Bag & Baggage Danny and the Deep Blue Sea The Vault Theatre Hillsboro Oregon

VizArts Monthly: Cozy interiors and the natural world

Art exhibitions, gallery shows, and other not-to-miss art events in December.


The month of December has a way of overflowing with plans, but you’ll want to set aside some time for art viewing, too! Between a lively painting show by the late Carola Penn, MK Guth’s social-ritual-focused exhibition at Elizabeth Leach Gallery, and Sara Siestreem’s installations of lush natural materials at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg, the holiday season comes bearing art gifts of all colors and textures. (Speaking of gifts, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect present, check out the details on Helen’s Costume’s Bazaar below.)

Already burnt out by the holiday rush, or too comfy in front of a space heater to leave the house? I’ve got you covered with several digitally-documented exhibitions, too. You’ll find them at the end of this article.

Work by Yellena James, image courtesy Stephanie Chefas Projects

Origin: Yellena James
November 13 – December 11, 2021
Stephanie Chefas Projects
305 SE 3rd Ave Ste 202, Portland (Thurs-Sat 1 PM – 6 PM)

In Origin, Portlander Yellena James’s fifth solo exhibition at Stephanie Chefas Projects, the artist’s series of mixed-media paintings reveals a vivid world evoking primordial life. James’s works recall ancient underwater reefs, or bacterial ecosystems made lush and colorful. The artist describes her process as “pressing pause in the middle of a chemical reaction,” and the impact comes through clearly in these works. Her organic forms feel full of life and movement, yet frozen for a brief moment.

Work by Form&Seek Collective, image courtesy Nationale

Proximity: Form&Seek Collective
December 2, 2021 – January 2, 2022
15 SE 22nd Ave, Portland (Mon and Thurs-Sat 11 AM – 6 PM, Sun 12 PM – 5 PM)

Proximity marks Nationale’s first collaborative exhibition with Form&Seek, a design studio and collective interested in newfound processes and contemporary craft techniques. Designers and artists Irina Flore, Ákos Huber, Karen Lee, Laura Papp, and Bilge Nur Saltik present works considering emotions embodied in objects. Mediums include sculpture, 3D-printed objects, glass and wood pieces, and more. Found throughout are themes of anthropomorphization, material relationships, object purpose, and the process from idea to execution.

Work by Sonia Lenzi, image courtesy Blue Sky Gallery

Take Me to Live with You: Sonia Lenzi
December 2-31, 2021
Blue Sky Gallery
122 NW 8th Ave, Portland (Wed-Sat 12 PM – 5 PM, holiday closures listed on website, proof of vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 test required)

Italian photographer and artist Sonia Lenzi presents Take Me to Live with You, a series of quiet, reflective photographs revealing her love of observing the intimate interiors of other people’s homes. The photographs in this exhibition act as an archive of the history, culture, and values of Italian elders as seen through their homes. A selection of Lenzi’s special edition prints will be available at Blue Sky Gallery for the duration of the exhibition, as well as Lenzi’s photo book, Take Me to Live with You – A Social Family Album.

Work by Jeffry Mitchell, image courtesy PDX Contemporary Art

I Have a Winter Friend: Jeffry Mitchell
November 16 – December 24, 2021
925 NW Flanders, Portland (Tues-Sat 10 AM – 5 PM)

Renowned Portland ceramic artist Jeffry Mitchell’s work is recognizable from a mile away—it’s playful and human, but often incoporates elaborate flora and fauna. Mitchell’s signature vitality and decorative sense come through in I Have a Winter Friend, a new solo exhibition at PDX CONTEMPORARY ART. The work reflects on the importance of friendship in the artist’s life, and seems to nod to this theme with crowded scenes of creature companions. Whether or not you view the show, spend some time with Mitchell’s touching exhibition statement. You won’t regret it.

