This December brings opportunities to engage with the arts community in Portland, past and present. Memorial exhibitions honor the lives and work of two prominent Oregon artists whose creativity left an impact on their many students as well as the galleries and collectors that supported them. Shows in Portland and Springfield reflect on the visions and reverberations of artist-run projects both within their close-knit circles and in the community at large. Artists in two innovative fellowship programs present work made possible by the financial and creative support of forward-thinking curators and patrons, and a big group show brings work from artists from across the country to an independent artist-run gallery.

Finally, a number of holiday art sales provide a tangible way to contribute to the arts, as proceeds from these sales in large part go directly to artists and allow them to continue to create, enriching our collective culture. Wherever your gallery-walking and holiday-shopping takes you, make sure to stop for a moment and find your own way to express your appreciation for the hard work that artists and arts professionals do all year round. 

A large woven tapestry in  dusty pastel colors of linen, depicting an empty room with a checkerboard tile floor, vaulted ceiling, and surrounded by arched windows with sheer curtains blowing in the wind.
Judith Poxson Fawkes, Scutching Floor (photo courtesy Russo Lee Gallery)

Jan Reaves 
Judith Poxson Fawkes
December 5 – 21
Russo Lee Gallery
805 NW 21st Ave
This month, Russo Lee Gallery will honor the work and memory of two Oregon artists who recently passed away: painter Jan Reaves and weaver Judith Poxson Fawkes. Reaves was a longtime faculty member at the University of Oregon whose career spanned thirty years and left an impact on many young art students. Her abstract acrylic and oil paintings glow with translucent washes and drips of color, their characteristic looping gestural forms dancing across the canvases. Poxson Fawkes mastered a variety of complex tapestry weaving techniques over her forty-plus year artistic career. Though terms like inlay and double-weave might be unfamiliar to the average viewer, the radiant and intricate geometric patterns they produce require no special knowledge to appreciate. Considering the recent resurgence of fibers and textiles among contemporary artists, Poxson’s beautifully crafted work may find new fans among the younger generation.


Today’s News & Notes has a few threads that link at least some of its far-flung parts. You don’t even need that hint or the ones that follow(!) to detect them, even though your correspondent feels duty bound by the Old Rules to include them. I can’t help myself!

To the heart of the matter:

The second episode of OPB’s State of Wonder hits the air waves at noon Saturday (I’m not exactly sure about that metaphor: hits the air waves? slaps the atmosphere?). The show enlisted comics journalist, historian, theoretician Douglas Wolk as a “guest curator,” so it will feature Alli Brosh and cartoon storytelling on her blog Hyperbole and a Half and comics writer Kelly Sue DeConnick. The show will also discuss Jeff Jahn’s proposal for naming the new Willamette transit bridge after abstract painter Mark Rothko (which we’ve debated in an earlier News & Notes: check out Mr. Jahn’s defense of his proposal in the comments and my futile ripostes), soul singer Laura Mvula (who played here recently), and novelist/songwriter Willy Vlautin (a film made from his “The Motel Life” opens at the Hollywood Theatre today!), among many other things. Listening to State of Wonder evolve is going to be fun!


While we’re in the plugging business, we should note that Brett Campbell’s MusicWatch, which slaps the atmosphere right here at Oregon ArtsWatch, is the most coherent music column in the city right now, with commentary and calendar all mixed together in one delightful place. Headliners this week include Meredith Monk and Morten Lauridsen (hey, let’s name a bridge after HIM!), but the point of the column is to explore the variety of musical experience available in these privileged parts.


Did someone mention comics? We have very recently learned about the existence of Julian Peters’ fabulous poetry comics. So far he has done Poe’s “Annabel Lee,” lots of Rimbaud, a Keats and a Yeats (manga style!), but my favorite is his graphic investigation of TS Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Illustrating a poem only makes sense if it’s not “merely” illustrating, but interpreting and intervening somehow to make the reader think about the poem (or actually, any text) in a different way. Peters, we get the idea, really understands Eliot and this poem and his drawing passes his understanding along to us, visually.

prufrock4 2


ArtsWatch admires the good work that P:EAR does, using the arts to help kids on the street find a better path. P:EAR’s second Harvest Fundraiser is on Saturday: the cause couldn’t be better, P:EAR’s parties are always super, LiveWire’s Jason Rouse emcees, Blind Pilot band members will play, a good time will be had by all!


The Neo Boys/Courtesy K Records

The Neo Boys/Courtesy K Records

We’re also secret admirers of Rock and Roll Camp for Girls (well, maybe not so secret anymore), and we once were MAJOR fans of the NeoBoys, whose punk stylings in the late ’70s and ’80s seemed just about perfect to us at the time. All of which is to say that you can support the R&R Camp for Girls and celebrate a lovingly compiled new album of NeoBoy songs from back in the day, “Sooner or Later,” at one big show. It’s on Saturday at the Crystal Ballroom, the guest bands are impressive, the cause (as we say) couldn’t be better, and it will be big fun. Doors open at 5 pm. It’s an all-ages show, naturally, and kids under 12 are free!


ArtsWatch loves its science. How could we not? But we LIVE for our arts and humanities. Heck, we even studied it when we were schoolboys and schoolgirls. But did we waste our money on classes about TS Eliot, Rimbaud, Michelangelo, and Rothko? Not according to a sweet study collected for Pacific Standard by Paul Hiebert.

“”If what we want are creative, inventive people as opposed to technicians, then we need to support more broad-based, Renaissance-style educational opportunities and experiences,” said Rex LaMore, one of the study’s lead authors and the current director of MSU’s Center for Community and Economic Development. “It doesn’t matter how you get it—whether through public schools or private lessons—just as long as you get it.””

Dear America, no matter how you cut it, the arts are in the public interest. Love ya, ArtsWatch


OK, America, we know you aren’t going to believe US! How about Neil Gaiman, though? He’s a really smart and creative guy (comics(!), novels, screenplays, etc.). And though a recent lecture of his focuses on reading, not the arts in general, well, those two are bound pretty closely together, yes? Here’s Gaiman:

“We all – adults and children, writers and readers – have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.”

“Enough,” you say. “We WILL leave the sweatshop for a moment and the canned ‘entertainments’ of Corporate World and risk it all on the world’s best human achievements!” All right then, we are finally in agreement, and so to the weekend.