Signal Fire

Vision 2020: Ka’ila Farrell-Smith

The Southern Oregon artist, mentor, and anti-fracking activist creates visual art “rooted in Indigenous aesthetics and abstract formalism”

On her website, Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, a Klamath Modoc visual artist, describes her artistic practice as “channeling research through a creative flow of experimentation and artistic playfulness rooted in Indigenous aesthetics and abstract formalism.” Through painting, traditional Indigenous art practices, and self-curated installations, Farrell-Smith explores the “space in-between the Indigenous and western paradigms.”


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


Farrell-Smith, who lives in Modoc Point in Southern Oregon, received a BFA in painting from Pacific Northwest College of Art and an MFA in contemporary art practices studio from Portland State University. Her work has been exhibited around the Pacific Northwest and is in the permanent collections of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on the University of Oregon campus and the Portland Art Museum. As a co-director of the Signal Fire residency program, she helps connect artists to wild places.

“The Modoc are a resilient, fierce, passionate people,” says Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, “whose warrior ancestors inspire us in our current fight against the fossil-fuel industry” and the fracked gas pipeline that threatens ancestral homelands and waterways in Southern Oregon. Photo by Sam Gehrke Photography Studio, courtesy Ka’ila Farrell-Smith

Recently, Farrell-Smith was selected to attend artist residencies at Djerassi, UCROSS, Institute of American Indian Arts, and Crow’s Shadow. In 2020, she will have work on display in the Nine Gallery in Portland and Ditch Projects in Springfield. Her comments have been edited for length and clarity.

What should Oregonians know about the Modoc? What is the story we need to hear?

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Visual Arts 2018: The big picture

2018 in Review, Part 7: From museums to studios to brave new spaces, a recap of some of ArtsWatch's views and reviews from a year in art

The visual arts stories at ArtsWatch this year ranged far and wide and – as usual – didn’t even come close to covering all that went on in the world of Oregon art. While some may see that as a failure, we choose to see it as a windfall. We are fortunate to live in such an active arts community. If we could cover everything, it would mean a much smaller everything, and that doesn’t benefit anyone. Here is a neat (and incomplete) encapsulation of visual vrts stories in 2018.

We took you behind the scenes with interviews with Oregon artists that explored origins, processes, interests, and other machinations of established and emerging artists. Paul Sutinen interviewed, among others, Judy Cooke on the occasion of her fall show at Elizabeth Leach and Tom Prochaska on the occasion of his spring show at Froelick. Hannah Krafcik interviewed kiki nicole, and ariella tai about their work with the first and the last, an experimental film/video and new media arts project in Portland. Krafcik was then able to follow up in another interview with Jaleesa Johnston about her screening and workshop at the first and the last.

Judy Cooke, “Pink”, 2018, oil, aluminum, 14” x 10” x 1.5”

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Social engagement: politics, resistance, and art

2018 in Review, Part 5: Oregon ArtsWatch visited creators in all media who are addressing problems ranging from racism to climate change

The world is indisputably in a precarious position — not just politically and socially, but economically and even ecologically. It is a moment of crisis. Artists play a crucial role in moments like these, helping the rest of us arrive at a shared cognition of what is — of seeing, sensing, and feeling that roil of life in a way that clarifies, opens eyes, and maybe even showing us a way forward.

What struck me in compiling this year-end reading list on socially engaged art in Oregon is the extent to which artists strove not simply to see and interpret, but to peel back layers, to reveal what is largely hidden — either by design or by accident — by institutions, by geography, and even by the telling of history. There may be no “new” stories to tell, but too many stories haven’t been heard by those who need to hear them, by people who perhaps want to see, but don’t know how.

So dive into this compilation. There’s a bit of everything: visual art, theater, music, conceptual art, literature. And, of course, the usual disclaimer: The choices here are highly subjective and presented in no particular order, and obviously are not intended to be comprehensive.

 


 

Witnesses in a churning world

Artist Hung Liu says “Official Portraits: Immigrant” (2006, lithograph with collage) is one of three self-portraits representing stages of her life.

Sept. 27: ArtsWatch’s Bob Hicks checked out a fall show at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem called Witness: Themes of Social Justice in Contemporary Printmaking and Photography. It featured a lineup of artists who look at the world through a lens that is both personal and cultural, and in a way that connects our present moment with history.

“The idea of art as a pristine thing, separated from the hurly-burly of the everyday world and somehow above it all, is a popular notion,” Hicks wrote. “But a much stronger case exists for the idea of art as the expression of the roil of life, in all its messiness and cruelty and prejudices and passions and pleasures and occasional outbursts of joy. Art comes from somewhere, and that somewhere is the world in which we live.”

The article is a mini-tour of the exhibition itself, with nearly 20 pieces accompanied by the artists’ personal statements reflecting the roil and rebellion of their creative processes.

 


 

David Ludwig: Telling the Earth’s story through music

Chamber Music Northwest performs ‘Pangæa.’ Photo: Tom Emerson.

July 27: “Pangæa was the single huge continent on Earth encompassed by one vast ocean over 200 million years ago – eons before dinosaurs, much less humans,” musician David Ludwig writes in the program notes for composition of the same name. “It was an entirely different planet than one we’d recognize today, lush with life of another world.” That’s the world Ludwig interpreted musically in the West Coast premiere of Pangæa, a piece inspired by the ancient Earth, and the threat of extinction as a result of human-caused climate change. Matthew Andrews talked to him about this extraordinary piece of music for ArtsWatch. Best of all: You can listen to it yourself.

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Nature, art, and activism on the Oregon Trail

Signal Fire alumni consider Oregon's colonial past and ecological present at PNCA

By STEPHANIE LITTLEBIRD

Unwalking the West is a group exhibition at the Center for Contemporary Art and Culture at the Pacific Northwest College of Art showcasing Signal Fire alumni who completed the Unwalking the West wilderness program in 2016. The artists retraced segments of the Oregon Trail in reverse to examine the lingering legacies of colonialism and consider present ecological challenges.

Signal Fire started in 2008 when activist Amy Harwood joined artist Ryan Pierce in a collaborative effort to unite their two communities. The intention of this partnership was to foster appreciation for the natural world by connecting artists to the wilderness and advocating for the protection of open spaces.

Ten years later, the program leads trips year-round for artists who want to deepen their relationship to nature and learn about equitable access to public lands. Additionally, the program provides opportunities for artists and creative activists to engage with the environment directly through unique and immersive residencies.

Emmy Lingscheit, Remediators (2018)

Upon entering the exhibition at PNCA, one is confronted by large-scale relief prints depicting Pleurotus ostreatus, commonly known as the oyster mushroom. Artist Emmy Lingscheit’s work is delicately carved and visually striking in its balance of light and dark. Her mark making is intentional and beautifully exalts the anatomy of this humble organism.

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