PPH Passing Strange

Talent, emerging: New artists at The Reser

A new exhibit at the Beaverton art center showcases a variety of rising artists displaying fresh work that engages in many kinds of conversations.

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Photo from outside of the windows at The Reser announcing the art exhibition "Dialogues: Emerging Artist Showcase."


Story and Photographs by FRIDERIKE HEUER


May I suggest that when the weather permits you plan a visit to the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts in Beaverton? I predict you’ll find it worthwhile, telling by my own reaction when I was there on Wednesday.

Dialogues: An Emerging Artist Showcase, shown in the gallery until February 17, 2024, is an exhibition with a sufficiently catch-all title that makes one wonder who is supposed to be talking to whom. The one voice that mattered, however, was heard: The art spoke to me. Or shall we say, a lot of the art did. So many varied voices: painting, sculpture, woodworking, installations, fiber arts, ceramics and photography – some loud, some whispering, some tongue in cheek and some refusing to tell a story unless you invested enough curiosity to find out.

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In fact, dialogue is offered on multiple levels. The artists, all still in training, self-taught, or recently graduated, reach out to the viewer in direct appeals to converse. Or they confer with imaginary representations of the past, unraveling narratives that cloaked something else. Or they are settling scores with departed lovers, or yelling back at a world that is intolerably judgmental, or delivering simple but insistent monologues. Then there are the conversations between those looking at the art and offering different takes. Or, if you’re lucky, you get to listen to the curator, Karen de Benedetti, explain some of the works that benefit from background information. Much talk in this gallery!

Interior photo of the gallery at the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts.
The Gallery at the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts.

The level of talent and expertise was as varied as the voices on offer, and that is a good thing. For me, one of the outstanding services The Reser Gallery provides for the community is the approachability of art for populations that are not necessarily familiar with it or are shy to reveal their own lack of knowledge, putting “art” on a pedestal. Showing art by young people who are still in the process of finding their voice, or the facility with the tools to express their ideas, is so very encouraging for the rest of us who are drawn to it but might feel inadequate. It creates engagement, and might spark artistic explorations for those who can observe here that work evolves and improves over time, far from perfect in early stages of a career.

Noelle Herceg, "Jellashells" installation of free-form gelatin sculptures hanging in the windows of the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts in beaverton.
Noelle Herceg, “Jellashells” installation.

That said, there were creative ideas all around the building, and some serious beauty to be had, with or without narratives. I will not be able to talk about them all; after all, you should visit and see for yourselves! Instead I chose a few of the storytellers whose stories moved me, and a few artists who helped me to stop thinking or forever running my brain by presenting work that simply enticed with visual beauty, feeding my eyes and soul instead.

Jessica Joner, "Of What Was." Artwork consisting of a table setting with chairs, inviting visitors to sit.
Jessica Joner, “Of What Was.”

Upstairs a table surrounded by chairs awaits you, quite literally inviting people to sit down and talk, with many following the invitation during the opening night, by all reports. Everything on the table is made or created by the artist, Jessica Joner, who embroiders surfaces with encouraging messages and offers pottery for a multiple course meal. I spontaneously use the word inviting, but that is really how her work feels on second thought: It invites you to be with her, her ideas, her audience, an act of sharing, opening dialogue in the community.

Jessica Joner, "Respite" (left), "Ceaseless" (right). Embroidered chair seat, tablecloth, and apron.
Jessica Joner, “Respite” (left), “Ceaseless” (right).

Downstairs my eyes were drawn into a large, multiple-part installation that on first glimpse seems to tell one story, and upon closer inspection hides a second, underlying, much darker narrative. Katherine Curry‘s surface depictions, with computer-assisted cuts of wooden circles into the most intricate doilies next to a video of the slow unraveling of a delicately crocheted doily by the artist’s hands, tell of family traditions of specialized handiwork, patterns handed down from generation to generation. Behind the beauty and the shadow play of the wooden models lurks something uglier, seemingly making its way through the generations as well, with family represented in a large photograph behind the lacy screen, trying to put a conventional smile on the face of harshness, if not intimations of violence.

Katherine Curry, wall hanging, "A Nuclear Family."
Katherine Curry, “A Nuclear Family.” Details below:
Katherine Curry, "A Nuclear Family," details.

Katherine Curry, wall sculpture, "A Nuclear Family."

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A bit farther into the room, handmade soaps covering photographs of family members echo the theme of a film of civility cloaking the tension underneath.

Jessica Joner, "Wash your Mouth out Again and Again and Again," artworks of family pictures encased in bars of soap.
Jessica Joner, “Wash your Mouth out Again and Again and Again.”

One returns, if these are the interpretations that formed, almost with relief to the video, where the unraveling of a pattern now takes on a restorative tone: There is an end of the line, the string freed, and the path to something new is open.

Katherine Curry, wall sculpture "A Nuclear Family," with accompanying video component showing the making of the work.

Details of video component showing the making of Katherine Curry's wall sculpture "A Nuclear Family."

