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VizArts Monthly: Collaborative justice

May's art offerings tackle everything from hopscotch to plant-made music to Antarctica. Lindsay Costello has the scoop on what to see this month.


Spring has sprung and all that jazz—this fresh crop of art happenings is a great opportunity to get out, catch some sunshine, and take in a vast range of new perspectives. In May, artists are expanding their horizons with deep reflections on collaboration. In Grammar of the Imagination, claire barrera assembles a multigenerational cast of dancers in a performance inspired by children’s games. Secrets of the Slow Dimension is a group exhibition meditating on human-nature relationships. MinEastry of Postcollapse Art and Culture cofounders have come together for a two-person exhibition, which will be the art space’s last show, and for Weather Report, HOLDING Contemporary asks the community to respond to big questions about the Portland art world.

You’ll also find justice-minded exhibitions this month, including artist/activist Bev Grant’s first West Coast photography exhibition at Cooley Gallery, an exhibition of drawings by Kirk Charlton, a formerly-incarcerated artist, and the inaugural exhibition at the Center for Native Arts and Cultures, spotlighting Native artist perspectives. There are several others too—let’s dig in!

Work conceived and directed by claire barrera, image courtesy Performance Works NW. Photo credit Chelsea Petrakis.

claire barrera: Grammar of the Imagination
May 20-22, 7 pm
Performance Works NW
4625 SE 67th Ave, Portland

Portland-based artist, activist, and educator claire barrera’s new dance performance includes a cast that spans generations, featuring youth dancers Jordyn Kubernick, Nila Kwa and Paloma Barrera Rodriguez and adults Linda Austin, Allie Hankins, and Hannah Krafcik. Using kids’ games as a springboard and creative lens for the contemplation of social dynamics, Grammar of the Imagination looks closely at power, discipline, care, and transformation in interpersonal relations.

Work by Rose Dickson, image courtesy Adams and Ollman

Rose Dickson: Night Vision
April 2 – May 7
Adams and Ollman
418 NW 8th Ave, Portland (Wed-Sat 11 am – 4 pm)

Rose Dickson’s swirling shapes and interlocking patterns speak to the artist’s interest in touch, boundaries, and tension. Night Vision‘s works in paint, cast metal, wax, and ceramic include archetypal, alchemical imagery that transforms when brought together, creating an emotive sense of connection. In her new series of paintings, Dickson covered a flashe-painted panel with beeswax, then carved into it to reveal aspects of the original work. Her process of obfuscation and unveiling feels both mysterious and spiritual.

Image courtesy HOLDING Contemporary

Weather Report
May 6 – 21
HOLDING Contemporary
916 NW Flanders Street, Portland (by appointment) or virtual


Portland Playhouse A Christmas Carol Portland Oregon

Here’s your chance to make your feistiest opinions about Portland’s art ecosystem heard. Contemporary art space HOLDING Contemporary invites the community to share their thoughts on topics related to Portland galleries, barriers to artists, and patterns of harm in art institutions for Weather Report, a digital and printed zine. Throughout May, the public can answer a series of open-ended questions, available on their website or in person at the gallery space.

Work by Bev Grant, image courtesy Cooley Gallery

Bev Grant Photography 1968-1972
March 28 – June 11
Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College
3203 SE Woodstock Blvd, Portland (Tue-Sun 12-5 pm)

Portland-born activist, musician, artist, educator, and Reed alum Bev Grant made waves with her black-and-white photographs of left wing and radical protests in the late ’60s. Grant’s images bear stunning similarities to the leftist activist movements of today, although key differences are palpable in the paramilitary-geared police presence at modern protests when compared to the cops seen in Grant’s photos. For Grant’s first West Coast photography exhibition, Cooley Gallery celebrates the publication of her first monograph with a showcase of her urgent, poignant photographs.

Image courtesy PAM CUT

Marvelous and the Black Hole
May 14, 3 pm
Whitsell Auditorium
1219 SW Park Ave, Portland

Kate Tsang, who’s written for Adventure Time and Steven Universe in the past, turns to feature filmmaking in her directorial debut. Marvelous and the Black Hole is a charming coming-of-age flick following a delinquent teen who navigates inner turmoil through an odd friendship with a crotchety magician. It’s one of the first films slated to screen at Whitsell by the controversially named PAM CUT.

Work by Kirk Charlton, image courtesy Cascade Paragon Arts Gallery

Kirk Charlton: My Personal Experience
May 4 – June 4
Cascade Paragon Arts Gallery
815 N Killingsworth St, Portland (Wed-Fri 12-7 pm and Sat 12-5 pm)

Incarcerated for almost 20 years, artist Kirk Charlton discovered the therapeutic power of art while in prison at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution (EOCI). Charlton developed the “Art Inside Out” program at EOCI, which included art practice and discussions on heavy topics like stress and compassion. This collection of drawings, vulnerable, poignant, and with hints of humor, illuminates Charlton’s experience while incarcerated. Visitors can meet Charlton for “drop-in and draw” sessions on May 14 and June 4 from 1-3 pm.


