Before we get into the most politically incendiary and mesmerizing gallery exhibition in Yamhill County, first things first: The 2019 Art Harvest Studio Tour is upon us, so for those who have never been, here’s how it works.
Starting Friday and running all this weekend and next, nearly 40 artists from one end of Yamhill County to the other will throw open their studio doors to show their work, and in many instances, where and how they work.
The 27th annual event features artists working in a variety of media. Roughly half are painters and illustrators in oil, watercolor, acrylic, pastels, and egg tempura. Among the other half, you’ll find sculptors, potters, photographers, beaders, jewelry-makers, and more. They’re heavily concentrated and split evenly between McMinnville and Newberg, although this year there’s also a sizable showing in the vineyard-draped hills around Amity and in that city’s bustling downtown.
The show runs Oct. 4-6 and 11-13. Tour buttons good for the entire run cost $8 and are available at all studio locations, which are listed on the website. A good way to start is swinging by the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg, where the main gallery features work by all of this year’s artists.
Kathleen Buck, who lives and works in the hills north of Newberg, is a long-time local artist who has participated in the tour for 25 years.
“It’s very important to me,” she said. “When I get a concept for a piece of art, I tend to paint in many layers, and the painting changes dramatically through the layers. Therefore, I rarely show the work to anyone until it is fairly well developed, since most paintings go through an ugly stage. But I do enjoy sharing the various stages of my work with guests at the studio tour, because I can talk to them, and share the processes, and show them several finished pieces that I am more happy with. People are often fascinated with the process, and I sometimes get invaluable feedback from the guests.”
She’s also a businesswoman who makes a living selling art, so Buck appreciates the fact that the tour provides a chance to display a lot of work to a lot of people. The dynamic has made for many interesting exchanges over the years.
“Often, the same few paintings get the most attention, which is great input for me,” she said. “But occasionally a painting that I am proud of and love, but which is not new, grabs the attention of a buyer. When someone really gets one of my paintings that others have overlooked, I am thrilled.”
IF YOU’RE IN DOWNTOWN McMINNVILLE for the tour, here’s another must-see: Artist-owned Currents Gallery is in the midst of its 10th Annual Fiber Arts Show, which features an astonishing number and variety of pieces in the juried exhibition. There are wall pieces, sculptures, and wearable art that’s been sewn, knitted, felted, painted, and even printed, and incorporates everything from wool, silk, cotton, synthetics, and “embellishments from nature.” Currents, the community’s oldest gallery, is at 532 N.E. Third St. Hours are: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. The show runs through Oct. 13.
MINTHORNE GALLERY AT GEORGE FOX UNIVERSITY in Newberg has an extraordinary exhibition of breathtaking relief prints that passionately and angrily capture and protest the American zeitgeist – not only the reactionary political theater in Washington, but also the corporate-consumerist culture in which it plays out. A piece titled Fuck Your Wall displays those exact words in huge letters. Another features Trump, Twitter machine in hand and sporting a swastika armband. Graphic Resistance is the kind of show you’d expect to see in Portland. But it’s here, mounted in a small gallery on the lush, tree-shaded grounds of a private Christian school.
George Fox is the oldest Christian university in the state, with Quaker roots that go back more than 125 years ago. The show, which opened earlier this month in the Minthorne (a lovely, sunlit space in the Hoover Building, just a couple of blocks off Oregon 99W), is by Chicago artist Carlos Barberena. A native of Nicaragua, he is known for incorporating images from pop culture, even including political and cultural tragedies, of which there are plentiful examples regardless of where one looks in the world. He has exhibited in Costa Rica, Estonia, France, Mexico, Nicaragua, Spain, and the United States.
I was curious to know how his work landed in Newberg, of all places. Jennifer Salzman, director of exhibitions and collections at the university, was happy to explain.
“Our printmaking professor, Jillian Sokso, knew of Carlos Barberena and was a fan of his work,” she said. “She asked me last year if I could try to get an exhibition with him. I contacted Carlos … and he was thrilled to accept.”
“It is a true pleasure to host Carlos,” she added. “His work and experiences have really inspired our students and faculty alike.”
For any artist, Trump is obviously an easy target. In Barberena’s E PLURIBUS UNUM, he takes a direct, individualized hit. But the piece (which is also the largest in the show) places him in a broader context, both socially and historically: He is flanked by two skeletons attired to represent the Catholic church and the U.S. military. Look closely at the President’s own attire and you see more than the swastika. There’s also the corporate logo for Shell, the atomic symbol, and a dollar sign. Behind them is the Confederate flag.
Familiar images abound. The atomic symbol, mushroom clouds, and corporate logos for Fox News, Apple, and McDonald’s are sprinkled throughout these vistas of American madness. The quintessence of that madness is captured in a piece titled McShitter. It shows a man taking care of business on the toilet as he taps away on a laptop with one hand and shovels in a Big Mac with the other. Behind him is a bumper sticker for Obama’s “Hope.”
No exhibition wrestling with this political moment would be complete without dealing with immigration, and Barberena does so in a variety of ways, both in terms of content and style. One piece features a youth looking mournfully at the blue sky, out of reach behind a towering wall. Another depicts immigrants in a small boat, rowing toward McDonald’s golden arches. I do not know if it was intentional, but it’s striking that in a room filled with dozens of faces, Trump’s is the only white one. Surrounded by the faces of Latinos, African-Americans, Muslims, and indigenous people, the WASP stands alone.
Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibition runs through Oct. 25 and admission is free.
ARTS JOURNAL: Spent a couple of evenings bouncing between LeRoi Jones’ Blues People and Samuel Charters’ The Legacy of the Blues. I mentioned on my Facebook page that I was looking at the blues more methodically, and within a few hours, one friend offered me a record player, and another said I could borrow her vinyl collection. Who says Facebook is all bad?
This story is supported in part by a grant from the Yamhill County Cultural Coalition, Oregon Cultural Trust, and Oregon Community Foundation.