Jessica Holder

The Week: TBA or not TBA?

As the contemporary arts festival surges onto an already bulging September calendar, that is the question.

A NEW CROP OF APPLES IS HITTING THE PRODUCE STANDS. Lush ripe tomatoes are overflowing gardens and markets. Cukes are ready for pickling. America’s schoolchildren, ready or not, are back in the saddle again. And today, for the 17th year, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s annual TBA Festival kicks off again. “TBA” stands for “Time-Based Art,” which mainly means performance – art that takes place in a set period of time, in front of an audience – although visual art’s part of the mix, too. And the time is very contemporary: the art of today, for good and sometimes ill. As PICA puts it, the festival, which runs in venues around Portland through Sept. 15, “gathers artists and audiences from around the world” for eleven days of “contemporary performance, music, visual art, film, workshops, lectures, food, drink, conversation, and celebration.” 

Eiko Otake. Photo courtesy Joseph Scheer, IEA at NYSCC, via PICA


Over the years TBA’s had a lot of hits and a lot of misses. Its emphasis on non-traditional and resolutely experimental work can elevate the narcissistic and the sloppy. It can also champion fresh art of astonishing provocation and beauty, as it did in the festival’s very first incarnation, on Sept. 11, 2003, when, on the second anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, the great butoh-influenced performers Eiko and Koma stunned their Portland audience with an outdoor performance in and around the water at Jamison Square, beneath a darkening sky. That performance, eloquently titled Offering, was sad, deep, ghostlike, hopeful, profound. “It strikes me, on this anniversary of death, that the world’s war-makers would detest this dance, which is about deep truths that can’t be glossed or managed,” I wrote at the time. “One watches an invisible flight of ideas. It is the holy and the profane, inseparable, wrapped into one. A mystery.”

The good news is that Eiko Otake is back at TBA for the first time since that 2003 performance, and she’ll be a busy part of things. You can see her tonight, at TBA’s opening reception, in her evolving piece A Body in Places, based on her return to post-nuclear disaster Fukushima. Prints and video works will also be on view through Oct. 24 at PNCA’s 511 Gallery. There’ll be a screening of her film A Body in Fukushima: Reflections on the Nuclear in Everyday Life, on Sept. 9. She’ll perform her Duet Project: Distance Is Malleable, with several collaborators, Sep. 12-14. And in a free event on Sept. 13, she’ll be in conversation with chroreographer Linda K. Johnson and PICA Artistic Director Kristan Kennedy.

 

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Portraits of everyday humanity and Lisbon in transition

Jessica Holder’s photo exhibit features images of her co-workers; Liz Obert's work explores the Portuguese city, from its medieval past to its vibrant present

More often than not, the Community Gallery in Newberg’s Chehalem Cultural Center leans toward work by extremely local artists (i.e., from Newberg or Yamhill County), and that’s the case with A Glimpse at Humanity, a new photographic show by Jessica Holder.

My personal take-away from viewing the work, which consists entirely of large, black-and-white digital portraits of young men and women, was that it was produced by a photographer who had been doing this for many years. That may speak to my relative newness to visual art, but I suspect it has more to do with the fact that Holder, a recent George Fox University graduate, has a remarkable talent for enabling moments that result in portraiture where the subjects appear very much at ease in their own skin. As far as this show is concerned, it may also have something to do with the fact that most of her subjects are fellow co-workers at the local Dutch Bros. Coffee — which famously hires young people who wear their extrovertism on their sleeves.

"Fate's Home" by Jessica Holder
“Fate’s Home” by Jessica Holder

“I was at Dutch Brothers one day, and honestly, I just said to my friend, ‘Would you ever want me to take photos of you?’,” Holder recalled. “And she said, ‘I’ve been wanting to get photos done for over a year!’ That’s what ignited it. I was inspired by the fact that she felt honored by it.”

A Glimpse at Humanity is Holder’s first show and will be on display through Nov. 2. On Sept. 14, there’s something special, particularly for those who might not be fans of posing for a camera: a community portrait event, enabling Holder to stretch beyond the drive-thru and get a broader picture of Newberg and its culture.

Here’s her artist’s statement:

“My artwork in style is very simplistic and consists of a short depth-of-focus and a vision between abstract and personal.  I am inspired to photograph people by each of their unique stories and the challenge of interpreting them visually.  The concept of this series is to find the Beauty in Everyday.  I search for a story behind every face, thus began the journey of photographing the people closest to me: to create something more out of the people I interact with.  What I found was differences, laughter and a whole lot of heart and part of my dream is showcasing it to a wider audience.”

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