Jim Lommasson

VizArts Monthly: New openings and moments of nostalgia

June's art openings offer the perfect opportunity to take your newly-vaccinated self out into the world and see some art.

A shift is in the air. Summer is just around the corner, and an ever-increasing number of vaccinated Oregonians are beginning to venture outside more often. This month, many art happenings reflect this slow change. The Oregon Jewish Museum and Yale Union are both reopening with new (and, in Yale Union’s case, final) exhibitions. 1122 Gallery has reopened and rebranded as 1122 Outside. Other art spaces, like Ampersand Gallery, look backward, prompting reflection on 2020 by featuring works created during isolation. There are still virtual art-viewing opportunities and panel discussions for homebodies, too—check out the options at Blue Sky Gallery and more below!

Work by Howard Fonda, image courtesy Ampersand Gallery
Work by Morgan Rosskopf, image courtesy Well Well Projects

Color Burn
June 5 – 27, 2021
Well Well Projects
8371 N Interstate Ave, #1 (Sat-Sun 12 PM – 5 PM)

In this two-person exhibition, mixed-media artists Morgan Rosskopf and Manu Torres spin together fine art and floral design to create an aesthetic experience of opulence, maximalism, and defiant beauty. Using a combination of high brow and low brow materials—Rosskopf works primarily with paper collage, while Torres uses artificial and natural flowers—both artists abandon convention, restraint, and subtlety. Color Burn promises to cultivate a layered, textural, and celebratory sense of visual density.

Marianne Nicolson: A Feast of Light and Shadows
June 30 – August 29, 2021
Yale Union
800 SE 10th Ave (Weds-Thurs 4 PM – 8 PM, Fri-Sun 2 PM – 6 PM)

In Yale Union’s final programming before the transfer of building ownership to the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, artist Marianne Nicolson will build a site-specific installation by utilizing the abundant natural light in the Yale Union gallery to produce a “ceremonial feast of light and shadows.” Nicolson is an artist-activist of the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw First Nations, part of the Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwak’wala speaking peoples) of the Pacific Northwest Coast. This is her first solo exhibition in Portland.

Lawrence Halprin
June 23 – September 26, 2021
Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education
724 NW Davis St (reopening for summer, Weds-Sat 11 AM – 4 PM)

Over the course of Lawrence Halprin’s sixty-year career, he brought innovative ideas to urban design and sparked a shift in landscape architecture throughout the United States. This exhibition delves deeply into Portland’s mid-century Open Space Sequence, which, under Halprin’s direction reinvented public space but also replaced a thriving Jewish immigrant community with fountain plazas and urban greenspaces. Starting in July, as part of the Architectural Heritage Center’s Walking Tours programming, they’ll offer tours of a neighborhood in South Portland that was once home to the majority of the city’s Jewish community. (The neighborhood now features Halprin-designed fountains.) The Architectural Heritage Center will also present a companion exhibition, South Portland and the Long Shadow of Urban Renewal, which “examines the rise, fall, redevelopment, and future of South Portland.”

Work by Howard Fonda, image courtesy Ampersand Gallery

Howard Fonda: Quand la cage est faite, l’oiseau s’envole
May 15 – June 20, 2021
Ampersand Gallery and Fine Books
2916 NE Alberta Street, Suite B (Fri – Sun 11 AM – 4 PM or by appointment; limited entry, masks and distancing required)

Howard Fonda’s newest painting series, Quand la cage est faite, l’oiseau s’envole (translating to “When the cage is made, the bird flies away”) is nostalgic, inspired by natural areas the artist has visited. During times of confinement in 2020, Fonda began this series of landscapes and bird imagery based on a combination of far-off and more recent memories. The results feel characteristically Fonda: dreamlike and contemplative, but comforting, too. Fonda’s small studies of birds celebrate the Pacific Northwest’s abundant varieties of birds and reflect on fleeting, fluttering moments with these creatures.

