Sara Siestreem

Thanks, giving, the essence of art

ArtsWatch Weekly: Passing the artistic impulse into the future, Josie Seid's America, Don Latarski's wild art, remembering Bruce Browne

AS YOU MIGHT HAVE NOTICED, this week’s ArtsWatch Weekly is a day late (although not, I hope, a dollar short). Usually I start plotting out the column at the beginning of the week, try to get a little writing done on Tuesday and Wednesday, then finish it on Thursday. But this Thursday, of course, was Thanksgiving Day, and quite likely just like you, I was otherwise engaged in the kitchen and at the table, and had been for a couple of days beforehand. This may be the strangest year in our collective memory, and for many of us the oddest of Thanksgivings – what seems the core of the holiday, the gathering together, is precisely what we couldn’t do – and yet, despite the pandemic and teetering economy and social unrest and volatile politics, there was thanking to be done.

When I think about the holidays I think partly of the gifts the past has to offer the present and future: not the stultifying or outmoded aspects of tradition, but the liberating ones. What is good? How do we build on it? This sifting and measuring is intimately involved in the constant reshaping of our cultural and artistic lives: What do we appreciate in the past and present, and carry forward with us into the future?

Some artists embody in their work all three tenses, and looking through what’s happening in Portland’s galleries I note with pleasure and thanks that two of them have exhibitions on view. Both exhibits end on Saturday, so time’s running short, but you can also see the works through the links below.
 

George Johanson, “The Artist’s Studio,” 2020, oil and acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 inches, in his show “George Johanson – Rising Waters and Quasi Portraits: New Paintings,” closing Saturday at Augen Gallery, Portland.

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Converge 45: Popping up with the times

Responding to a year of crisis, Newberg's Chehalem Cultural Center hosts a show of Oregon contemporary posters for public spaces

One of the strengths of gallery programming at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg is that the deep, long-term planning that arts director Carissa Burkett packs into the calendar for as much as a year in advance is coupled with an ability to pivot when circumstances change, when new opportunities and challenges present themselves.

Like, for example, 2020 — the year, one might add, of the center’s 10th anniversary. 

The #Act for Art posters in their natural public-spaces habitat. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, Converge 45 said via Twitter, Portland has the fifth-largest concentration of artists in the nation, after Manhattan, San Francisco, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles. Photo: Converge 45.

The center has already had a couple of COVID-inspired pop-ups this year, and for a few more days, visitors will find the latest of these unscheduled surprises: #ACTforART is originated as a PDX-centric project organized by Converge 45: a series of commissioned posters for public spaces that share the artists’ vision during this new, weird normal. Yes, theaters are shut down and concert halls are closed, but windows and fences and walls provide space for art, so the group has been spreading the love in lieu of its traditional programs, which typically involve exhibitions and gatherings where the six-foot rule wouldn’t work. The work is also being shared on social media platforms.

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A visual-arts bright spot in COVID summer

Chehalem Cultural Center galleries showcase work by the late Michael Gibbons, Kerri Evonuk, and Sara Siestreem

In Yamhill County, for a few more days, visual art enthusiasts have an opportunity to see a sprawling collection of paintings by Michael Gibbons, the self-described “poet with a paintbrush” who died July 2 at his Toledo home, the result of complications from a stroke suffered in 2006. The exhibit fills two galleries in the Chehalem Cultural Center that are large enough to easily accommodate our new normal of six feet from others. The exhibition runs through Friday.

The Yaquina Exhibit: A Painted Voice for a Sacred Landscape, curated by the center’s director of arts programs, Carissa Burkett, showcases paintings inspired by vistas from the Oregon Coast around Newport. When considering Newport, most Oregonians probably think of Yaquina Bay and civilization’s stamp immediately around it: the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the restaurants, shops, and docks along the waterfront, the bridge. We forget an ecological fact: Yaquina Bay is merely the lowest elevation of a 250-square-mile basin that stretches up and away into the hills and out of view. As the show’s notes point out, the watershed encompasses breathtaking geographic and biological diversity and is home to bears, Coho salmon, cougars, beaver, eagles, and other wildlife.

