Portland Opera The Snowy Day Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

VizArts Monthly: Farewell 2023

December's Visual Arts listings include a 7-foot print, suspended knots, and elephants. The end of the year may be upon us but there is still plenty to see before we bid farewell to 2023.


Well dear readers, we are rapidly approaching the end of the calendar year here. While the holidays and celebrations around this time mean many different things to different people, I always find myself waxing nostalgic for the previous year. Looking back on the VizArts Monthly articles of this year, we’ve witnessed an impressive range of themes and ideas explored by artists across our state of Oregon. From celebrations of pure color and abstraction to complicated stories of immigration to gatherings of community, it can feel as if all the possible conceptual stones have been turned over. But as every new month comes, I am always excited by the ways creative and critical thinkers in the visual arts continue to find nuance in our lives. Bravo! As we bid farewell to this year, I invite you to go back and reflect on the amazing exhibitions that opened this year– I know I have a few personal favorites that I’m still thinking about.

But! We also have this month to celebrate. This month’s selections feel like a wonderful, unintentional synopsis of the range of thinking that made this year’s exhibitions so special. From the historically important work of Helen Frankenthaler, whose printmaking work is featured this month at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, to the contemporary reflections of the current human condition by Ralph Pugay at Adams and Ollman, we cover the past and the present. Emily Jones and Hannah Krafcik’s aesthetics project pushes us to think about art, beauty, and our humanity through visual and embodied aesthetic practices. We reflect on the intimacy of family and the power that lies in femininity with Nona Faustine’s Mitochondria and Anya Roberts-Toney’s Water Witch Moon Mother.

Thank you, everyone, for the fantastic year! Stay warm and well, and I’ll see you in the next one!

Work by Ralph Pugay. Image courtesy Adams and Ollman.

The Longest Journey
Ralph Pugay
December 2, 2023 – January 6, 2024
Adams and Ollman
418 NW 8th Ave., Portland (Wed – Sat 11am – 5pm)

One of my favorite things about Ralph Pugay’s work is that it never fails to remind me that the contemporary human experience is at once surprising, confusing, cacophonous, and hilarious. With a new series of paintings and drawings at Adams and Ollman, Pugay carries on his pictorial exploration of the human condition and culture as it is shaped and multiplied through filters of religion, social media, and history. Viral trends and social phenomena become locators of tension between collective interest and absurdity – who knew so many people were into DIY acupuncture education? (Please don’t teach yourself acupuncture without the supervision of an accredited professional, I beg of you.)


Metropolitan Youth Symphony Music Concert Rooted Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

Work by Nona Faustine. Image courtesy lumber room.

She was a culmination of all things in Heaven and Earth
Nona Faustine
December 3, 2023 – February 24, 2024
lumber room
419 NW 9th Ave., Portland (Fri – Sat 12pm – 6pm)

The lumber room hosts the work of Brooklyn-based photographer Nona Faustine, exhibiting selections from her acclaimed series, White Shoes, as well as a recently acquired portfolio of works from her ongoing series Mitochondria. The series draws its name from her contemplation of mitochondrial DNA and the inheritance of genes, which Faustine illustrates through an intimate examination of her perspective as a mother, daughter, and sister. Faustine sees the work also as an important album-like portrayal of real life: “I wanted to show the quiet, normal moments of this family of African-American women: our everyday life, our happy moments, our down moments, Mitochondria is a family album, a visual diary of our intimate lives.”

Work by Helen Frankenthaler. Image courtesy Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation. Photo by Strode Photographic.

Works from the Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation
Helen Frankenthaler
December 3, 2023 – March 24, 2024
Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education
724 NW Davis St., Portland (Wed – Sun 11am – 4pm)

Helen Frankenthaler is perhaps best known for her contributions to abstract expressionism and color field painting in the 1950s and 60s, employing a technique of soak staining her canvases that would later be adopted by others such as Kenneth Noland. Yet in 1961, Frankenthaler expanded her practice into the world of printmaking, challenging the boundaries of the image-creation processes of lithography, intaglio, relief, and screenprinting. The Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education celebrates this branch of Frankenthaler’s career with an exhibition of 17 print works drawn from the Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation collection, curated by Bruce Guenther. Perhaps the star of the exhibition is the almost 7-foot-long woodcut titled Madame Butterfly, a masterful example of the relief process’s potential. 


Chamber Music Northwest Beethoven's Complete Piano Trios The Old Church Portland Oregon

Work by Emily Jones and Hannah Krafcik. Image courtesy Paragon Arts Gallery. Photos by Miguel Zavala and Hannah Krafick.

aesthetics project
Emily Jones and Hannah Krafcik
November 17, 2023 – January 6, 2024
Paragon Arts Gallery
815 N Killingsworth St., Portland (Wed – Fri 12pm – 7pm, Sat 12pm – 5pm)

Emily Jones and Hannah Krafcik present the most recent iteration of their interdisciplinary exploration aesthetics projects, a collection of sculpture, text, and video that interweaves aesthetic philosophy and sensory embrace. The sculptural works operate as both material embodiments of Jones’s and Krafcik’s philosophical ponderings as well as artifacts from their prior performance lectures, which raise questions of our aesthetic interests and tendencies: What attracts us to stimulations such as color and texture? And how do these attractions help us understand ourselves as both individuals and members of greater communities? 

