Portland’s Big Art Weekend

Carrie Mae Weems and Fertile Ground and so much more

Carrie Mae Weems, "Coming Up for Air (video still)"/Portland Art Museum

Carrie Mae Weems, “Coming Up for Air (video still)”/Portland Art Museum

We have an amazing arts weekend in Portland. Another one, maybe I should say, but this one has all the makings of something historic, mostly because of the Carrie Mae Weems retrospective at the Portland Art Museum. So, I thought I’d just give you a quick sense of what’s going on, just the top of it…

Carrie Mae Weems, Portland Art Museum

I caught the press preview of this show Thursday morning, and I now know it’s going to take me a few visits to entangle myself fully with all that’s going on, both because it has a lot of work (200 images or so, plus video) and because Weems’ art is complex. Not inaccessible, just full of various strands and ideas, some we can talk about easily and some we can’t.

ArtsWatch is going to get much more entangled with this show soon, but just to set things up a little, here are some basics. Weems was born in Portland in 1953, and her interest in theater, dance and politics led her to study dance with Anna Halprin in San Francisco at 17. “I remember we used to parade and demonstrate along these streets,” she said at the preview, gesturing to the South Park blocks. She took up photography at 21, attended Cal Arts and UC San Diego, and then moved to New York, where her career got going.

Weems work can be very personal (I love the image of her sisters approaching her with obvious delight), and even in the art works that aren’t specifically that way, her presence can be felt, the artist working out issues that consume her. These tend to be about race and power, and seen broadly, her work is an attempt to balance things out, to distribute power to the powerless, to redefine those the dominant culture described badly, to remake and re-enter history.

Yes, it’s an activist art, which is what I like about it, though it’s also art that uses a post-modern toolkit to make its points. Photographs, sure, some appropriated or re-staged plus audio, video and text. She doesn’t over-explain; she’s not laying out a sequential argument. The images and the ideas behind them carry the weight, the gravity, of her observations and feelings.

The exhibition opens to the public on Saturday. It’s on two levels: You start on the second floor and drop down a flight for the second part, which you should definitely do.

Maesie Speer and Liz Hayden in "Something's Got Ahold of My Heart'/Lee Wexler

Maesie Speer and Liz Hayden in “Something’s Got Ahold of My Heart”/Lee Wexler

Fertile Ground

This is the final weekend of the new work festival, which we’ve been busily writing about, and if you haven’t caught any of it, well, this is the last call. What should you see? Well, I’m pretty excited about Hand2Mouth’s “Something’s Got Ahold of My Heart,” which continues through Feb. 17,  and Fuse’s “Sonnetscape” (a multi-media investigation of Shakespeare’s sonnets), but honestly, I’m willing to wager that your own instincts won’t let you down. Even better, you’ll be contributing something to the culture just by attending.

Alt.classical on Super Bowl weekend

ArtsWatch classical music writer Brett Campbell will no doubt elaborate on fEARnoMUSIC’s “Penelope,” a new re-telling of the Odyssey story from the point of view of his wife, powered by composer Sarah Kirkland Snider’s new song cycle with vocals by  Shara Worden, from My Brightest Diamond. It plays Saturday at Alberta Rose. And then on Super Bowl Sunday itself, 45th Parallel moves into Alberta Rose for an evening of solo and chamber works by Leonard Bernstein, Elliot Carter, Arthur Foote and several more of the 20th Century’s greatest composers, hosted by All-Classical’s Robert McBride. I’m not sure about the football game, but I KNOW touchdowns will abound here.

The Buckman Art Show & Sell

Look, seriously, we’re in a major deficit situation when it comes to giving our kids (and then by extension ourselves) the chance to learn about the arts, to channel their natural creativity in cool and constructive ways, to access the most profound thoughts humans have had about their lives and the lives to come. You’ve heard my rant on this before, perhaps, so I’ll spare you more here and now. But Buckman Elementary School has been a place that has tried to do things right, and that effort has been fueled over the past 23 years by a fabulous art show and sale of work donated by artists. The art is always interesting and affordable, and it comes with the added benefit of funding arts education. The show takes place Friday, February 1 (5-9 pm), and Saturday, February 2, 2013 (10 am-5 pm), at Buckman Arts Focus Elementary School, 320 SE 16th Avenue, Portland. See you there!

And so much more

Truly, from “Tosca” at the Portland Opera to White Bird’s Marie Chouinard’s take on “The Rite of Spring,” a gigantic array of arts events are out there. I just KNOW you don’t want to spend the entire weekend prepping for good Super Bowl commercials and wings that will make you sorry the next day. Heck, who needs to prep for that?

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