"Doyle Thorne's Ditch" by Michael Gibbons (oil, 1987)
“Doyle Thorne’s Ditch” by Michael Gibbons (oil, 1987)

Gibbons packed his paints, brushes, and easel into this area beyond the bay, producing over three decades the more than 45 plein air oil paintings that compose the show.

“When en plein air,” the notes say, Gibbons “comes to a place that feels right to him, then he’ll pause, find a bush he can hang onto and grab a branch. ‘How would you like to be seen?’ he’ll ask. You can almost hear the chorus of the different trees. It’s a sense. You don’t hear words, per se. The language is right there. It’s a living being.”

The exhibit features a series of drawings Gibbons created in preparation for The Mighty Oak, depicting a Heritage Tree at the Oregon Gardens. It allows the viewer to see and truly appreciate the extraordinary amount of work — rehearsal, one might say — that can go into a piece before the artist ever picks up a brush.

THE CHEHALEM CULTURAL CENTER IN NEWBERG remains one of Yamhill County’s bright spots in our COVID-19 summer. The center is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday just north of the Newberg Public Library (which is also open) and is following the state’s Phase 2 guidelines. Last week I exchanged notes with Burkett, and it’s encouraging to learn that the rest of the year’s exhibitions are still on the calendar — so long as the center is able to remain open.

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Yamhill County galleries begin to reopen, cautiously

Limited hours and requests to wear masks are common as galleries start welcoming back visitors

Yamhill County is beginning to emerge from its COVID-19 quarantine, which in mid-March shut down virtually everything, laying waste to a broad swath of cultural and artistic work. Gallery Theater’s production of Proof was literally days from opening, until it wasn’t. The Terroir Creative Writing Festival, traditionally held in April, was put on hold, as was the Aquilon Music Festival.

It’s too early to speculate on what the rest of the year holds. Gallery’s board meets later this month to chart a course for the remainder of the 2020 season. Linfield College, traditionally a fount of recitals and concerts, plays, readings, lectures, and visual art shows, is quiet for the moment but has made it clear it will welcome students back into brick-and-mortar classrooms this fall.

Debby Denno’s work, such as "Fascinatin’ Rhythm," (colored pencil drawing, 8.25 by 11.75 inches), is featured this month at Currents Gallery in McMinnville.
Debby Denno’s work, such as “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” (colored pencil drawing, 8.25 by 11.75 inches), is featured this month at Currents Gallery in McMinnville.

There is good news. The art gallery scene is coming to life. I reached out to about 10 galleries last week and heard back from most. The governing principle for all is, basically, assume they’re continuing to do business online, and assume fewer hours for on-premises visits. And while not everyone requires it, I hope it’s not too political to suggest that you wear a mask. Prior to reopening, Yamhill County was reporting from zero to three new COVID-19 cases daily for about two weeks, including five days of no new cases. Late last week, we had nine new cases in two days, and over the weekend, nearly a dozen. This thing is not over yet.

At Currents Gallery in downtown McMinnville, they’re very aware of that. All seven owners are, by virtue of age, in the “vulnerable” category with regard to COVID-19, Marlene Eichner told me. So for the three days a week they’re open (Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays), they require visitors to wear a mask — either their own, or one provided by the gallery.

“We’re anxious to interact again with the art-appreciating public, to have engaging conversations about art mediums and techniques, and life in general,” Eichner said. “And maybe even have them walk away with a satisfying purchase. But above all, we want to support all community efforts to ensure a safe environment for everyone.”

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ArtsWatch Weekly: Sugar plums & what music means

Hip-hop haven, profiles in gender, Loverules at the museum, gallery tips, a new opera, un-holiday tunes, gibassiers and more


MUSIC MAY BE THE FOOD OF LOVE, AS SHAKESPEARE’S DUKE ORSINO proclaimed in Twelfth Night, but it is also the food of thought, feeling, action, and belief. Music can take you into deep waters and guide you to unexpected shores. What is the connection between sound and the greater world? ArtsWatch’s Matthew Neil Andrews found himself so immersed in the mysteries a while back that he decided to dive in even farther, looking for answers, or at least for even deeper questions.

