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VizArts Monthly: Appreciating the past, showing up for the present

Martha Daghlian highlights some worthy December art offerings


This December brings opportunities to engage with the arts community in Portland, past and present. Memorial exhibitions honor the lives and work of two prominent Oregon artists whose creativity left an impact on their many students as well as the galleries and collectors that supported them. Shows in Portland and Springfield reflect on the visions and reverberations of artist-run projects both within their close-knit circles and in the community at large. Artists in two innovative fellowship programs present work made possible by the financial and creative support of forward-thinking curators and patrons, and a big group show brings work from artists from across the country to an independent artist-run gallery.

Finally, a number of holiday art sales provide a tangible way to contribute to the arts, as proceeds from these sales in large part go directly to artists and allow them to continue to create, enriching our collective culture. Wherever your gallery-walking and holiday-shopping takes you, make sure to stop for a moment and find your own way to express your appreciation for the hard work that artists and arts professionals do all year round. 

A large woven tapestry in  dusty pastel colors of linen, depicting an empty room with a checkerboard tile floor, vaulted ceiling, and surrounded by arched windows with sheer curtains blowing in the wind.
Judith Poxson Fawkes, Scutching Floor (photo courtesy Russo Lee Gallery)

Jan Reaves 
Judith Poxson Fawkes
December 5 – 21
Russo Lee Gallery
805 NW 21st Ave
This month, Russo Lee Gallery will honor the work and memory of two Oregon artists who recently passed away: painter Jan Reaves and weaver Judith Poxson Fawkes. Reaves was a longtime faculty member at the University of Oregon whose career spanned thirty years and left an impact on many young art students. Her abstract acrylic and oil paintings glow with translucent washes and drips of color, their characteristic looping gestural forms dancing across the canvases. Poxson Fawkes mastered a variety of complex tapestry weaving techniques over her forty-plus year artistic career. Though terms like inlay and double-weave might be unfamiliar to the average viewer, the radiant and intricate geometric patterns they produce require no special knowledge to appreciate. Considering the recent resurgence of fibers and textiles among contemporary artists, Poxson’s beautifully crafted work may find new fans among the younger generation.

View of Ditch Projects gallery, with people talking in the background while in the foreground a man in blue shirt stands in front of beige wall looking at a painting of a green and blue alien woman.
A Good Way to Invent the Future (photo courtesy Ditch Projects)

A Good Way to Invent the Future
November 16 – January 18
Ditch Projects
303 S. 5th Avenue #165 
Springfield’s Ditch Projects marks ten years of programming with a group show featuring works by thirteen artists, including several founders of the artist-run space. This ambitious and  multi-faceted exhibition is billed as a “show within a show,” and includes a reconstruction of the gallery’s original iteration circa 2008 as well as artist readings, performances, and concerts. Works on view range from paintings to sculptures to audio installations to books and images wedged into unlikely places. The show is tied together by a thoughtful critique of Oregon’s long history of self-determined communities, from the shameful legacy of early white settlers’ attempts to exclude black residents to the hopeful but still imperfect hippy movement of the sixties to the punk and DIY scenes of the eighties and nineties. 

Photo of an empty room with a yellow plastic item that might be an industrial component or part of a toy sitting atop a large beige rock.
Being Present (image courtesy Triple Candie)

Being Present: Revisiting, Somewhat Unfaithfully, Portland’s Most Experimental Art Experiment, PCVA
November 16 – June 19
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Ave.
Looking for some historical context about artist-run projects in Oregon? Ironically, you might want to head to one of the largest arts institutions in town, the Portland Art Museum. Contemporary art sometimes seems to have a short memory, but the exhibition, Being Present, brings the recent past back into focus. It is a curatorial meditation on the impact and legacy of the Portland Center for the Visual Arts, an organization that brought some of the country’s leading avant-garde artists to our once little-known city from 1972 to 1987, including big names like Donald Judd, Agnes Martin, and Andy Warhol among many others. The group curated site-specific installations and edgy performances but eventually folded under the financial strain of their ambitions. This fittingly experimental examination of PCVA was curated by the collaborative duo Triple Candie, whose practices have ranged from thrilling and subversive to confusing and even controversial. Here, they present “unfaithful sculptural objects, spatial interventions, animated videos, tapestries, and hand-drawn documentation” created for the exhibition. Through such unconventional materials, Triple Candie aims to engage not only with PCVA’s achievements but also with the not always positive impacts of such cultural “progressiveness” on marginalized local communities. Whether their approach is successful will surely be a matter for debate, but it is undoubtedly in keeping with the innovative spirit of the show’s subject. 

Drinking Gourd Fellowship logo: red starts in the shape of the big dipper constellation on black background, with white letters "DGF" in upper right corner.
(image courtesy Nat Turner Project)

Nat Turner Project Presents: An Exhibition of Drinking Gourd Fellows
November 29 – December 22
Ori Gallery
4038 N Mississippi Ave.
The “fugitive gallery space” Nat Turner Project presents a showcase of works by the inaugural cohort of the Drinking Gourd Fellowship at Mississippi Avenue’s Ori Gallery this month. NTP’s curators organize events and exhibitions that aim to give artists of color the creative (and physical) space to present work that goes beyond the constraints of identity or institutional expectations. The Fellowship program takes this goal further by providing material support to promising young artists in the form of studio visits, professional opportunities, and small grants. The nine fellows in this year’s program exemplify the creative freedom the fellowship is meant to foster. They work in a wide variety of aesthetic styles and media, from expressionistic painting to hand-drawn comics to photography to dance, and their subjects are just as wide-ranging. Programs like the Drinking Gourd Fellowship can be an invaluable source of support for emerging artists trying to maintain creative practices while making ends meet, and one can only hope that more initiatives like it will materialize as our city grows. 

