northwest film center

Tim & Samie: A rare partnership

ArtsWatch Weekly: An enduring friendship in art; a new opera leader; Ursula K. Le Guin's stamp of approval; performance & music & more

PORTLAND’S LONG BEEN A MAKERS SORT OF TOWN – a do-it-yourself, homespun, Saturday Market, farmers’ market, craft-centric, street-art, life-as-art kind of place, spinning its populist creativity from handmade craft to handmade food to handmade clothing and jewelry, and reaching its tentacles upward into fine art, whether it’s found in museums or galleries or home studios or among the booths and displays of street fairs. Not unlike the centers of the Arts & Crafts Movement that flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it’s a place that believes art and artisanship fit together in a heightened, rounded, everyday way. As the city and state slowly waken from the pandemic shutdown, people are beginning to gather again – to see things and maybe buy things, and to rekindle the lost pleasure of being together, shoulder to shoulder (or maybe a little more distanced, and maybe still wearing masks) in a public place, simply celebrating the joy of being alive.

Left: “Arizona #2,” Timothy Wayne Stapleton, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 36 inches. Right: “Harmonic Memories,” Timothy Wayne Stapleton and Samie Jo Pfeifer, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 30 inches.

One of those revived gatherings, the Slabtown Makers Market, will be hosting visitors this weekend, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 24-25, at NW Marine Art Works, 2516 N.W. 29th Ave., Portland, a haven of artists studios amid a sprawl of former heavy-industry buildings. More than 40 artists and crafters will be showing and selling their goods, and giving back a little, too: 5 percent of sales will be donated to local nonprofits.

Amid the clayworks and macrame and baked goods and clothing and artworks by the likes of painters Daniel Duford and Chinese American artist Clement Lee, one booth leaps out: the one being operated by Samie Jo Pfeifer, friend and assistant to Tim Stapleton for four years before he died in September 2020 from the effects of ALS, or Lou Gherig’s Disease. Tim was a beloved and multitalented artist in Portland for many years, known in varying circles as a theatrical stage designer of uncommon creativity, a graceful writer whose stories often looped back to his early life in the coal-mining regions of Kentucky, an actor, a teacher at various colleges, and a visual artist whose paintings also regularly took their inspiration from the people and culture of the Coal Belt. You can read much more about Tim and his life in Farewell to the Tangerine Window, Marty Hughley’s heartfelt ArtsWatch memorial to him from last October.

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FilmWatch Weekly: Catching up with the Northwest Film Center

Director Amy Dotson gets on with the work of refreshing and reshaping the art museum's movie program, from Tik-Tok to rooftop screenings

As Portland’s movie theaters have reopened over the last couple of months, one screen has remained dark: that of the Whitsell Auditorium, home base of the Portland Art Museum’s Northwest Film Center.

The Film Center was impacted in a unique way when the coronavirus pandemic exploded in March of 2020, causing an immediate truncation of its signature event, the Portland International Film Festival. The last public event that yours truly attended before the shutdown was the inaugural Cinema Unbound award ceremony held during PIFF 43, days before the festival came to an abrupt halt. Those awards were the brainchild of the Film Center’s then-new director, Amy Dotson, who had stepped into the shoes of longtime head Bill Foster only months earlier, bringing with her an ambitious agenda to reshape and reimagine the mission of the organization.

I spoke with Dotson recently about how the pandemic affected those plans and what to expect from the Film Center now that an opportunity to implement them has re-emerged. “In fact,” she says, “it allowed us to do some of the things we wanted even earlier. First and foremost, we got real comfortable with being unbound from the physical theater space.” The Film Center had been a pioneer of the recent resurgence in drive-in movies even before the pandemic, and part of the mission of PIFF 43 had been to incorporate events, such as live podcasts, that depart from the traditional definition of cinema. The 2021 edition of PIFF, like many film festivals around the country, was held online this year, and the Cinema Unbound awards were presented in a socially distanced, drive-in-style event at Zidell Yards.

Bill Murray as Steve Zissou in “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

Those events were rewarding, Dotson says, but “we have had so much more fun on the top of the Lloyd Center,” where the Film Center has held a round of outdoor screenings this summer. “The first night, when we showed The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, we must have had 350 people on the roof of the mall, and about half of them were dressed as Steve Zissou! We’re also going to continue through September with our drive-in series down at OMSI, where someone showed up in a dinosaur skull outfit for Jurassic Park.”

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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.

Streamers: Portland theaters’ reopening plans, Oscar-nominated shorts, French ski drama

Ready or not, movie theaters are starting to open again in time for the Oscars and summer blockbuster season. Plenty is still streaming, too.

As vaccines continue to make their way into the arms of more and more Oregonians, and the state in general dares to look forward to the resumption of some version of normality, it’s a good time to check in on Portland movie theaters and their plans. It should go without saying that these plans are extremely subject to change: Both Clackamas and Multnomah Counties are moving from Moderate Risk back to a High Risk status on Friday, April 9, which means that maximum allowance at theaters will move from 50% of capacity back to 25%, while Washington County will remain in the Moderate Risk category for the time being. That said, here’s a rundown of announced reopening plans.

Several independent Portland-area theaters have already reopened, including the six-screen Living Room Theaters, Cinemagic, the Moreland, Vancouver’s Kiggins Theatre, and the Liberty Theatre in Camas. Among the titles showing on their big screens are Oscar nominees Nomadland and Minari, as well as more mainstream fare such as the Bob Odenkirk action flick Nobody and the monster mash Godzilla vs. Kong. The venerable Clinton Street Theater is resuming its traditional Saturday night Rocky Horror Picture Show events, although at 9 p.m. instead of midnight due to county restrictions.

