A simply sublime August First Thursday/Friday Gallery Guide

Daring to meet The Sublime at White Box, plus Relax and Rolex, Animal Battle, and more

Portland is known for its unique aesthetics and green lifestyle, so I’m looking forward to the artistic and environmental concerns of The Immiscible Edges at The White Box. A sculptor and installation artist based in Walla Walla, Washington, Michelle Acuff’s recent work attempts to create a sublime experience of ecological devastation. The Immiscible Edges runs through September 13th with an opportunity to meet the artist at the first Thursday opening reception on August 7, from 5-8pm.

Upside Down in Air Were Towers @ Playa, Summer Lake, OR, 2012 (temporary installation during artist residency).

Upside Down in Air Were Towers @ Playa, Summer Lake, OR, 2012 (temporary installation during artist residency).

Acuff’s work draws us into a consideration of the sublime, an idea as old as beauty. Despite a tendency to conflate the former with the latter, the sublime has a stronger history in opposition to beauty, beginning with the early modern English philosopher Edmund Burke. The sublime image, in this usage, evokes horror by casting the viewer into uncertainty. However, such an aesthetic experience can still allow for pleasure in that the viewer knows themselves to be safe.

Schopenhauer clarified why we’re attracted to powerfully dangerous forces through our relationship to Nature. The German philosopher described the feeling of beauty as pleasure in seeing an object, but the feeling of sublime as pleasure in seeing an “overpowering or malignant object of great magnitude, one that could destroy the observer.”  The majesty and violence of “Turbulent Nature” evoked this dual sensation of pleasure and terror in viewers and quickly became a popular theme in painting and landscape design.

Over the past several centuries the sublime has expanded to include the vastness of our technological advancement. Since the early industrial and throughout the digital age, we continue to create narratives that center on a plot in which our present technological success threatens a human future. We find pleasure in these stories though we fear the outcome, just as we enjoy our modern lifestyle despite knowing the havoc it wreaks on the world.

This is the “schizophrenia in behavior, thought and action with regard to the environment” that Michelle Acuff  is presenting to audiences through her work. Through the juxtaposition of organic forms and modular systems, and the presentation of iconic nature as a crime scene, her sculptures and installations reveal the contradiction between expanding the Western lifestyle and expecting a future in which there are lives to live it.

Despite the severity of the situation you should expect to see the immiscible edges and be rejuvenated. Wendell Berry once wrote, “we are living in the most destructive and, hence, the most stupid period in the history of our species.” Such thinking is often a heavy psychological burden, which is why he also calls upon artists to avoid the “silence of perfect despair” by creating images, rhetoric, and melodies to preserve hope and sustain action. In this regard, Portland is fortunate to have a deep wellspring to draw from and we’re grateful to Michelle Acuff for contributing her vision.

Michelle Acuff: the immiscible edges is on display from August 8 – September 13 at White Box UO – 24 NW First Ave. Meet the artist at the opening reception Thursday, August 7, 2014 from 5 – 8pm.


Riding Hood, 2014, charcoal, graphite, ink, collage on paper, 101”x77”

Riding Hood, 2014, charcoal, graphite, ink, collage on paper, 101”x77”

Blackfish Gallery

If you enjoy dwelling upon the psychological subconscious, surrealism, or improvisational work on a monumental scale , Blackfish Gallery has you covered with Interlopers: Unintended Narratives. Beginning only with the impulse to draw a figure, Ellen Goldschmidt has created a series of images through automatic drawing. These ” figurative Rorschachs” come with an invitation for the viewer to imagine a story, relationship, or emotion onto the characters portrayed. In addition to the First Thursday reception, Blackfish is hosting a public event exploring the similarities and differences between visual and written narrative. The Narrative Impulse: An Evening of Visual Art, Writing and Readings on Sunday, August 17, 5-7pm.






Barren Lands Breed Strange Visions woodcut, monotype and silkscreen on mylar 90 x 117 inches

Barren Lands Breed Strange Visions
woodcut, monotype and silkscreen on mylar
90 x 117 inches

Elizabeth Leach

If you’ve ever enjoyed fantastical architectural drawings, Forecasting an Impossibly Possible Tomorrow at Elizabeth Leach Gallery will satisfy your appetite for world building – and ruin. Through a mix of printed elements, and stop-frame animation, Nicola Lopez takes on the theme of the “Tower of Babel” from the book of genesis to explore human hubris and hope in the face of impending failure.




Tolly Peppercorn Super Sculpey, Apoxie Sculpt, Armature Wire, Acrylic, Gouache, Fabric, Ink. Approx. 9″ Tall

Hellion Gallery

I can’t quite remember if I ever finished Brian Jacques’ Redwall, but for those of you out there who devoured the entire epic series of animals in a medieval battle for home and hearth, I expect there’ll be plenty to catch your fancy in Animal Battle: The Armies Gather at Hellion Gallery. Wooden swords, flowing banners, elaborate costumes and dapper hats decorate handsome beasts of all species in Maryanna Hoggart’s ongoing series of fantastical creation.









Heidi Cody, Low Pop   2014 polystyrene, Plexiglas, PVC, metal, wood 30" diameter x 4" deep

Heidi Cody, Low Pop 2014 polystyrene, Plexiglas, PVC, metal, wood 30″ diameter x 4″ deep

Laura Russo Gallery

For an opportunity to see the diverse practices of a group of established Pacific Northwest artists, Non Finito (I am not finished) at Laura Russo Gallery will feature Heidi Cody, George D. Green, Julie Green, and Bill Hoppe. With work ranging from pop culture commentary, to virtuosic trompe l’ oeil painting;, and from ceramics exploring the last meals of death row inmates, to delicate abstractions, this exhibition features work showcasing how the Pacific Northwest is contributing to the conversation surrounding the breadth and depth of contemporary art at the national scale.





“The Shit” Neon acrylic on plexi glass. James Arizumi, 2014

One Grand Gallery

If you believe that “you should never take life too seriously” you’ll enjoy the lighthearted wit of Relax and Rolex at One Grand Gallery. Known for his work at Nike SB, James Arizumi is most recognized for his work on Stefan Janoski, a best-selling skate shoe Through an installation-style takeover of One Grand that mixes fine art and high design his work encourages us to see the humor in our complex world and daily doldrums.  #RelaxandRolex


Notable mentions for August include Adams and Ollman,  Augen Gallery, Blue Sky Gallery, Compound GalleryDuplexNewspace Center for PhotographyPony Club, and Right Side Art. Finally, here are the links to two great maps of the many galleries and art institutions of Portland that have great shows beyond the scope of this humble guide:

Portland Art Dealers Association Galleries and Alliance Members

Duplex Collective’s Gallery Guide

Don’t forget to mention the shows you’re looking forward to below in the comments!

2 Responses.

  1. Rosanne Keller says:

    Be sure to stop into Duplex. This month’s feature is the Free Pirtrait a Project, shot by my son, David Keller

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