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VizArts Monthly: Fill March with art and sunshine

From Baldessari to Bearden to Carola Penn and more, Martha Daghlian picks events & shows to see in March.


Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and things are happening! There have been some real shakeups in Portland’s art world lately, from reorganization at RACC to the uncertain future of PSU’s Littman and White galleries. But in case you are worried that your busy art-viewing calendar is doomed to dry up in the wake of these changes, have no fear! This month is absolutely overflowing with art shows and events to take in. To paraphrase my new favorite comedian, Julio Torres, I have a lot of shows and not a lot of time, so let’s just get started.

A light silver-pink mylar balloon in the shape of a heart, partially deflated and mounted on a gallery wall.
Work by Sam Noel, image courtesy 1122 Gallery

Sam Noel: but, how does one eat an elephant?
February 27 – March 21
1122 Gallery
1122 SE 88th Ave

Portland artist Sam Noel presents her lush sculptural works in a solo show at 1122 Gallery, her first since graduating from the final MFA cohort of the now closed Oregon College of Art and Craft. Noel’s practice is rooted in textile crafts, but her works include a range of unexpected materials including foam, ribbons, and mylar balloons, through which she examines the experience of inhabiting a fat, female body in contemporary culture. Glitzy pastel surfaces are complicated by slumping forms and haphazard construction, evoking the angst and confusion of adolescence with compassion and humor. 

A black-and-white 1950s photograph of a man in dress pants and a short-sleeve button down shirt pointing at lettering on a wall with his hand on a small boy's shoulder, who looks at the wall where the man is gesturing. Both wear feathered headbands meant to imitate Native American dress, and both their faces are covered with white dots, while their chests sport red and green dots which have been superimposed on the photo. The lettering on the wall is partially obscured by a block of bright blue scribbling over the photo, but the words "Iroquois Nation" can be read underneath the artist's addition.
Work by John Baldessari, image courtesy

Master of Appropriation: Found Photography in the Work of John Baldessari from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation
March 5 – April 12
Blue Sky Gallery
122 NW 8th AveC
Conceptual art giant John Baldessari helped expand the boundaries of contemporary art and influenced countless young artists along the way. His death early this year has inspired renewed interest in the artist’s work and his legacy, with no fewer than five solo exhibitions around the world this year already listed on his website.  Blue Sky will pay tribute to the photographic aspects of his multifaceted practice in this show of works from the collection of Jordan Schnitzer. If you aren’t yet familiar with Baldessari’s vast career, start here with a chance to see his work in person.

A photo of a person sitting on a park bench on the Portland State University campus, covered from head to knee in reflective silver mylar, their sneaker-clad feet and bare shins sticking out of the bottom.
Work by Mami Takahashi, image courtesy the artist

The Unknown Artist
March 5 – April 18
Center for Contemporary Art and Culture
511 NW Broadway

Artist and curator Lucy Cotter brings together objects from the Center for Contemporary Art and Culture alongside works from local and international artists in this small but deeply considered exhibition. The Unknown Artist takes its title in part from the unresolved histories of some of the ceramics and textiles on view. Even works by named artists address unknown makers and provenance. Asztalos Zsolt’s assemblage pays homage to forgotten artworks lying neglected in storage while Mami Takahashi’s enigmatic self-portrait photography offers insight into obscurity and the value of art-making. Through a variety of curatorial approaches, Cotter touches on complex ideas about art versus craft, artistic identity and visibility, the legacy of colonialism, and the sustainability of art practices. It’s a lot to take in, but performances and workshops by Cotter and other artists throughout the show’s run aim to help viewers engage with the show’s themes directly through making and conversation. 

A roughly painted picture featuring the front half of a red four-door car entering the scene from the viewer's left, a worried-looking figure drives the car while five children's faces look out from the backseat. The background is olive green with no other details.
Work by Carola Penn, image courtesy Nationale

Carola Penn

Who Am I, Anyway?
February 28- March 31
15 SE 22nd Ave

March 12 – April 29
Stumptown Coffee
128 SW 3rd Ave

Through April 26
Portland International Airport Pre-Security Baggage Claim
7000 NE Airport Way

Portland painter Carola Penn passed away at the age of 74 last year, and her life and more than three decades of work are being honored at three separate venues this month. Who Am I, Anyway?, at Nationale, features Penn’s most biographical works, which reference her intersecting identities and experiences as a second-generation American, a mother, and a young girl. These small, charming paintings use imaginary scenes and cartoon characters to express the artist’s intimate memories, moments, and feelings. At Stumptown, Penn’s irregularly shaped collages will be shown for the first time ever in a show titled Fragments, which is part of Nationale curator May Barruel’s Artist Fellowship program at the cafe. These works display a more experimental side of Penn’s practice. Their rough surfaces and muted colors were a reflection of the urban environments she observed in her daily life, as well as a way for the artist to push herself outside of her creative comfort zone. Finally, if travel plans are in your future, take a moment away from the chaos of security lines and ticket kiosks to spend some time with Penn’s sylvan landscape paintings, for which she was probably most well-known. Woodlands, curated by artist Wendy Given, brings together five lush works in a small alcove near baggage claim at Portland International Airport — a welcome refuge of Northwest nature in a most unlikely place.