One mainstay of Portland’s movie scene, Cinema 21, recently announced plans to open to the public for the first time in over a year on April 23 with a pair of documentaries: Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street and The Truffle Hunters. Another, the Hollywood Theatre, has yet to indicate a timeline, although it continues to offer remote programming, including an upcoming remote master class on the films of director Richard Linklater. The Northwest Film Center at the Portland Art Museum remains closed to the public as well, although it is opening experimental filmmaker Sky Hopinka’s poetic debut feature Małni—Towards the Ocean, Towards the Shore virtually on Friday, April 9.

Two chains operate theaters in Portland. Century Cinemas have opened their multiplexes at Eastport Plaza and Cedar Hills Crossing, while the screens at Clackamas Town Center remain dark for the time being. Regal Cinemas is planning a phased reopening. Bridgeport Village will begin on April 23, with the bulk of its Portland screens to follow on May 14. (The Pioneer Place theaters will wait until the following week, May 21.) Obviously, the summer movie season beckons, and these places are understandably eager to welcome paying customers once again. Personally, I don’t plan on setting foot in an indoor theater until, at the very earliest, I’m fully vaccinated, but once it seems safe to do so, I plan on making up for lost time with a vengeance.

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A scene from the Oscar-nominated “Do Not Split”

IN THE MEANTIME, many Portland-area theaters continue to offer expansive selections in their virtual cinemas, and will presumably continue to do so for the foreseeable future. They provide a great way not only to help support exhibitors during this disastrous time, but also to keep abreast of exciting cinema that doesn’t necessarily get showcased on Netflix or Disney+.

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Profane documentaries about profound artists: “Wojnarowicz” & “F.T.A.”

Streamers: Marc Mohan goes to the movies from home and emerges with an F-load of features, plus some movie news

This week’s column is brought to you by the letter “F.” A pair of documentaries, each available to rent through virtual cinemas, employ profane F words in their titles as they separately capture the energizing spirit of artists giving the middle finger to the establishment.

David Wojnarowicz’s 1984 work “Fuck You Faggot Fucker”

Director Chris McKim’s film about the queer New York artist, photographer, and activist David Wojnarowicz takes its confrontational title from one of his best-known works. Wojnarowicz: Fuck You Faggot Fucker traces the path of its subject’s life, from his abusive childhood to his career among the East Village art scene that blossomed in the 1980s, to his death from AIDS at the age of 37. Wojnarowicz kept a journal on audio cassette, and McKim uses those recordings, as well as a plethora of fascinating archival material, to recreate the feel and spirit of the fertile subculture that also produced Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Karen Finlay, Richard Kern, and so many others. In more recent interviews, gallerist Grace Mansion and (of course) Fran Lebowitz share their memories of David and that gloriously grimy scene.

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Streamers: PIFF lineup, “What Happened Was,” and more

A sneak peek at this year's Portland International Film Fest, plus the "Citizen Kane" of awkward first-date movies

44th Portland International Film Festival

When the emergent pandemic forced last year’s Portland International Film Festival, like the rest of the country, to abruptly shut down, the idea that this year’s festival would also be impacted by the coronavirus was so absurd that it hardly bore contemplation. And yet, here we are, contemplating a mostly virtual, socially distanced event, some details of which were recently announced by the Portland Art Museum and the Northwest Film Center.

A scene from Alicia Rose and Alicia Jo Rabins’ “A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff”

The interruption of last year’s PIFF must have been especially frustrating for Amy Dotson, the Film Center’s Director, who was overseeing her first PIFF after taking over for longtime director Bill Foster. Dotson had overhauled the event in many ways, instituting the Cinema Unbound Awards and attempting to both expand the festival’s reach to incorporate nontraditional sorts of cinematic experiences, and to increase its regional focus by absorbing the Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival. An opportunity to assess how those changes work in the context of a real-live, in-person film festival will have to wait another year, but this year’s PIFF will still offer almost 80 films (including 45 features) over a ten-day period, March 5th to 14th, as well as the second annual Cinema Unbound Awards, the recipients of which will be announced next week.

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Streamers: “One Night in Miami” plus much more

Movie extravaganzas are in short supply these days, but great films aren't

Herein find a passel of viewing options for the homebound film buff, or as we call them these days, film buffs.

“One Night in Miami”

Okay, so Cassius Clay, Sam Cooke, Malcolm X and Jim Brown walk into a Miami hotel room in 1964. It’s no joke. On the February night when Clay defeated Sonny Liston to become the heavyweight champion of the world, these four Black icons really did gather at a small motel in Miami. What they talked about, no one knows for sure. But it could hardly have been much more fascinating than the fictionalized version of their conversations depicted in Regina King’s film, based on a stage play by Kemp Powers.

(L-R) Leslie Odom Jr., Eli Goree, Kingsley Ben-Adir and Aldis Hodge star in ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI

Powers’ screenplay mostly succeeds in its effort to depict each of these out-sized personalities as both a sociopolitical emblem and a fully realized individual.  Clay (Eli Goree) is all swagger until he’s not—a mere kid, muscle-bound and velvet-tongued but also intelligent and righteous to the core. He’s meeting this night with Malcolm (Kingsley Ben-Adir) to discuss his pending announcement that he’s joining the Nation of Islam, which Malcolm hopes will improve his own standing in his ongoing power struggle against the Nation’s leader, Elijah Muhammad.

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