As always, artists are here to tell us what we need to hear, whether we like it or not. They stay rooted in the ground this month: taking us on picnics, redefining environmental activism, inviting us into their experiences of loss and societal pressures, and challenging hierarchies. Prepare to reframe your thinking in ways that feel unexpected and good.
If you need a little extra encouragement this month, do what I love to do—check out what the art students are busy creating. If I know one thing for certain, it’s that art students are powerful and resourceful in the most surprising ways, and they give me hope. Maybe you’ll feel the same way. Find a list of student shows wrapping up the 2021-22 school year at the end of this article.
Culinaria: Alison Heryer’s Picnic
June 4, 12-8 pm
8371 N Interstate Ave, Portland
If year three of COVID has you feeling a little socially displaced, Alison Heryer’s Picnic might help. The artist will lay out an abstracted gingham blanket for community connection as part of an ongoing (and oh-so-timely) social engagement project, first begun in 2012. Orders for custom picnic baskets have ended, but visitors are welcome to bring their own snacks or purchase them from the on-site café.
Padma Rajendran: Unfamiliar Thresholds
May 21 – June 25
SE Cooper Contemporary
6901 SE 110th Ave, Portland (Sat 11 am – 5 pm and by appointment)
With consideration toward cultural and universal markers of fruitfulness and abundance, Padma Rajendran’s Unfamiliar Thresholds uses pattern, symbolism, and decoration to foster, at first, a feeling of welcoming, followed by much more complex threads of contradiction and internal strife. Grappling with the role of “success” in our lives, Rajendran constructs a view of the home as a site of solace and removal from seemingly omnipresent outside pressures.
Jodie Cavalier: Fool’s Gold
June 3 – July 30
916 NW Flanders St, Portland (by appointment)
Jodie Cavalier’s new exhibition serves to honor and remember her late grandfather through a series of ceramic objects and works on paper that recreate his belongings, as recalled from memory and past storytelling. Cavalier’s meditative, resourceful use of natural materials from her home and the Mojave Desert landscape creates an interplay of subtly profound earnestness and humor. As might be expected, the artist’s ceramic objects are embedded with a longing that comes with the complex territory of coping with loss.
Lisa Jarrett: Heart Condition
June 2 – July 2
Russo Lee Gallery
805 NW 21st Ave, Portland (Tue-Fri 11 am – 5:30 pm, Sat 11 am – 5 pm)
Pulled from her ongoing Migration Studies series, artist and educator Lisa Jarrett explores beauty routines and hair care in Black culture in this tactile exhibition of sculptures, drawings, and installation. A lover of questions, the KSMoCA cofounder’s intersectional practice is far-reaching and explores politics of difference through many different socially engaged projects within the African diaspora.
Jessica Jackson Hutchins: No Relief
May 14 – June 11
Adams and Ollman
418 NW 8th Ave, Portland (Wed-Sat 11 am – 4 pm)
In No Relief, Jessica Jackson Hutchins continues to shapeshift materials into reverent, evocative sculptural forms. The artist’s new mixed media works call on an earthy color palette and subtle art historical references to reflect on implied hierarchies of all kinds. Objects like cushions and sweaters are included, perhaps in a nod to the familiar or mundane. Also found in this exhibition, Hutchins’ series of relief papier-mâché works which mark a return to early-career considerations of care, comfort, pain, and healing.
Opacity of Performance: Takahiro Yamamoto
Performances June 16-19 and June 23-26
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Ave, Portland (Wed-Sun 10 am – 5 pm, Fri 10 am – 8 pm)
Portland-based choreographer Takahiro Yamamoto’s Opacity of Performance transforms PAM’s European art wing into a site of collaborative dance. Dancers will conceal and reveal their performances within designated areas divided by curtains, creating an ever-shifting viewer experience. In this way, the work grapples with the seen and unseen, using the tensions of visibility and vulnerability to consider wider themes of cultural othering and control.
Judy Chicago: Turning Inward
June 2 – September 23
Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education
724 NW Davis St, Portland (Wed-Sat 11 am – 4 pm)
Spanning six decades of the groundbreaking artist’s oeuvre, Turning Inward reasserts Judy Chicago as a foundational artist-activist. The exhibition traces Chicago’s aesthetic shifts over a prolific career as a Jewish woman artist, sharing works on paper, glass works, and large-scale photographic prints that showcase her longstanding commitment to explorations of identity and gender. (Don’t miss the preliminary works on display here that Chicago created in preparation for her seminal work, The Dinner Party.)
Sari Carel: The Sun is a Mouth of Blue
May 13 – June 11
Melanie Flood Projects
420 SW Washington St #301, Portland (Fri-Sat 12-5 pm and by appointment)
Brooklyn-based artist and environmental activist Sari Carel presents a cerulean-tinted series of cameraless photographic prints in solo exhibition The Sun is a Mouth of Blue. The exhibition questions how to thrive within a city, pulling together municipal data in analog prints that reflect a long lineage of cyanotype documentation of the natural world. With human refuse as a central theme, the exhibition also includes sculptures made from ceramic and plastic waste as references to the composition of landfills. Carel merges synthetic and natural worlds in abstraction—if trash circulates on the planet forever, why not engage with it directly, with intention?
Jessie Rose Vala: // This little spot of Earth \ //\ that with the Sea //\ // Embraced is \
Well Well Projects
8371 N Interstate Ave #1, Portland (Sat-Sun 12-5 pm)
Jessie Rose Vala’s totemic, otherworldly objects take center stage in this exhibition. While little has been revealed about the works in the solo show, Vala’s artist statement evokes a sense of terrestrial storytelling, with references to materiality, fossilization, stone, terra cotta, and petrogenesis.
Ryan Mitchell Boyle: Collect Call
1607 SE 3rd Ave, Portland (Sat-Sun 12-5 pm and by appointment)
Merging sculpture and street fashion, Ryan Mitchell Boyle’s cyber-tinged Collect Call creates an interactive space where viewers can engage with digital collages, mannequins, and an experimental video while shopping clothing racks. Boyle’s experiences as a dancer and performance artist inform his avant-garde, sculptural approach to one-of-a-kind garments, which he sells all over the world.
June 25 – July 23
7706 SE Yamhill St, Portland (Sat 1-4 pm and by appointment)
For almost two years, Helen’s Costume has paired Portland artists with creators from other states as part of a dynamic curatorial practice. The forward-thinking gallery continues with Bananas, exploring the present moment through the eyes of West Coasters. Washington artist Dan Attoe and California-based painter Keith Boadwee’s works will be shown alongside local faves Ralph Pugay, Rainen Knecht, and Shelley Turley.
Caldera Arts Center
31500 Blue Lake Drive, Sisters
Heart Festival is shaped around the final performances of Constant State of Otherness, taiko ensemble Unit Souzou’s immersive, identity-exploring journey shared through taiko, Japanese folk dance, song, and storytelling. The weekend’s programming also includes opportunities for meditative land engagement and family-friendly fun. On Saturday, Unit Souzou will facilitate a drum workshop and sacred rhythmic hike, and visitors will find video art installations, tours, games, and more.