Work by MK Guth, image courtesy Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Touching Matter: MK Guth
November 4 – December 31, 2021
Elizabeth Leach Gallery
417 NW 9th Ave, Portland (Tues-Sat 10:30 AM – 5:30 PM)

Multidisciplinary artist MK Guth’s Touching Matter focuses on social ritual, integrating objects with “implied performativity,” and offering opportunities for participatory, reflective engagement. The exhibit features five artist-designed books titled 5,000 Pages on Love; visitors are welcome to answer questions found within these books, thus creating a reflective, meditative space within Elizabeth Leach Gallery. Other handmade books, drawings, and more works featured in the exhibition drive home the capacity for objects to hold memory and meaning.

Work by Emma cc Cook, image courtesy Adams and Ollman

The Company: Emma cc Cook
November 6 – December 18, 2021
Adams and Ollman
418 NW 8th Ave, Portland (Weds-Sat, 11 AM – 4 PM)

Emma cc Cook’s solo exhibition The Company features large-scale, monochromatic paintings rife with secretive, subtly-shifting environments. The rural feel of Cook’s scenes is interrupted with nude figures and smaller vignettes within the paintings themselves; the result is akin to glimpsing at hidden stories in Cook’s landscapes. Installed concurrently with Cook’s The Company is artist Joy Feasley’s exhibition lyseslukker, which references both scientific phenomena and spiritual belief. View them both at the gallery, or see Feasley’s work in Adams and Ollman’s new virtual viewing room.

Portland Columbia Symphony A Very Brassy Holiday First Presbyterian Church Portland Oregon
Work by Carola Penn, image courtesy ArtReach Gallery

Through the Looking Glass: Carola Penn
November 7 – December 26, 2021
ArtReach Gallery at First Congregational UCC
1126 Park Ave, Portland (Tues-Fri 10 AM – 2 PM)

Beloved Oregonian artist Carola Penn’s (1945-2019) paintings in Through the Looking Glass may have notes of whimsy and comedy, but they are also entangled with clear notions of asserted individuality and everyday life for 20th century women. Penn’s paintings include comic book character Little Lulu (perhaps as a unique form of self-portrait), as well as a wide range of other feminine characters, all rendered in a bright, textural style. Each of Penn’s paintings feels like a glimpse into her past; this retrospective at ArtReach Gallery offers a new opportunity to reflect on Penn’s all-too-relatable themes of vulnerability and the search for identity.

Work by Cliff Hengst, image courtesy Helen’s Costume

December 4, 5, 18 & 19
Helen’s Costume
7706 SE Yamhill, Portland (1 PM – 5 PM)

Helen’s Costume’s fourth exhibition and pre-solstice gift sale will be held at the gallery’s new location within a Montavilla home. Featuring fresh works by artists including Elmeater Morton, Jens Pettersen, Jamesha Walker-Tenjinmon, Cliff Hengst, Chanel Conklin, and Jackie Stewart, Bazaar is not your average pop-up shop though the gallery’s boutique area will also feature wearable art and small objects for sale. Stop by to find ultra-unique gifts created by Stephanie Simek, Midori Hirose, Petra Poffenberger, and many more.

Work by UO’s Artificial Intelligence Creative Practice Research Group and New York Polyphony, image courtesy Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

Aleph Earth
November 17, 2021 – February 20, 2022
Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at University of Oregon
1430 Johnson Ln, Eugene (Wed 11 AM – 8 PM, Thurs-Sun 11 AM – 5 PM)

Aleph Earth is a collaborative project by the University of Oregon Artificial Intelligence Creative Practice Research Group and New York Polyphony. The project pairs an audiovisual piece by Spanish Renaissance composer Francisco de Peñalosa with AI-generated imagery that reacts to both the Polyphony quartet’s voices and naturalistic patterns like clouds, lava pillars, bush fires, and lakes (learn more here). The resulting video projection communicates the emotional heft of de Peñalosa’s music and the urgency of the climate crisis. An outdoor premiere of Aleph Earth will take place on December 1, after which the video will be screened at the museum through February 20, 2022.

Work by Sara Siestreem, image courtesy Chehalem Cultural Center

Sonata: Sara Siestreem
April 1 – December 31, 2021
Chehalem Cultural Center
415 E Sheridan St, Newberg (Tues-Sat 9 AM – 6 PM)

Hanis Coos artist Sara Siestreem utilizes natural local materials like red cedar bark, cattails, tule, and sedge for the installation works featured in Sonata, currently on view at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg. Siestreem is a Portland-based, multi-disciplinary artist working in painting, sculpture, traditional Indigenous weaving, large-scale installation, and many other mediums. She is also heavily influenced by and involved in education and institutional reform. View more of the works featured in Sonata here.