Work by Lindley Warren Mickunas, image courtesy Blue Sky Gallery

What A Body Moves Through
May 6 – June 26, 2021
Blue Sky Gallery
122 NW 8th Ave (by appointment only)

In What A Body Moves Through, three emerging photographers (Tyler Clarke, Bryson Rand, and Lindley Warren Mickunas) contend with various understandings of the body, focusing on the expansion of bodily understanding through social, political, sexual, and gendered lenses and histories. The exhibition vacillates between the traditional (in black-and-white photography styles) and the contemporary (through visuals of queerness, femininity, and moments of sexual tension). These nuances allow for plenty of self-reflection and increased bodily awareness. The exhibition includes a Zoom panel discussion on June 9th at 5 PM (register at the link to attend).

Work by Jane Schoenbrun (still from We’re All Going to the World’s Fair)

Capturing an Oneiric State: Dreams and Film with Jane Schoenbrun
June 5, 2021, 1 PM – 3 PM; $80 sign-up fee
Northwest Film Center
Virtual

Jane Schoenbrun, director of recent Sundance horror film We’re All Going to the World’s Fair and founder of the Radical Film Fair, will teach a one-day virtual workshop on the artistic use of cinematic tools to create dreamlike, ephemeral experiences. Referencing iconic surreal filmmakers like David Lynch and Maya Deren, Schoenbrun will illustrate methods of dream-making throughout film history and address ways in which contemporary artists can translate their own dreams to immerse their viewers in oneiric states.

Image courtesy Chehalem Cultural Center

Black Matter
June 22 – July 31, 2021
Chehalem Cultural Center, Parrish Gallery
415 E Sheridan St, Newberg (Tues – Thurs 9 AM – 6 PM, Wed – Sat 12 PM – 6 PM)

Curated by Oregon City-based artist Tammy Jo Wilson, Black Matter features a large group of creators including Zina Allen, Jamila Clarke, Jeremy Okai Davis, Santigie and Sapata Fofana Dura, Maya Vivas, MOsley WOtta, and many more. The exhibition aims to address representation imbalances by focusing on works by contemporary Black Oregon artists. Other goals for the exhibition include broadening cultural awareness and appreciation of Black artists without the filter of a Western art canon or requirement of a political agenda. Each artist featured expresses their personal experience of being, first and foremost, human.

Work by Noelle Herceg, image courtesy Anti-Aesthetic

Architecture of Dreams
May 21 – August 21, 2021
Anti-Aesthetic
245 W 8th Ave, Eugene (by appointment)

The group exhibition Architecture of Dreams uses modes of surrealist art-making to consider interior and exterior states. Each artist considers the unconscious alongside visuals of everyday life. Displaying works by seven artists working in varying mediums, the show also features writing components, including surrealist artist statements, collage poetry, a zine, and a day of surrealist games hosted by Kesey Farm Project. Artists showing work include Vicki Krohn Amorose, Jill R. Baker, Noelle Herceg, Wendy Heldmann, Tallmadge Doyle, Mary Evans, and Leah Howell. Set an appointment to see their diverse works in person, including sculpture, videos, drawings, anthotypes, paintings, projections, installations, and ceramics.

Work by Alyson Provax, image courtesy 1122 Outside

Alyson Provax: Into Gentle Ruin
June 11 – 30, 2021 (June 11 opening night 6 PM – 9 PM)
1122 Outside
7629 SE Harrison (masks and distancing required)

For this solo exhibition at the freshly-reopened 1122 Outside, prolific artist Alyson Provax will display a wide array of her works ranging from 2014-2021. With consideration of memory and nostalgia, the work encourages reflection on the past as well as the present. The mix of Provax’s new and older works includes letterpress on paper, animations, mirrors, and billboard vinyl.