There are other stories to be found in the gallery: the miniature perfection of a dream meal envisioned by someone with allergies suffering a restrictive diet (Leah Yao, well aware of the consequences of junk food down to the grave):

Leah Yao, "Mini Memento Mori," sculpture of an array of food placed on a rough stone block.
Leah Yao, “Mini Memento Mori.” Details below:

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A letter written after having been abandoned, Eliza Williams‘ incantations feeling like an attempt at self hypnosis to get over the spell cast by the lover. You’ll see for yourself, if you have a chance to visit, how many variations there are of engaging in one or another form of speaking out.

Eliza Williams artwork "I used to know you."
Eliza Williams, “I used to know you.” Details below:

Quieter work, or shall we say work absent a storyline, was also well-represented. There were ceramic containers by Kelsey Hamilton Davis, carefully placed on chosen fabric echoed in some form or another in her voluptuous sculptures that reminded me of tropical succulents, their lack of restraint juxtaposed with these constrained patterns from tartans to the dot alignments familiar from eastern European stoneware.

Kelsey Hamilton Davis, ceramic container on fabric.
Kelsey Hamilton Davis, ceramic container on fabric.
Kelsey Hamilton Davis's ceramic container on favric "Her House of Laughter."
Kelsey Hamilton Davis, “Her House of Laughter.”

There were Tanner Lind‘s works on paper, radiating joy, the smaller ones more successful than the larger ones. The former were not shy to allow background breathing room to provide a stage for the perceived movement of the affixed figures. It is terrific work, reminiscent of Alexander Calder or Joan Miró if you blink, but in no way derivative. Leaving space empty when there is a lot of space to fill is definitely difficult – but Lind’s unerring sense of geometry and color should propel him toward solutions.

Tanner Lind's works on paper "Microzone 1" (left) and "Microzone 2" (right), perfectly placed above the recycling containers that lend themselves to a Gesamtkunstwerk. ...
Tanner Lind, “Microzone 1″ (left) and “Microzone 2″ (right), perfectly placed above the recycling containers that lend themselves to a Gesamtkunstwerk. …

Tanner Lind, “Microzone 3,” details.

I was absolutely smitten by an installation of organic shapes that hung in the window on the ground floor. Noelle Herceg creates these ephemeral shapes from gelatin, a material that makes them prone to fading, breaking, given that Jell-O skins are not exactly meant to last. I first thought they were made out of glass. Learning that they were not added a memento mori quality to the work that enhanced the appreciation. Herceg’s website (link above) explains both process and underlying thoughts about her approach in better detail, both concerned with memory of a past and a loss thereof.

Noelle Herceg's hanging installation "Jellashells," free forms made from gelatin.
Noelle Herceg, “Jellashells.”
Noelle Herceg's hanging installation "Jellashells," free forms made from gelatin.

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A few months ago I had explored another exhibit with organic shapes hanging from above, albeit huge ones. Woshaa’axre Yaang’aro (Looking Back) by Mercedes Dorame is an installation at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, conjuring the views of ocean coastlines of the Tongva People, with the suspended sculptures representing abalones – a culturally important mollusk for the Native peoples. This artist, too, relates work to memory and the constructs built around what gets handed down. I found the size overwhelming, though, and the opaque pastels too saturated.

Details from Mercedes Dorame's hanging installation "Woshaa’axre Yaang’aro (Looking Back)" at the Getty Center.

Mercedes Dorame, “Woshaa’axre Yaang’aro (Looking Back)” at the Getty Center.

Herceg’s work, in contrast, has a gentleness to it, a cautiousness almost, as if there’s fragility all around us, one sharp look potentially shattering skins. Really hard to convey, and perhaps just my personal echoing of the theme, but the installation is worth exploring; something digs deep.

Details from Mercedes Dorame's hanging installation "Woshaa’axre Yaang’aro (Looking Back)" at the Getty Center.
Noelle Herceg, “Jellashells.”

Last but not least, let’s make some room for talking with your hands … or at least one prominent finger extended to all those engaged in fat-shaming. Here’s to holding your ground! The zest for life depicted in this painting by Rae Sheridan – oh grant me just a small percent of that!

Rae Sheridan, "Vickie." Painting of large sunburned woman in bikini sitting on a beach with suntan lotion in one hand and a very large strawberry in the other.
Rae Sheridan, “Vickie.”

I expect we’ll see many of these young artists more prominently in the years to come, if we are lucky to be around. The Reser show certainly raised hopes for that.

***

This essay was originally published on YDP – Your Daily Picture on January 12, 2024.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Friderike Heuer is a photographer and photomontage artist. Trained as an experimental psychologist at the New School for Social Research, she taught at Lewis & Clark College until she retired to pursue art full time. Her cultural blog www.heuermontage.com explores art and politics on a daily basis through photography and commentary. She has exhibited most recently at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education and Camerawork Gallery, on issues concerning migrants and refugees. She frequently volunteers as a photographer for small, local arts non-profits. For more information, visit www.friderikeheuer.online.

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