An impressionistic painting of twelve figures standing around a table in an outdoor clearing; nine figures appear to be girls dressed in school uniforms with kerchiefs on their heads, two figures are instrctuors or leaders of the group, and one is a nude, life-size Barbie doll.
Work by Tatyana Ostapenko, image courtesy the artist

Around the Narrative Lens
February 29 – March 25
Ford Gallery
2505 SE 11th Ave

This group show brings together paintings and photos from five Portland artists whose work captures evocative moments and gestures that aim to leave viewers imagining where the story might lead if it continued past the canvas edge. Tatyana Ostapenko mines her memories of growing up in Soviet-era Ukraine in her deft realist paintings, while Kyle Lee depicts enigmatic scenes of everyday life with simple brushstrokes and an understated palette. Hector Ornelas uses pop imagery and painterly devices to explore his experience as a Mexican-American artist, and Mami Takahashi and Marie Conner explore a range of concepts, from technology to identity, in a variety of media.

A colorful print showing a woman in a garden outside of a house, wearing a pink checkered dress and yellow sunhat, holding a basket of produce, and waving. She is surrounded by flowers and foliage, and everything is rendered in a semi-abstract, blocky collage style.
Work by Romare Bearden, image courtesy Augen Gallery

Romare Bearden
March 5 – March 28
Augen Gallery
716 NW Davis

Romare Bearden drew international acclaim for his collages depicting semi-abstracted scenes of mid-century, African-American life, which used glossy magazine clippings in vivid colors and simple shapes to create lively compositions that look surprisingly contemporary. Bearden’s mid-career work developed within the context of the Civil Rights movement, and he was a founding member of the Harlem-based artist Black artist group “The Spiral.” This month, Augen presents some of Bearden’s prints, which include color lithographs and screen prints from the 1970s that exemplify his exuberant style. 


Washougal Art & Music Festival

A surreal painting of a nude woman's torso adorned with tiny smiling mouths on a gray background.
Image courtesy The Cheapest University

EAAPES (Exploration of the Arriving Alternatives of Extra-Solar Provenance)
Friday, March 13, 7pm
Yale Union 
800 SE 10th Ave

Paris-based, artist-run organization The Cheapest University brings its feminist/sci fi research group EAAPES to Portland for a free lecture on March 13. Charlotte Houette and Clara Pacotte have been leading a group in collaboratively translating Joanna Russ’ 1995 book, To Write Like A Woman: Essays in Feminism and Science Fiction from English into French for several years. They describe the resulting text and the group’s additional projects surrounding it as “a queer object beyond definition.”  Intrigued? Join the artists at Yale Union to find out exactly what all this means, and perhaps even get inspired to start your own collaborative-translation book club!

Logo of a Black Art Ecology of Portland, featuring a stylized map of the city and the project's name superimposed in serif italic font.
Image courtesy PICA

BAEP Takes Place Pop-Up Exhibition
Opening: March 7, 4 – 6pm
March 10 – 13, 12 – 6pm, March 14, 12 – 4pm
15 NE Hancock

Socially-engaged artist Sharita Towne launches her latest project, a Black Art Ecology of Portland, with a pop-up exhibition and artist conversations this month at PICA. BAEP is an ongoing, interdisciplinary initiative that aims to make space for black artists and audiences in Portland through community-based organizing. The opening reception will feature artist presentations and a Q-and-A session, followed by a site-responsive media installation by the Mobile Projection Unit.

Logo for Sou'wester Arts Week, featuring the name and date of the event in slim yellow and red letters, and a small seabird silhouette in one corner.
Image courtesy Sou-wester Arts

Sou’wester Arts Week: 1st Annual Artist Takeover
March 13, 5-10pm, March 14, 12-10pm
Sou’wester Lodge
3728 J Place
Seaview, WA

Looking for total art immersion? Venture up the coast just across state lines for a weekend arts getaway at the Sou’wester Lodge. This charming “resort” of vintage Airstream trailers and rustic cabins has long been a favorite retreat for local artists, and even boasts an in-house nonprofit dedicated to programming like workshops, artists residencies and performances on the cute and cozy grounds. For their inaugural Arts Week, the lodge will offer itself up to over two dozen artists (the majority of whom reside in Oregon) who will work on projects for five days before inviting the public to visit for “open studio” hours. The vast quantity of art on display skews toward the experimental, and will include fiber installations, esoteric furniture, sonic atmospheres, collaborative ceramics, and even tap dance. There will also be workshops, readings, screenings, and performances throughout the weekend; check the online schedule for details and lodging information if you’d like to stay overnight on Long Beach or in nearby Astoria. 

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