“Several questions haunted this journalist’s mind during a series of fall concerts put on by three of Portland’s most excellent classical groups: Fear No Music, Resonance Ensemble, and Third Angle New Music,” Andrews wrote. “The music was all good, but was often upstaged by the concerts’ messages and the questions they raised.”

Third Angle New Music’s artistic director and flutist Sarah Tiedemann, Back in the Groove at the Jack London Revue. Photo: Kenton Waltz 

How, in these contemporary and sometimes politically engaged performances, did the music and the messages mix? In a three-part series, Andrews stretched his readers’, and his own, imaginations:

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ArtsWatch Weekly: Thanks again

On a day of sharing, we talk about giving and receiving, and then dig in to Oregon's lavish cultural banquet: the arts beat goes on


TODAY IS A DAY OF GIVING THANKS, HOWEVER YOU CHOOSE TO DO SO. Here at ArtsWatch, some of us are on the road, traveling to visit family. Others have already reached their destinations. Some are hosting dinners or meeting with friends. Some are already busy in their kitchens, chopping and baking and simmering and laughing and preparing for a grand meal. We imagine you’re doing much the same. Some of you might even be busy in soup kitchens or food pantries, helping to cook and serve a good hot meal for people who don’t always get one. Some of you might be in line, waiting. 
 

Childe Hassam, Oregon Stlll Life (detail), 1904, oil on canvas, 25 x 30.25 inches, Portland Art Museum. Gift of Col. C.E.S. Wood in memory of his wife, Nancy Moale Wood. (On view in Belluschi Building; the museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day.)

Oregon is a land of bounty, as Childe Hassam’s delicious painting above from more than a century ago attests. Enjoy, share, and nurture it. Revel in its natural and creative wonders. Be generous. In a time of division and antagonism, help make it a place for everyone. Happy Thanksgiving to you. And thanks for being part of ArtsWatch. We’re here thanks to you.  

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The art of giving, large and small

It's not just an action but a process, as big as a sea lion and as small as a salmonberry

The act of giving can be so simple and yet so complex. Giving in a sense that is not just good cheer, but something deeper and nuanced and more layered. It’s not just a word, but an entire etiquette. It’s not just a formality, but a way of life.

It’s a matter of respect, a shared experience, an exchange of goodwill, a nod to humility, a deference, a show of appreciation, a payback, a responsibility, a form of courage, an act of selflessness. It’s what matters most and gives meaning. Go deeper. Go higher. A language unto itself. A conversation.

All these words are important, and each is different.

Sara Siestreem (Hanis Coos), aretha franklin (1942-2018) reins supreme dance cap, yellow cedar bark (Kodiak, AK): Vickie Era; black berry and beet dye (Columbia River, OR); red cedar bark (Kingcome, British Columbia): Marianne Nicolson; salmon vertebrae (Kingcome, B.C.); sweet grass: Theresa Secord; spruce root (North Spit of Jordan Cove, Coos Bay, OR); glass and shell beads: Amazon, the world.
Sara Siestreem (Hanis Coos), aretha franklin (1942-2018) reins supreme dance cap, yellow cedar bark (Kodiak, AK): Vickie Era; black berry and beet dye (Columbia River, OR); red cedar bark (Kingcome, British Columbia): Marianne Nicolson; salmon vertebrae (Kingcome, B.C.); sweet grass: Theresa Secord; spruce root (North Spit of Jordan Cove, Coos Bay, OR); glass and shell beads: Amazon, the world.

A trip to the Oregon Coast a while back got me thinking about all that, and has stayed with me for more than a year. What does it mean “to give?” It’s all about a balance in the universe, but it’s not simply to balance out “to get,” and certainly not “to take.” But what does it mean to give in a sense that achieves an equilibrium?

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