crafts scene without its two major institutions. In both cases the sense that irreversible decisions were being made with scant public input, let alone input from crafters themselves, left much of the craft community fuming. When, after the closure, ArtsWatch published a piece by the craft college’s former president, Denise Mullen, the fury hit the fan with an outpouring of outraged online comments, most by anonymous posters with obvious connections to the school.

Vanessa German, no admittance apply at office, 2016, mixed media assemblage, 70 x 30 x 16 inches, in the opening exhibit of the new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University. Photo: Spencer Rutledge, courtesy PSU

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ArtsWatch Weekly: Keep the stories coming

An invitation to be a part of ArtsWatch. Plus: centenarians Lenny and Merce; Lauren Hare's America; a little song and a little dance.

AS WE MOVE CLOSER TO THANKSGIVING DAY, all of us here at ArtsWatch would like to thank you for the support you’ve given us and ask you to join us as we prepare for another year. You, our readers and financial contributors, make what we do possible. We’ve published more than 450 stories so far in 2019 – news, reviews, previews, analyses, portraits, and deeper insights about the arts. Here’s just a taste of what you’ve helped make happen this year:
 

  • Exquisite Gorge: Friderike Heuer’s 11-part series chronicling Maryhill Museum’s epic 66-foot print project to document the Columbia River.
  • Visual arts coming and going: Bob Hicks’s extensive inside look at the new Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Portland State University, and Barry Johnson’s comprehensive coverage of the Oregon College of Art and Craft’s demise, which topped our most-read list for 2019.
  • Monumental undertakings: Brett Campbell’s in-depth take on the collaboration of PHAME, which provides training and opportunities for developmentally challenged performers, with Portland Opera to premiere the opera The Poet’s Shadow.
  • Theater profiles: Deep portraits by Bobby Bermea and Marty Hughley of Asae Dean, Rodolfo Ortega, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Bill Rauch, the OUTwright Festival, PassinArt’s Black Nativity, and the state of Oregon theater.
  • On the move: Elizabeth Whelan’s profiles of a new generation of dancers and choreographers who are turning Portland into a creative mecca.
  • Minding the gap: Damien Geter’s examination of the diversity deficit in classical music performances and suggestions to remedy it.
  • Picture this: Photo essays of Beaverton Night Market, Nrityotsava, Día de Muertos, colors of India, Waterfront Blues Festival, to name a few.
Ghanaian drumming and dance by Nii Ardey Allote & Nikome at Beaverton Night Market, subject of one of many ArtsWatch photo essays in 2019. Photo: Joe Cantrell

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Exquisite Gorge 11: It’s a print!

On a bright & shining Saturday, it all came together: Maryhill Museum's audacious, 66-foot long print project went to press via steam roller

Woodblock print by Ken Spiering (Detail)

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER


“Only in community with others has each individual the means of cultivating his gifts in all directions; only in the community, therefore, is personal freedom possible.” Karl Marx The German Ideology (1846)

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It was Print Day at Maryhill Museum of Art. Eleven wondrous woodcuts, each sized 6×4 feet, were inked, aligned in a row, and printed by a steam roller, producing the largest contiguous woodcut print that we know of. They depict the length of the Columbia River flowing through The Gorge, with geographic precision regarding the river, and imaginative representation for everything else.

The scaffold is ready, early morning

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Exquisite Gorge 10: The Truth-Teller

As Saturday's finale of Maryhill Museum's Columbia Gorge print project approaches, artist and veteran Drew Cameron talks about art and war.


STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER


“Truth-telling is often very unpleasant when it contradicts the opinion of the majority. Telling the truth can easily lead to a minority position and exposes the truth-teller to the pressure of the majority. To resist this pressure demands courage. Therefore, courage is not only the virtue of political action par excellence, but also quite evidently the virtue of truth-telling. To tell an inconvenient truth is not only a statement, but also an action.”

From: When Telling the Truth Demands Courage Volume 1 of HA: The Journal of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities at Bard College. (2018)

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Courage was visible all around me during my recent visit to the Columbia Gorge Veterans Museum in The Dalles, right next to American Legion Post 19. It was documented in displays about those who have served our country, both on active duty and back home supporting the soldiers during the many wars in recent history, displays that recalled stories of loyalty and sacrifice.

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Exquisite Gorge 8 & 9: The Map Makers

As the Aug. 24 print date for Maryhill Museum's Columbia River project fast approaches, its artists think about the mix of maps and territory


STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER


Cartography is the study and practice of making maps. Combining science, aesthetics, and technique, cartography builds on the premise that reality can be modeled in ways that communicate spatial information effectively. – Wikipedia

Maps. You know, those paper things that half of us can read and half of us cannot; they pointed the way to our destinations before the arrival of talking machines that tell us how to proceed – and then reroute. Maps that were, in theory, supposed to adhere to “the empiricist paradigm of cartography”—that cartography’s only ethic is to be accurate, precise, and complete. Of course, that’s not what many maps are about – instead they often serve as a tool for persuading us to accept a particular view of the world, and not just geographically.

Mapping the territory.

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Exquisite Gorge 7: The Explorer

Printmaker and teacher Molly Gaston Johnson follows Lewis & Clark's westward path to make her mark on Maryhill's Columbia River project

Molly Gaston Johnson and her river of wood.

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER


Maryhill Museum of Art’s planned print day of its Exquisite Gorge project is approaching fast. Hopefully there is a chance to portray each of the participating artists and their work before August 24. Let me introduce today another one of the print makers who I had a chance to talk to in the last several days.

Molly Gaston Johnson, Printmaker and Educator

THE EXQUISITE GORGE PROJECT

“…a collaborative printmaking project featuring 11 artists working with communities along a 220-mile stretch of the Columbia River from the Willamette River confluence to the Snake River confluence to create a massive 66-foot steamrolled print. The unique project takes inspiration from the Surrealist art practice known as exquisite corpse. In the most well-known exquisite corpse drawing game, participants took turns creating sections of a body on a piece of paper folded to hide each successive contribution. When unfolded, the whole body is revealed. In the case of The Exquisite Gorge Project, the Columbia River will become the ‘body’ that unifies the collaboration between artists and communities, revealing a flowing 66-foot work that tells 10 conceptual stories of the Columbia River and its people.”


 Louise Palermo, Curator of Education at Maryhill Museum


Imagine being told since the time you sat on your father’s knees that you are a descendant of Lewis & Clark. Lewis AND Clark! Being regaled with lively tales of hardship and adventure, what is a little girl to do but fall in love with the outdoors and embrace most forms of risk-seeking ventures – it is practically written into your DNA. Well, perhaps not practically, but theoretically. Who knows about the factual truth of the family lore?

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Exquisite Gorge 6: The Guardian

Greg Archuleta, artist and cultural policy analyst for the Grand Ronde tribes, links past and future in Maryhill's Columbia Gorge print project


STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER


Last week I met a guardian of both the past and the future.

Greg Archuleta, Artist and Cultural Policy Analyst for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde

A conversation with Greg Archuleta, artist, educator, and now Cultural Policy Analyst for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, made his calling abundantly clear. On the one hand, as an artist and educator, he is focused on preserving the traditions and knowledge of the past. On the other hand, he is also intensely engaged, both as an educator and a community activist, in protecting conditions needed to extend that past into the future.

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