Roberta Wong

In praise of Ramona & ‘Lonesome Dove’

ArtsWatch Weekly: Remembering Beverly Cleary, Larry McMurtry, and composer Stephen Scott; revolutions & the way things change

HERE AT ARTSWATCH WE LIKE TO LOOK FORWARD: Where are our culture and its art taking us? But culture is a cumulative thing, and every present and future is built upon a past – on the people and beliefs and events and achievements that have shaped us. They amplify us and help explain us to ourselves. So today we pause to honor three storytellers who have left us recently, but whose memories and achievements remain a part of us: the children’s novelist and memoirist Beverly Cleary; the novelist of Western life and culture Larry McMurtry; and the musical innovator Stephen Scott, known for his “bowed piano” compositions.

Author Beverly Cleary with her tabby cat, Kitty, in 1955. Photo: Cleary Family Archive

BEVERLY CLEARY, CREATOR of the wonderful world of Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins and the scintillating cast of extraordinarily ordinary kids living extraordinarily ordinary lives in a somewhat antique yet eventful-in-an-everyday-sort-of-way Northeast Portland neighborhood, died last Thursday at the almost biblical age of 104 (she would’ve been 105 on April 12). Her loss is felt not just in her native Oregon but anywhere and everywhere you might bump into a gang of kids, a teacher, a librarian, or a couple of parents happy to see their kids absorbed in the mysteries and delights of a good book. Cleary was born in McMinnville and spent her early years on a farm near Yamhill and then moved with her family to the Portland neighborhood that became the epicenter of action in a string of children’s novels that for verve and wit and imagination beat the pants off most anything assigned in class.

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On belonging: The art of remembering

ArtsWatch Weekly: Amid a time of violence in America, art that remembers its roots and looks beyond

YOU CAN FEEL THE FORCE IN ALL-AMERICAN, Portland artist Roberta Wong’s blunt and extraordinarily effective 2003 piece consisting of a thick wooden cutting board, a cleaver, and a length of dark braided hair, severed with a swift swing of the blade from the head it once adorned. Wong’s carefully arranged tableau of the imagination isn’t just a haircut, but a banishment – a denial. The piece implies an amputation of the self, a separation of roots and history and identity in the name of assimilation, of fitting in: Where, then, is the “Chinese” in “Chinese American,” or the “All” in the all too ironically aspirational “All-American”?

Roberta Wong, “All-American,” 2003.

THE FEELING INSIDE THE CAGE that was the downtown Portland prison cell of Minoru Yasui in 1942 and ’43 is different: not a severance, but an entrapment. Yet it also feels very much like the other side of the same coin. Yasui, a second-generation Japanese American born in Hood River in 1916, landed in solitary confinement for his dissent against President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s infamous Executive Order 9066, which authorized the wartime evacuation and incarceration of Japanese American citizens in detention/concentration camps across the West: Once his prison sentence had ended, Yasui was sent to the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho for the duration of the war. 

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Roberta Wong – Conceptual Artist & Tireless Advocate

Stage & Studio: In her newest podcast, Dmae Roberts talks with artist and curator Wong about challenging stereotypes and anti-Asian racism

Note: Dmae interviewed conceptual artist Roberta Wong the day of the killings of six Asian women in Atlanta, Ga. that night on March 15, 2021 in an apparent (though not yet charged) hate crime. In their conversation, the two Asian-American women talked about Wong’s earlier work that challenged the stereotypes and racism against Asian American/Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and about how, unfortunately, her work is still relevant considering the rise of anti-AAPI hate incidents around the country.

Stop AAPI Hate gathered a report summarizing the 3,800 reported incidents by AAPIs around the country. Out of all the reports, 68 percent of the respondents were women. The overall amount of reports went up by about 2,800 hate incidents nationwide from the period of March 19, 2020 to February 28, 2021.  AAPIs who experience a hate incident can still report it at Stop AAPI Hate. Read the full report. Locally, you can report hate incidents at Report Hate PDX.

Roberta Wong. Photo by Julie Keefe.
Listen to Roberta’s interview here!
Subscribe and listen to Stage & Studio on: AppleGoogleSpotify, Android and Sticher and hear past shows on the official Stage & Studio website. Theme Music by Clark Salisbury.

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FOR HER SECOND WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH PODCAST episode on Stage & Studio, Dmae talked with Roberta Wong, a veteran artist who grew up in Portland and has created thought-provoking conceptual art focused on themes of identity, ethnicity, ritual and transformation.

Her works during the 1980s, among them All Orientals Look Alike, All American, and Chinks, directly challenged people’s concepts of what it means to be Asian American.  Wong even contested an assumption in a grant proposal to the Metropolitan Arts Commission (the precursor to Regional Arts and Culture Council) that slated all Asian artists under the “folk arts” category.

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ArtsWatch Good Reads 2018

2018 in Review, Part 9: A Fab 15 of ArtsWatch well-told tales worth a second look

Marc Mohan wonders if it matters that the Oscars are a flop. Martha Ullman West revisits the Big Apple of her youth. John Foyston considers sleek cars and fast motorcycles at the art museum. John Longenbaugh starts a podcast “for some very stupid reasons.” Maria Choban and Brett Campbell relate the fascinating tale of a Sri Lankan engineer determined to build the first Pandol new year’s shrine in America. David Bates dives deep into the strangest epic poem you’ve never heard of. Laura Grimes recalls a day of traffic jams, lost glasses, Ursula K. Le Guin, and … pickles. TJ Acena talks gentrification with performance artist Penny Arcade.

The world’s overflowing with stories, and in 2018 ArtsWatch writers grabbed hold of a bunch worth a second look. Here, for your enjoyment, is a Fab 15 of tales well told.

 


 

The Oscars are dying. So what?

March 9: “This year’s telecast drew record low ratings, down a whopping 20 percent from last year’s already dismal numbers,” Marc Mohan wrote in the wake of this year’s television debacle. “… As someone who religiously watches, and even generally enjoys, Tinseltown’s annual festival of self-love, I find myself, perhaps surprisingly, not the least bit perturbed.

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