Work by Jim Lommasson, image courtesy Oregon Historical Society

I Am My Story: Voices of Hope
May 14 – August 22, 2021
Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Ave (Tues – Fri 12 PM – 5 PM, Sat 10 AM – 5 PM, Sun 12 PM – 5 PM; masks and distancing required)

Designed by The Immigrant Story, this exhibition focuses on the stories of six women (originally from Burundi, Congo, and Eritrea) who have immigrated to Oregon. In collaboration with acclaimed Portland photographer Jim Lommasson, the exhibition reveals pieces of each woman’s history of survival: genocide, war, prejudice, injustice, courage, and hope. In addition to large-scale portraits of each woman, Lommasson has extended his What We Carried storytelling project for this exhibition, wherein he photographs objects each woman brought with her on her immigration journey.

‘Our Diversity Is Our Strength’

In a divided nation, a photography exhibition at Blue Sky Gallery celebrates the many faces and stories of immigrant Americans

A ballerina. An artist with an alter ego. Jewish refugees on a train. Kids playing at home while their mom works. A psychiatrist forced out of his homeland. Black Lives Matter marchers. A vineyard worker, a winemaker, a chef. Just people, with remarkable stories, told in a remarkable series of photographs in the collection Our Diversity Is Our Strength at Portland’s Blue Sky Gallery.

The images, by a broad selection of photographers, are of immigrants and the children of immigrants – part of the panoply of people who make up the large and diverse American multiculture. They are people who have brought the world with them, enriching and expanding their new homeland with everything from food to art to ideas. And they are here at a tense and crucial time.

“Never has it felt more important to share photographs and stories of people who have come to this country for the opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families and who have given so much to our country and communities,” the show’s curators, project director Paige Stoyer and Jim Lommasson, wrote in their exhibition statement.

Our Diversity Is Our Strength arrives at a time of deep national division, with fear of the Other fanning the flames. One of Joseph R. Biden, Jr.’s first acts as the 46th president of the United States was to declare a moratorium on construction of The Wall, his predecessor’s high-profile and intensely controversial barrier across the Mexican border that’s been pegged at a cost of roughly $15 billion.

The greater cost has been both symbolic and substantive. Donald Trump’s demand for a border barrier played on fears in much of white America of a rising demographic tide of color. It emphatically rejected the nation’s aspiration to embrace newcomers, as voiced in The New Colossus, Emma Lazarus’s 1883 poem etched on the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled massesSend these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.” The push for a wall was a calculated statement that outsiders were not welcome in the United States – that they were interlopers, and would be forcibly blocked from entering, especially if they were not white. Soon children were being separated from their parents and detained in cages, and violence against people of color, by police and others, spiked.

Biden’s moratorium suggests a rational shift from the extreme racially based isolationism that gave the Trump movement so much juice. Yet we are also only three weeks removed from a riot in the nation’s capital that felt very much like a failed attempt to overthrow the elected government. “With the increasing hate speech we are experiencing, often against immigrants, and which dehumanizes entire groups of people, we are grateful to share these stories as an antidote,” Stoyer and Lommasson continue. “When we allow ourselves to stop and really see each other, to be willing to hear someone’s story, to see our common humanity, we understand we are not so different. It opens the door to mutual understanding and empathy.”

The photographs in Our Diversity Is Our Strength stop and see. They come in a variety of styles, from carefully posed to verité captures of moments in time. They come in rich colors, and in black & white. Their framing, balance, and technical quality are excellent. And each helps tell the story of a life, offering viewers an encounter, however briefly, with a human being they had not known. In Stoyer and Lommasson’s words: “We must find a way to first, always see the humanity in each other. It is the only way we will start to heal the deep wounds and divisions in this country.”

The entire portfolio of this year’s Our Diversity Is Our Strength project includes 37 photographs. The exhibition is on view through February on the community wall of Blue Sky’s library, and additional images will be available to see in the gallery’s Community Viewing Drawers through the end of 2021. (Blue Sky is open by appointment; you can schedule a visit here.) Below you’ll find a healthy cross-section of images from the show, each accompanied by a brief story about it from the photographer.


ESTHER PODEMSKI


“Heading for America, 1952. Leaving a displaced persons’ camp in Hanover, Germany – Esther, father Max and brother Ben depart from the train station. In the early 1950s the family left Poland illegally, traveling over-land to Israel with a paid guide. Traumatized by the fighting in Israel, Max and family headed back to Germany, again traveling illegally. In Germany, we lived in a displaced persons’ camp until the U.S. immigration barrier for Jewish refugees was lifted in 1952. Heading for America from Germany, final destination Portland, Oregon.”

