Joanna Bloom

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.



The Ash Street Project spreads the ceramic knowledge

Joanna Bloom and Thomas Orr founded the Ash Street Project to encourage ceramic education and exploration outside of school


Brown bag lunches at Ash Street Project define the mid-break in the day of working in the studio, of coming to the common table, sharing food and conversation. It is a setting where I first met the founders, Thomas Orr and Joanna Bloom. Both long-time ceramicists, they opened up their private studio to become a community space for clay-based artists.

The open, 5,000 square foot space is marked with workstations, kilns, and shelves for drying clay works. At the front of the studio is the kitchen to the right and a large communal table front-center, where we gathered for lunch. The space also houses a window-front gallery of two rooms. Nestled in the industrial part of the Central Eastside District, the surrounding area is burgeoning with creative services in metal, wood, film, design, and architecture.

Summer Session in progress at the Ash Street Project. Photo by Joanna Bloom.

Summer Session in progress at the Ash Street Project. Photo by Joanna Bloom.

Focused on the activities around ceramics, Ash Street Project is a communal space where various figures in the arts drop by to visit and chat or work through a project that might require some room; where artists can seek expertise from fellow colleagues; and conversations pick up from where they might have been left off the previous day, giving time for ideas to percolate and perhaps even form into a public talk.

Chris Lyon, co-founder of Mudshark Studios and Eutectic Gallery takes a break from work to create his own body of work. Photo by Grace Kook-Anderson

Chris Lyon, co-founder of Mudshark Studios and Eutectic Gallery takes a break from
work to create his own body of work. Photo by Grace Kook-Anderson

During the lunch hour, Brett Binford and Chris Lyon, both owners of Mudshark Studios (a mold making company) and Eutectic Gallery, jump into their stations to continue their own creative work. Up until recently, Matthew Causey, a visiting artist turned resident artist alum, could be found at the back station creating animated jugs (his brand of Emojugs). And Ted Vogel, artist and studio head of ceramics at Lewis & Clark College, casually walks into the studio and immerses himself into the activities of the day. As the visiting artists settle into their workspace, a hum of creative ease and rhythm of productivity fills the entire space.


Orr and Bloom bought the building in 2005 with the intention to turn it into a studio space for the both of them. Despite working together in many ways, their own work and processes are quite different. Orr describes his forms as minimal and secondary to the surfaces he creates. It is a painterly process with multiple glazes and firings. Orr’s palette is often a bright play of colors that appear freshly painted with symbolic forms. Bloom creates smaller works she calls “little sketches in clay.” Her sculptures collectively appear to be a gathering of flora—blossoms and pods—each vessel containing details in etching and relief, with a contrast of matte and shiny glazes.

When the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) came to Portland in 2006, Orr was the organization’s co-liaison (along with Vogel) and the studio hosted an exhibition. The following years, the space was not utilized as completely as the couple had hoped. Orr was still the department head of Ceramics at Oregon College of Art and Craft, and they both maintained busy schedules.

Joanna Bloom and Thomas Orr, founders of the Ash Street Project. Photo by Grace Kook-Anderson

Joanna Bloom and Thomas Orr, founders of the Ash Street Project. Photo by Grace Kook-Anderson

After Orr’s retirement in spring 2013—after nearly 20 years of teaching—momentum really began to build for Ash Street Project in a way the couple had brainstormed about for years. The space had always seemed too big for just the two of them, so the idea was to open up the studio. They brought on past year’s students and continued Orr’s deep dedication to a mentorship practice. With his retirement, Orr states, “I was ready to leave teaching, but not ready to stop sharing.” And this is perhaps at the core of Ash Street Project. It is a studio space built around sharing and growing a community.

During his time at OCAC, Orr became disheartened at how students were going into debt as they were figuring out not only their craft but also the pursuit of a healthy career. In many ways, the mentee program fills in the gap between educational degrees and careers. It provides the supportive and structural push for young artists. Orr also emphasizes, “we want people that are really valuing community.” As much as this requirement is one of continuing generosity, it is also a matter of practicality in an area like ceramics where a mentor/mentee relationship is necessary to share and pass along the expertise and experimentation of the craft.

As a result of Ash Street Project’s organic community outreach, news of the space has been spreading by simply word-of-mouth, to colleagues, and students looking to further enrich their practice. Ash Street Project is an active site of programs that inform each other with visiting artists, summer sessions, a mentee program, monthly talks, gallery shows, and even the brown bag lunch gatherings.


Dylan Beck, department head of ceramics at Oregon College of Art and Craft, was one of the Summer Session artists. Photo by Grace Kook-Anderson

Dylan Beck, department head of ceramics at Oregon College of Art and Craft, was one
of the Summer Session artists. Photo by Grace Kook-Anderson

This summer, Ash Street Project kicked off the first Summer Session with six artists for a two-week period. The artists included: Dylan Beck, Victoria Christen, Brian R. Jones, Dennis Meiners, Lisa Orr (no relation to Thomas Orr), and Judy Teufel. This was an invitation to work in the open as part of the community, to experiment, and share ideas. Naturally, collaborations formed too as artists engaged with each other and shared in their processes.

With a brief break for the summer, Ash Street Project began the Emerging Artist Mentorship Program at the beginning of this month. In developing the program, Orr realized early on that Ash Street Project was not a space for someone to come in just to work. The individual artists are required to have a goal to work toward—such as developing a new body of work, building a portfolio for graduate school admission, or learning how to create a professional studio.

This year, as the program gains national attention, the new mentees to join the program for an eleven-month intensive include: Ivan Carmona, Jordan Pieper, Ben Skiba, and Aleka Tomlinson. As the young artists with diverse practices access all the resources of a professional ceramic studio, they additionally meet with Orr on a weekly basis to work through particular challenges or goals. They also meet collectively as a group; develop opportunities to find work and network; and are responsible for the studio’s housekeeping chores, gaining an understanding of the function, care, and respect for the studio space.

A typical brown bag lunch gathering at the Ash Street Project. Photo by Joanna Bloom

A typical brown bag lunch gathering at the Ash Street Project. Photo by Joanna Bloom

The four mentees will have the opportunity to present their work in two exhibitions. The first is in November, serving as an entrance exhibition profiling the work they are currently making. They will then have an exit exhibit in June, showing the work of the past eleven months of their time at Ash Street Project.

With the flurry of programming that Orr and Bloom have created, organized, and led, the primary emphasis is still placed on the fact that first and foremost, this is their studio. It is where they work. Instilled in their practice is also the need to share, offering an invitation to the public to share in it—to stop by and visit over a brown bag lunch, meet the artists at work, and support the work being made. For anyone involved the arts, it is an organization that must be visited and experienced. Through their generous practice, Orr and Bloom have created a community through sharing, collaborating, conversing, and by breaking bread.