Sarah Meyohas

The ArtsWatch year in Visual Arts

This year the arts fought back by finding space for everyone and creating spiky work that reminded us where we are

We live in the best of times—at least measured by the profusion of visual arts in Portland and the state. The number of artists and the places they have found and created have both continued to grow. The thin infrastructure of existing institutions and galleries hasn’t been able to keep up, and so 2017 found us in the middle of a boomlet of new alternative organizations, cooperatives, groups and galleries. Many of these had a social and/or political bent to them, which makes perfect sense in this year of political tumult. The best form of resistance, both to the short-term national political condition and to the long-term drift away from democracy, is to develop new ways and platforms to share art-making, which itself can be a call to reflection and an appeal to shared experience and values. We will get out of this together, and when we do, we want to bring everyone with us.

As I wandered through the ArtsWatch visual arts stories of 2017, I was struck by two things. The first was that our resources were entirely insufficient to keep up with all that was going on. The second? The stories that our arts writers—all freelancers—created in response to what they encountered still managed to sketch an outline, an abstract, of what was going on. Hannah Krafcik, Paul Maziar and Nim Wunnan wrote about new galleries, new organizations and new artists showing in alternative locations. Paul Sutinen produced a series of interviews with some of our most decorated artists. Bob Hicks wrote compelling stories about the Portland Art Museum’s programming and the reimagining of the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education in its new Pearl District digs. And we had several one-shot reports—about an artist collective in Cuba, art made from the detritus washed ashore in Bandon, Oregon, and the back-and-forth between a model-photographer and the painter recreating her on canvas.

If you scroll through our visual arts category, you can find these and lots of other posts, most of them longer-form, all of them committed to grappling with art, artists and the culture in which they operate. The list that follows isn’t my peculiar assessment of the “best” visual arts stories of 2017. It just illustrates what I’ve been talking about, in one way or another.

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10,000 Roses Later: Sarah Meyohas’s ‘Cloud of Petals’

Sarah Meyohas’s film and Virtual Reality installation at Disjecta asserts the beautiful at a time and with technology we've begun to consider terrifying

By PAUL MAZIAR

It’s easy enough to rely on traditional painting and sculpture to be the go-to vehicles of creativity—to show, maybe, what’s it’s like to be alive in the world, or at least what it’s like to look at it. But what is the world anymore, and are those modes sufficient to show how complex and strange it all is, how “cloud-based”? Trompe-l’œil seems more and more a fat chance. It goes without saying that conventional art mediums and the old idyllic scenes aren’t enough. And, like it or not, technology is as much a part of life today as, well, oil and clay. We’ve seen it all, we’ve felt it all, and now it’s being played back to us in every media there is. But what does it want from us, this tech? Our big data, our little faces, our identities? What do we give up to the people who run it, to get to use or convene with it; who are we now? New York artist Sarah Meyohas seems to be considering these things in her new exhibition at Disjecta, Cloud of Petals, her first show in Portland.

In Cloud of Petals, virtual-reality, film, and sound-scape come together as an orchestration, a symphony that, no matter how mediated (media can be rendered moot in such an immersive experience), is intensely pleasurable. This feat is achievable because of Meyohas’s consideration of living forms in their relation to each other, and relative then to technology and its ramifications. The exhibition explores concepts that hinge upon the supremely familiar, “natural” subject of roses—redolent of “love” to the point of the most persistent cliché, thanks, poets—as well as human bodies.

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