Portland Playhouse A Christmas Carol Portland Oregon

Work by Pepper Pepper, image courtesy OPENS Gallery

Mediating Bodies, presented by OPENS Gallery
April 15 – May 8
Oregon Contemporary
8371 N Interstate Ave, Portland (Fri-Sun 12-5 pm)

OPENS, a fresh curatorial project seeking to share unexpected works by contemporary artists, presents this exhibition by artists Marne Lucas, Josh Meier, and Pepper Pepper. In Mediating Bodies, Josh Meier gives thought to the figure/ground relationship by using his body as a painting substrate. Pepper Pepper presents a transformational video of a dress in motion, with a body mysteriously absent, while Marne Lucas uses thermal imaging to capture a body’s radiant glow.

Work by April Waters, image courtesy Hallie Ford Museum of Art

April Waters: Water-Ice-Sky, Antarctica
May 7 – August 13
Hallie Ford Museum of Art
700 State St, Salem (Tue-Sat 12-5 pm)

Salem-based artist April Waters, a grantee of the National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, often works with themes of water. For the works in this exhibition, she set her sights on Palmer Station in Antarctica, where she studied and sketched the ocean, icebergs, and Marr Glacier. The resulting paintings in Water-Ice-Sky, Antarctica illustrate the beauty of a landscape in tumult due to the ongoing climate crisis.

Image courtesy Center for Native Arts and Cultures

Where the Waters Come Together
April 22 – June 30
Center for Native Arts and Cultures
800 SE 10th Ave, Portland (Wed-Fri 11 am – 6 pm and Sat 11 am – 4 pm)

The newly founded Center for Native Arts and Cultures, located in the former Yale Union building, has unveiled their inaugural exhibition. Where the Waters Come Together highlights works by Native artists Greg Archuleta, Lehuauakea, Sean Gallagher, Andrew Michael, Sara Siestreem, Shirod Younker, and Brenda Mallory. Through multimedia works, each artist offers perspectives on biodiversity, food sources, colonial impacts on access to waterways and shorelines, and other issues critical to our rivers and oceans.

Work by Na Omi Judy Shintani, image courtesy Japanese American Museum of Oregon

Na Omi Judy Shintani: Dream Refuge for Children Imprisoned
April 14 – September 4
Japanese American Museum of Oregon
411 NW Flanders St, Portland (Fri-Sun 11 am – 3 pm by reservation)


Portland Playhouse A Christmas Carol Portland Oregon

Japanese American artist and storyteller Na Omi Judy Shintani illuminates the trauma of incarcerated youth in Dream Refuge for Children Imprisoned, an installation of cots with life-sized drawings of children. The result is a profound space of sharing and listening that draws needed attention to the traumas experienced by Japanese American children forced into WWII-era internment camps, Native American children in indoctrinating boarding schools, and Central American children enduring forced family separation at the border.

Image courtesy MinEastry of Postcollapse Art and Culture

Hoşçakal, Portland
April 29 – May 29
MinEastry of Postcollapse Art and Culture
2505 SE 11th Ave Ste 233, Portland (Fri-Sun 1-5 pm)

The MinEastry of Postcollapse Art and Culture’s final exhibition highlights works by artist/scholar duo Ilknur Demirkoparan and Vuslat D. Katsanis, cofounders of the shuttering art space and postcollapse theory think tank. Hoşçakal, Portland brings together Demirkoparan’s painted interpretations of symbolic Turkish kilim motifs and Katsanis’s writing, which considers the notion of hoş, a Farsi word adopted into Turkish with deep cultural significance.

Work by Agnes Field, image courtesy Astoria Visual Arts

Secrets of the Slow Dimension
April 9 – May 8
Astoria Visual Arts
1000 Duane Street, Astoria (Fri-Sat 12-4 pm)

Regional artists Agnes Field, Jessica Schlief, Kayla Fermin, and Sara Moen explore possibilities for deeper connection with the natural world in this group exhibition. The artists have created a site-specific installation that aims to reframe their relationships to the green world, with music created via plants’ electrical signals by Field, clay garden sculptures by Schlief, mapped waterways by Fermin, and portraits of ecosystems by Moen.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Lindsay Costello is an experimental artist and writer in Portland, Oregon, with an academic background in textile research at the Oregon College of Art and Craft. Her critical writing can also be read at Hyperallergic, Art Papers, Art Practical, 60 Inch Center, this is tomorrow, and Textile: Cloth and Culture, among other places. She is the founder of plant poetics, an herbalism project, and soft surface, a digital poetry journal/residency. She is the co-founder of Critical Viewing, an aggregate of art community happenings in the Pacific NorthwestHer artistic practice centers magic, ecology, and folkways in social practice, writing, sculpture, and installation.

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