Close up image of rounded sculptural shapes made from crocheted black rope with several different textures.
crocheted work by Emily Bixler (image courtesy Stumptown Coffee Roasters)

Emily Bixler: Formations
November 14 – January 12
Stumptown Coffee
128 SW 3rd Ave.
The Stumptown Artist Fellowship program is another example of Portland’s art community stepping up to support working artists in tangible ways. The program provides a solo exhibition and a generous monetary stipend to selected artists for the creation of new work. The current artist fellow Emily Bixler has used her award to produce an impressive new series, titled Formations. Bixler’s bulky, bulging crocheted sculptures coax thousands of yards of string and rope in a variety of subtle hues into a knobby arrangement of vessel-like shapes that hang from the shop’s walls. Her inspiration comes from her drawing practice, refined versions of which are presented alongside the fiber pieces. Formations isn’t the only excellent show Bixler has installed outside of a traditional gallery setting – her craft-informed work was presented at the home-goods shop Lowell on N Russell St. in 2017 and at the SE Division location of Stumptown in 2016. All this is to say, great art can be found in unexpected places, and ought to be appreciated and supported wherever it happens.


PCS Clyde’s

Red neon sign that reads "loiter here" in capital letters.
Paul Shortt, Loiter Here (image courtesy Carnation Contemporary)

On the Tip of My Tongue
December 7 – 22
Carnation Contemporary
8371 N Interstate Ave.
Curators Katherine Spinella and Kristin Hough have put together a massive group show of over thirty artists from across the country (including many Portlanders) this month at Carnation Contemporary in On the Tip of My Tongue. With so many works on view, there is no way to neatly sum up the look of this show, and even the show’s theme (language) is broad enough to encompass seemingly any subject or approach. But just a cursory glance at the participating artists’ portfolios is enough evidence that this show will be terrific, and the gallery’s track record should only add to viewers’ confidence. Portland artist Sarah Rushford will lead a group performance of her work, Jayne Telephones, on opening night at 5:40 on the dot, so don’t be late!

If you still have a few (or many) people to find gifts for as we approach Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, etcetera, check out some of the local art sales happening in the coming weeks. Not only will you find a classy art gift to impress your friends, but both you and your gift’s recipient can pat yourselves on the back for helping to support Portland’s art community. 

A small kiln-formed glass bowl in translucent pink with pale orange bubbles and an irregularly scalloped edge, sitting on a wooden table.
work by Kurumi Conley (image courtesy Guardino Gallery)

19th Annual Little Things Show
November 29 – December 28
Guardino Gallery
2939 N. Alberta St.
Guardino Gallery’s Little Things has been going strong for almost twenty years, and the concept is simple: artists can make whatever they like, so long as it fits into a 7” square “imaginary box”. What that means is a wild assortment of locally made art that is affordable, portable, and gift-wrappable, and convenient to all the other quirky retail options in the Alberta Arts District. 

Exterior of historic PNCA building in downtown Portland, features arched windows, small gargoyles above main entrance, and neoclassical columns and detailing.
(image courtesy PNCA)

PNCA Art Sale
Patron Preview (PNCA Patrons and PNCA community) Wednesday, December 4, 6-9pm
First Thursday Opening Thursday, December 5, 6-9pm
Friday, December 6, 12-7pm Saturday, December 7, 10:30am-5:30pm
511 NW Broadway
Students at the Pacific Northwest College of Art will be selling their artwork on First Thursday and through the weekend at the annual Holiday Art Sale. Buying artwork from undergraduate students is common practice in many large cities, and is a great way to start building a serious art collection – BFA students are immersed in their studios and are often working out the subjects and styles that will form the basis of the rest of their careers. Works for sale will include paintings, prints, ceramics, jewelry and more.

Hand-drawn poster for event, featuring a gift-wrapped box that  bears the words "buy local", holiday ephemera, and logos and information, in blue.
(image courtesy True North studio)

True North Open House and Arts Swap Meet
December 6, 6-9pm
True North Studios
455 NE 71st Ave.
Magnetic North Studios, a collective art space formerly located on SE Belmont, has been reincarnated in Northeast Portland as True North. Stop by their upcoming open house and “swap meet” for art, music, and live screen printing (buy a blank shirt at the event or bring your own item to print on). The artists, designers, and makers here are truly dedicated to their community, and offer memberships and workshops for artists and creative professionals. Find out more and score some expertly designed printed goods this Friday night!

Many screen printed posters laid out on a table, each one reads "love is love" in rainbow ink.
screen printed poster from p:ear (image courtesy p:ear)

P:ear Festival of the Last Minute Art and Bake Sale
December 19 and 20, 1-8pm
338 NW 6th Ave
If you are a procrastinator, P:ear has got you covered. Their Festival of the Last Minute Art and Bake Sale happens Thursday and Friday the week before many of the major holidays begin, so you can pop in and find a gift on your way home from work or on a late lunch break. P:ear provides creative education and exhibition opportunities, along with many other invaluable services, to homeless and at-risk youth in downtown Portland, and their participating artists will be offering their work for sale at affordable prices – cash preferred! You can also bring a donation of new socks, underwear, art supplies, or nonperishable pantry supplies and get a free poster. 

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