Work by Christi Zorilla Soto. Image courtesy Museo de Arte Contemporáneo.

The Endless Knot, El Nundo Sin Fin
Christi Zorilla Soto
November 3 – December 30
550 NW Franklin Ave., Suite 138, Bend (Wed – Sat 1pm – 6pm)

While a tied knot as a sculptural form may be minimal and direct in its presentation, for Peruvian-Chinese artist Christi Zorilla Soto it speaks to many deep and complex associations. In some of the works, Soto employs a language of knot-tying called quipu (also spelled khipu, a form of record keeping and storytelling originally used by Inca peoples) to reflect connections with members of her community and their stories. Soto juxtaposes this with references to 中国结 (zhōngguó jié), a Chinese folk art practice of knot-tying associated with luck and record-keeping that often uses a single length of red cord. In placing the two together, Soto reflects on her Peruvian-Chinese heritage, exploring symbolic nuances and delicate poetics of migration and diversity.

Work by Jeffry Mitchell. Image courtesy PDX CONTEMPORARY ART

Elefant Medium
Jeffry Mitchell
December 1 – December 30
1825 NW Vaughn St., Suite B, Portland (Tues – Sat 10am – 5pm)


Portland Opera The Snowy Day Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

Although Jeffry Mitchell primarily works with the sculptural medium of ceramics, his work communicates an undeniable strength in graphic design as well. The title, Elefant Medium, is a play on the typeface Elephant in medium weight. The exhibition at PDX CONTEMPORARY ART riffs off the way graphic design and art objects work together to create and decorate spaces. Mitchell employs his reliable motifs of elephants and flowers to structure furniture, housewares, and lamps in this new series of sculptural works, presented alongside a selection of drawings and prints. The work comes together to generate a conversation of craft, joy, and visual pleasure.

Work by Anya Roberts-Toney. Image courtesy Nationale. Photo by Mario Gallucci.

Water Witch Moon Mother 
Anya Roberts-Toney
November 4 – December 24
15 SE 22nd Ave., Portland (Thurs – Mon 12pm – 6pm)

Nationale presents Water Witch Moon Mother; Anya Roberts-Toney’s third solo exhibition with the gallery. Roberts-Toney continues to work with themes of the natural world and motherhood, positioning feminine figures and moonlit bodies of water in garden-like spaces rendered with blurry dreaminess. As a result, the line between reality and hallucination wavers –  who are these figures that we can’t quite make out, and can we trust them? Roberts-Toney pushes a sense of precarity, which she believes remains hand-in-hand with the experience of inhabiting a mother-body, leaving her viewers in a state of wonder and waking reverie. 

Work by Ada Trillo. Image courtesy Blue Sky Gallery.

La Caravana Del Diablo
Ada Trillo
December 7 – 30
Blue Sky Gallery
122 NW 8th Ave., Portland (Wed – Sat 12pm – 5pm)

Documentary photographer Ada Trillo presents La Caravana Del Diablo, a series of photographs that tell the story of the massive Honduran migrant caravan in 2020. Over eight days, Honduras traveled through Guatemala into Mexico in an attempt to flee violence and poor economic conditions, only to be turned back as a result of xenophobic border politics. Trillo will give a talk in the gallery on December 5 at 6pm as part of the opening reception, which runs from 5pm-7pm that evening. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out The Joy of Living, a selection of photographs by late Moldovan artist Zaharia Cușnir that were discovered by a student in 2016 in an abandoned attic in Roșietici, Moldova.


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Photo Joe Cantrell

Jason N. Le (they/them) is a Vietnamese American writer, thinker, and curator based in Portland, Oregon. Their academic background lies in art history and critical theory, focused on postwar American art, identity politics, performance theory, and the genealogy of arts criticism. They hold degrees from the Pacific Northwest College of Art and Portland State University, and their other critical arts writing can be found at Art & About PDX.


One Response

  1. There is also an exhibition, “Cloth, Construct, Culture,” showing November, December, and January at Parallax Art Center featuring a diverse group of international designers that use only upcycled materials and address a number of themes involving identity and multiculturalism, curated by an African-American female curator. Author, art, and theatre critic, Jae Carlsson [ArtForum, ArtDish] in a recent online forum called this the best art show he’d seen in Portland in the last 10 years. More information at: https://edgexpo.com/category/cloth-construct-culture-fashion-builds-a-story/

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