Watercolor Society of Oregon

Book ’em, Dano. (Online, of course.)

ArtsWatch Weekly: Portland Book Festival is virtually yours; art around the state; dance on film; October musical surprise; two remembrances

A BIG SLICK BROCHURE FROM LITERARY ARTS PLOPPED INTO MY MAILBOX a day or two ago, announcing the imminent arrival of this year’s Portland Book Festival (the festival formerly known as Wordstock). The good news is that what has traditionally been a one-day event cramming Taylor Swift-sized crowds into the streets of Portland’s downtown Cultural District will now spawl across two weeks, Nov. 5-21. The expected news is that, of course, all of the events will be online. Portland’s long been a hotbed of live literary celebrations, from poetry slams and open mics in bars to celebrity author talks in bookstores to this great big annual bash that lures the devotees of a solitary artistic passion – reading – into a cultural swarm of conviviality. The necessity of making this year’s festival virtual puts a new twist on the oddity of an extroverted event for introverts, which will now by an introverted event for introverts, simulating extroversion.

Intro- or extro-, it’s a good-looking festival, with more than a hundred authors, a full table of contents of classes and events, and some top-of-the-line featured speakers. Maybe the biggest current-events voice among those will belong to Isabel Wilkerson, author of Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents, which argues that America’s race problem is more accurately a matter of caste, to be compared with India’s caste system and Nazi Germany’s hierarchy of citizens. A key aspect of caste is that people can’t escape the caste into which they were born, meaning that in the United States, the conflation of caste and race both muddies the distinction and makes it all the more indelible. It’s a book that clearly and potently summarizes current research, and gains much of its power from Wilkerson’s impassioned observations and retellings of encounters in her own life. The featured fiction speaker will be Jess Walter, the best-selling novelist who lives in Spokane, author of Beautiful RuinsThe Financial Lives of the Poets, and the new The Cold Millions. And it’s quite wonderful and lovely that Margaret Atwood, the great Canadian writer and author of The Handmaid’s Tale, an essential novel of the 20th century that remains unnervingly pertinent in the 2020s, is being featured in conversation about her poetry. Writers’ worlds are often more complex, and therefore interesting, than their greatest hits.
 



CHARLES GRANT, MOVING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER


Charles Grant collaborates with Jessica Wallenfels to add a vivid sense of movement to his performance in his short play-turned-film “Matter.” Photo: Tamera Lyn

CHARLES GRANT’S MATTER AT HAND. The Portland actor/writer’s new version of his 2017 short play Matter (he now refers to it as Matter 2.0) takes it off the stage and into streamable movie form with the aid of videographer and editor Tamera Lyn, director James Dixon, sound designer Sharath Patel, and lighting designer Thyra Hartshorn. One other crucial collaborator – movement director Jessica Wallenfels, of co-producer (with Portland Playhouse) Many Hats Collaboration, helped Grant create a vivid sense of motion in his solo show, Jamuna Chiarini writes. Chiarini talks with Grant and Wallenfels about how the movement and the script work together to amplify Grant’s story of the constant threat of police brutality and gun violence that Black Americans face. 
 

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Not your grandmother’s watercolors

The Watercolor Society of Oregon’s show in Newberg debunks stereotypes that the medium is about wimpy, washed out florals and bowls of fruit

The Watercolor Society of Oregon’s original plan was for members to converge in Newberg this fall for their annual convention, to be held in the Chehalem Cultural Center. As with so many other cultural doings, that was not to be.

But the paintings are there, more than 80 of them filling the center’s largest space along with the spacious lobby. The show runs through Nov. 28, and it easily qualifies as must-see fare, for it opens your eyes to the range of possibilities with a medium that tends to be mistaken for what I suppose one would call the stereotype.

I thought it was just me, but I asked Oregon watercolorist Kristi Grussendorf about it. She juried the show and is active not only in the 800-plus-member state organization, but also in regional groups. She knew what I was talking about.

“Chrome of Fire II,” by Sandra Wood (38 by 30 inches , watercolor)
“Chrome of Fire III,” by Sandra Wood (38 by 30 inches )

“Yes, it’s not your typical, wimpy, washed out florals that little old ladies did,” she said. I actually did not cite “old ladies,” but I knew what she was talking about. It’s part of the stereotype, maybe at a subconscious level, but it’s there: this image of aging women using watercolors to produce flowers, pastures, and bowls of fruit. “Watercolor is a powerful and versatile medium,” Grussendorf said. “It’s also archival. It’s past time for the old stereotypes to be discarded.”

The Chehalem show smashes through this stereotype powerfully. Indeed, the first impression a few of the pieces made was that they weren’t in watercolor. Dona White’s enchanting Play Time on first glance looks like it might have been done with acrylic. Doyle Leek’s Olive Oil from a distance vaguely resembles a graphite drawing. Sandra Wood’s Chrome of Fire III briefly appears almost like it was “painted” digitally, but no. I’m not sure what I thought upon first seeing Marjett Schille’s Slipping Into Darkness, which hauntingly depicts a surreal exodus of butterflies leaving Earth, but it definitely was not “watercolor.”