Digital viewing:

Five Oaks Museum: Alaska Native Art: Stories of Healing Through Transformation was curated by Renea Perry, a citizen of Tlingit Haida Nation/Inupiaq/N.Euro and a Portland Community College instructor. Perry has formed a space for continued dialogue with this exhibition, spotlighting Alaska Native culture by displaying works by Yupik Sculptor Terresa White, Tlingit Artist James Johnson, Inuit Inupiaq Artist Holly Nordlum, and Yupik Inupiaq Artist Drew Michael. In tandem with the exhibition, Portland Community College will offer its first Introduction to Alaska Native Studies class, held in Winter 2022.

Portland Art Museum: APEX: Sharita Towne & A Black Art Ecology of Portland. Towne’s work engages with “Black geographies, histories, and possibilities,” finding pathways toward collaboration within communities. APEX introduces Towne’s “Black Art Ecology of Portland” (BAEP), which aims to unite community organizations toward the reclamation and redefinition of Black art and audiences in the city. The project has included the creation of public art, COVID relief initiatives, residencies, memorials, and much more. For APEX, Towne showcases BAEP projects that have been created collaboratively with many Portland organizations, including Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), Albina Vision Trust, Soul Business District Association, Nat Turner Project, Northwest Black Comedy Festival, and others. The exhibition can be visited in person, or you can view Towne’s artist talk, as well as an Oregon Art Beat episode about Towne’s work, here.

Stelo: Coalesce: Work by 2019-20 papermaking and 2020-21 printmaking residents. Stelo, the art community-building organization formerly known as c3:initiative, presents works by their most recent papermaking and printmaking residents. The works are wide-ranging, including letterpress signage, abaca pulp masks, interactive installation works, and more. View in person, or see ample photo documentation here.

Schneider Museum of Art: Creative Industries Discussion: Jia Jia. On December 2 at 12:30 PM PST, Schneider Museum of Art Executive Director Scott Malbaurn and Visiting Artist Jia Jia will join live on Zoom for a free discussion on the topic of “creative industries.” Jia, an installation, sculpture, video, and performance artist, questions the influence of globalization and technology on individuals through the use of humor and satire.

PNCA: The university gallery’s digital archive has been updated with documentation from several recent exhibits. The Terrifying Ordeal of Being Known featured works by faculty, alumni, and current students investigating identity under capitalism. Speculative Futures: Art, AI & Digital Worldmaking, PNCA’s graduate symposium exhibition, considered algorithmic tension, AI, memory, and loss. Dust to Dust – What Remains showcased works by second-year MFA students, focusing on dualities of presence and absence, touch, and the body.

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.

Portland Columbia Symphony A Very Brassy Holiday First Presbyterian Church Portland Oregon
Chamber Music Northwest Lincoln Recital Hall Portland State University Portland Oregon
Dianne Jean Erickson Donald Dahlke Gallery 114 Portland Oregon
Northwest Dance Project Portland Oregon
Imago Theatre ZooZoo Portland Oregon
Open Space Dance Royal Durst Theatre Vancouver Washington
Enlightened Theatrics Seussical the Musical Salem Oregon
Bag & Baggage Danny and the Deep Blue Sea The Vault Theatre Hillsboro Oregon
Portland Playhouse A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens Portland Oregon
Corrib Contemporary Irish Theatre Portland Oregon Metaverse
Portland Revels Midwinter Revels Andalusian Night Portland Oregon
Hallie Ford Museum of Art Willamette University Salem Oregon
Eugene Ballet The Nutcracker with Orchestra Next Hult Center Eugene Oregon
Triangle Productions Erma Bombeck At Wit's End Helen Raptis Portland Oregon
Portland State University College of the Arts
Future Prairie Artist Collective Portland Oregon
Oregon Cultural Trust tax credit donate
Oregon ArtsWatch grow fund donate