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The new history: Dreams Deferred

As the U.S. cracks down on "Dreamers," a new show at the Oregon Historical Society digs deep into the journey stories of new Americans

“The only dream worth having is to dream that you will live while you are alive, and die only when you are dead. To love, to be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and vulgar disparity of the life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.” 

― Arundhati RoyThe Cost of Living (1999)

*

IF IT WEREN’T FOR THAT PESKY NUMBER at the end of the quote, dating it some 20 years back, you might as well imagine that Arundathi Roy had crafted that paragraph with an eye on the exhibition just opened at the Oregon Historical Society, DREAMs Deferred.

Inside the museum. Photo: Friderike Heuer

Roy frequently writes about the fate of minorities, refugees or displaced people on the Indian subcontinent. The focus of the DREAMs Deferred exhibit is closer to home, asking what happens to those who came to the United States from Mexico or Latin America as young children of undocumented parents. The collaborative work on display shows a combination of six portraits and short-form narrative accounts of young undocumented immigrants, joined by photographic documentation of some treasured objects they chose to take with them on the hazardous journey. The thrust is indeed: Watch! Try to understand! Never look away! These are your neighbors. These are people who just like the rest of us seek love, overcome obstacles and indescribable challenges, pursue a simple life and do not confuse the things that matter with those that should be ignored.

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In the Frame 4: Culture now

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

Text and Photographs by K.B. DIXON

“The portrait,” said legendary photographer Arnold Newman, “is a form of biography. Its purpose is to inform now and to record for history.” It is hard to imagine a better, more succinct summation of the genre.

The portraits informing and recording here are the latest in a series titled In the Frame—a survey of the talented and dedicated people whose contributions to the art, character, and culture of this city have made it what it is today, people whose work has become part of our collective consciousness, whose various legacies are destined to be part of our cultural heritage.

As with the previous portraits in this series, I have tried to produce first a decent photograph—a photograph that acknowledges the medium’s allegiance to reality as its primal source of strength but one that is more than simple transcription—a photograph that presents a feeling as well as a form, one that preserves for myself and others a faithful representation of its subject.

 


 

Steve Wax

First U.S. Federal Public Defender for the District of Oregon and now Legal Director of the Oregon Innocence Project.

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Art notes: Happy birthday, Hallie

Salem's Hallie Ford Museum turns 20, The Art Gym is unmoored again, Lommasson's "Stories of Survival," Portland Open Studios, Ogawa's kiln.

Salem’s Hallie Ford Museum of Art has had such an impact on art and artists in the Pacific Northwest that it’s a bit of a surprise to remember it’s only twenty years old. But that’s the case: Its official birthday was Wednesday, October 3, and to celebrate (modestly) it extended its hours for the day and served cake and refreshments to visitors.

Olbrantz

John Olbrantz, who’s directed the museum since it opened and set it on its course to becoming a model of a small art museum, gave a lecture on the museum’s birthday, looking back on its beginnings and forward to what’s ahead. In his twenty years in Salem he’s helped build the Hallie Ford into not just an art center for Willamette University, its parent institution, but also the museum for its city and a vital arts player in its region.

More talks are to come:

Dobkins

Rebecca Dobkins, the museum’s energetic and innovative curator of Native American art and an anthropology professor at Willamette, will lecture on Wednesday, October 10, on the museum’s longstanding relationship with contemporary indigenous artists, one of its great strengths: In addition to building an excellent small permanent collection of Native American art, Dobkins and the museum routinely assemble special exhibitions on indigenous art and artists.

Cuno

The following day – Thursday, the 11th – James Cuno, president and chief executive officer of the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles, will lecture on the role of university museums. For Cuno, it’s a homecoming of sorts: He’s a 1973 graduate from Willamette, with a degree in history.

Both lectures are free.

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