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Linfield Theatre thinks outside the pandemic box

Yamhill County calendar: A "season like no other" on campus, plus a watercolor show in Newberg and a preview of McMinnville Short Film Festival

The pandemic has forced artists in every discipline to think outside the box, so I’m guessing that’s the analogy Linfield University’s Theatre department had in mind when it plowed into its 101st season Friday with an evening of improvisational sketches titled Out of the Box.

Students performed the live sketch comedy not before a live audience in the auditorium, but before audience members watching the live show on Linfield’s YouTube channel from home, regardless of whether home was a dorm room on the McMinnville campus or not; the show broadcast free to anyone with an internet connection.

They’re calling it “A Season Like No Other,” which it obviously is.

Out of the Box amounted to just more than an hour’s worth of sketches very much bound up with the present political and cultural moment, written and performed by a troupe of student actors and writers on a giant tic-tac-toe-style checkerboard with only a few set pieces constructed with what appeared to be PVC pipe. Graffiti adorned the rear wall: BLACK LIVES MATTER. SAY HER NAME. AMERICA IS BURNING.

Linfield Theatre students (from left) Caroline Calvano, Avery Witty, Sam Hannagan, Brielle Kromer (on ladder in back), Sara Cerda (on floor), Jordan Tate, and Sarah Ornelas perform an improvisational sketch during rehearsal for “Out of the Box.” The show can be seen on Linfield Theatre’s YouTube channel. Photo courtesy: Linfield Theatre
Linfield Theatre students (from left) Caroline Calvano, Avery Witty, Sam Hannagan, Brielle Kromer (on ladder in back), Sara Cerda (on floor), Jordan Tate, and Sarah Ornelas perform an improvisational sketch during rehearsal for “Out of the Box.” Photo courtesy: Linfield Theatre

Pieces were titled Womb to Tomb, We Don’t Need No Distance Education, A La Carte, and BBM in a TLB. Students wore transparent face masks. Student directors Clementine Doresey and Hailee Foster were assisted in putting the evening together by theater professors Derek Lane and Janet Gupton. With no copyright issues involved, the shows remain archived on the channel, available to watch anytime.

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As autumn approaches, art finds a way

COVID-19 canceled much of the summer season, but with fall around the corner, arts and culture events are creeping back onto the Yamhill County calendar

Autumn is nearly upon us, and arts and culture are alive, if not exactly well, in Yamhill County. We lost most of Gallery Theater’s 2020 season in McMinnville, along with the Aquilon Music Festival, the UFO Festival, and Walnut City Music Festival. In Newberg, the Camellia Festival and Tunes on Tuesday also fell to COVID-19, along with virtually every small-town summer festival in the county. Linfield College, meanwhile, has welcomed new and returning students, but the public recitals, concerts, guest speakers, and author readings that made the campus a beacon of cultural enrichment in the community… Those are gone.

But as illustrated by the September calendar, art continues to find a way. Here’s what’s happening in Yamhill County, currently and coming soon:

CHEHALEM CULTURAL CENTER: Two exhibits are continuing through Sept. 19 in the Newberg center. They are Cache Nine: The Hope Material (How to Feel Not Scared in a Pandemic) by Sara Siestreem (Hanis Coos) and Selections From Art Studios of Yamhill County (in lieu of this year’s Art Harvest of Yamhill County Studio Tours). Plus, the Central Gallery contains a nifty surprise in a 2-week pop-up exhibit featuring art posters by Converge 45, nonprofit arts coalition founded in 2016 by influential gallery owner Elizabeth Leach. It opened Tuesday, so the clock’s running. 

George Fox University graduate Joann Boswell of Camas, Wash., will return to Yamhill County on Thursday when the McMinnville Public Library resumes poetry readings and open mic night. Photo by: MPR Photography. Courtesy of Joann Boswell
Joann Boswell will read her poetry Thursday in McMinnville. Photo by: MPR Photography. Courtesy of Joann Boswell

THE RETURN OF POETRY NIGHT: The McMinnville Public Library will resume poetry readings and open mic events this week with poet Joann Boswell, a Washington resident with deep Oregon roots. She grew up in Roseburg and attended George Fox University, where she studied music, theater, writing, and literature, graduating in 2010 with a master’s degree in teaching. Along the way, she started doing natural-light photography and writing poetry, and in June she became the poetry editor for Untold Volumes at Christian Feminism Today. Boswell will read her poetry in McMinnville’s Lower City Park west of the library at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3. Bring chairs or blankets, wear your mask, and bring a poem to share if you like. Sign up for open mic by calling 503-435-5554.

ELIZABETH CHAMBERS CELLAR: With a slew of COVID-19 protocols in place, McMinnville’s storied winery and tasting room on the south end of the Granary District, settled in brick digs that originally housed the local power company, is hosting live music. Friday Fandango events are open to the public (with reservations you can make here) after wine club members pre-reserve tables. Shows, held in a beautiful garden courtyard, start at either 5:30 or 7:30 p.m., so keep that detail in mind when planning. Starting Friday, this month features Jacob Westfall, JoAnna Lee, Ronni Kay, and Britnee Kellog.

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