Jim Mesi

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

Continues…

Remembering Jim Mesi

An all-star lineup will play at a memorial on Sunday, April 7, for the virtuoso Portland blues guitarist, who has died at age 69

Portlanders will have the chance to say goodbye on Sunday to one of the towering talents of the local blues scene, guitarist Jim Mesi, who died on March 4 from complications of emphysema. He was 69.

He was also stone brilliant, an incandescent guitarist who first appeared on the scene with Paul deLay and Lloyd Jones in the seminal Portland blues band Brown Sugar in the late 1960s. Mesi played with many musicians since then, but notably with the Paul deLay band for years, the Losers Club with fellow Portland legend Steve Bradley, and fronting his own Jim Mesi Band with a crew of Portland music veterans for the last decade or more.

Jim Mesi, guitarist extraordinaire.

He was universally respected for his inventive and exuberant style, which could range from an achingly sweet, subtle Sleepwalk played with volume-knob swells and chiming harmonics to the speed-picking sturm und drang of Miserlou. It wasn’t just locals who revered the man, either: He counted guitarists such as ZZTop’s Billy Gibbons as fans, and the Jim Mesi Band web site shows him onstage with Les Paul, backstage with B.B.King.

Continues…