While shorter days and colder nights are all too familiar, let’s face the facts: this December will feel quite different from holiday seasons of the past. Oregon’s current “freeze” status means some galleries are continuing virtual programming, while others are transitioning to in-person viewings by appointment. Our resilient arts community continues to adapt in the face of ongoing challenges. Whether in person or in hibernation, we can support their efforts by viewing shows, boosting them on social media, and making purchases or donations whenever possible. Show your appreciation this holiday season by checking out the options to support at the end of this article.
Ralph Pugay: Hang in There
November 1 – December 31, 2020
Find time to sit with Pugay’s idiosyncratic, delightfully cartoonish works, easily viewed online through the end of December. In Hang in There, Pugay’s series of cat posters (referencing 1970s motivational posters) position humor and anxiety side-by-side. Through simple imagery and the repeated, open-ended statement HANG IN THERE, the artist creates space for uncertainty and imagination. What could be different? What are we waiting for?
Women of the African Diaspora: Identity, Place, Migration, Immigration
December 3, 2020 – January 30, 2021
Blue Sky Gallery
Curated by Arkansas-based photographer/educator Aaron Turner, Women of the African Diaspora highlights photographic works by Nadiya I. Nacorda, Jasmine Clarke, and Widline Cadet. Cadet, a Haitian-born artist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker and Time, investigates visibility, interiority, and selfhood as it relates to Haitian cultural identity in the United States. Clarke’s works occupy realms of mysticism, dreams, and magical realism, while Nacorda photographs her immediate family to explore aspects of trauma and intimacy within Black and POC immigrant American family life.
Tannaz Farsi: A More Perfect Union
November 19 – December 19, 2020
916 NW Flanders (open 12-5 Thursday-Saturday)
Farsi’s works are grounded in diasporic identity, bridging the structural and the ambiguous to reflect on citizenship, protest, and contrasts between distance and proximity. The word CITIZEN takes center stage in one of Farsi’s pieces for A More Perfect Union, prompting deeper thought on words as symbols of power structure and collective fear. A conversation between Tannaz Farsi and curator Lucy Cotter will be held on Thursday, December 3; more details here.
John Hitchcock: Bury the Hatchet: Prayer for My P’ah-Be
March 7, 2020 – March 21, 2021
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Ave (Museum is currently closed; virtual exhibition walkthrough available on YouTube)
Mixed-media artist John Hitchcock works with the theme of the vaudeville stage show Buffalo Bill’s Wild West to explore the forced assimilation and indoctrination experienced by Indigenous communities in the West. The exhibition is highly sensory, connecting the artist’s passions for printmaking, rock ’n’ roll, and Kiowa and Comanche history. Hitchcock asserts the importance of Indigenous oral histories, collaborating with several artists and storytellers to create a soundscape that including narratives, singing, and instrumentals. If you can’t get enough of these works, Sunday Night Records carries a vinyl album, CD, and letterpress prints that correspond with the exhibition.
Modou Dieng: A Postcolonial Landscape
December 1, 2020 – January 30, 2021
Elizabeth Leach Gallery
417 NW 9th Ave (by appointment)
Dieng’s brilliant mixed media paintings explore globalization and Black representation, filtered through the lens of the artist’s personal experiences in his native Senegal alongside conventions of Eurocentric art history. Bright color compositions, cut-outs, and collaged photographic elements play with themes of absence/presence, interior/exterior, and identity. The results are exhilarating and not to be missed.
Finding Our Way
March 14 – December 12, 2020
the lumber room
419 NW 9th Ave (by appointment, or virtual tour available on their website)
Catch the tail end of the lumber room’s Finding Our Way and prepare to be amazed. A beyond-impressive rotating roster of artists has included Joseph Beuys, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Zoe Leonard, Ana Mendieta, Carrie Mae Weems, and many more. The exhibition plays with informal display methods and occupation of domestic space to emphasize the lumber room’s in-between role—part place of comfort, part place of artistic discourse. Finding Our Way also includes a film component with visiting works from various new media artists.
New works: Joan Nelson
November 7 – December 19, 2020
Adams and Ollman
418 NW 8th Ave (by appointment only)
Joan Nelson’s paintings aren’t your average landscape works. Rendered in reverse on Plexiglass and supplemented by mascara, burnt sugar, beads, and other unexpected materials, this awe-inspiring series brings to mind historical notions of the sublime. Nelson recognizes this, though, and pushes back against the romanticism of Western expansion by creating barren scenes with a feminine edge.
This year has been a challenge (okay, that’s an understatement) for everyone—including the artists, arts institutions, and independent galleries finding flexibility through it all. Here are a few (among many!) worth celebrating this holiday season:
Nat Turner Project
NTP “allows artists of color freedom to create or express their own language within and without the parameters of racial commodification or designation.” Support their vital work in creating an inclusive and communal environment for artists of color by signing up for their Patreon or purchasing a button, tote, or zine from their online shop.
Art & About PDX
Established in 2014 by Ashley Gifford, A&A connects with local artists, enthusiasts, and viewers alike via a robust social media presence and online platform. Gifford creates a regular exhibition calendar, provides paid writing opportunities for burgeoning art critics, curates an online shop of work by Portland-based creators, and more. This site offers Patreon memberships with varying levels of benefits.
Where would Portland be without Nationale? I certainly don’t want to imagine it. Since 2008, owner May Barruel has helped develop our contemporary art culture through exhibitions, performances, and a selection of carefully chosen goods. The Nationale webshop is full of ideal gifts for the holidays, like periodicals, beauty products, and prints from Le Oui. Mask up to see even more in person at the gallery’s shop.
Common Ground / Eugene Contemporary Art
This limited edition tote and poster, designed by ECA artist Hannah Petkau and printed by Dana Buzzee, helps fund Common Ground, an online exhibition, remote artist residency, reading group, and by-appointment exhibition. Also, 20% of the profits from each sale go to Oregon nonprofit Beyond Toxics, working for environmental justice across the state.