ArtsWatch Weekly: enemies of the people

Plus: ceramics shows all over town, Brontës and Carnage onstage, Shakespeare on Avenue Q, madrigals and music from the Holocaust

I’ve been thinking about my new status as an enemy of the people, which, because I am a longtime member of the press, the leader of the nation has declared I am. I’m not sure what this means (Adrienne LaFrance in The Atlantic has a few ideas), but I suspect that while we’re all getting hot and bothered about the president’s use of the term “enemy” – a word that, in this construction, implies the harsher “traitor” – we might also be thinking long and hard about what he means when he says “people.”

As I have never considered myself an enemy of the many categories of people who make up this nation (although I have certainly resisted the ideas and actions of some, particularly those of an autocratic, opportunistic, violent, or rigidly ideological bent) I inevitably wonder which people these are to whom I am an enemy. And the conclusion I draw, at least tentatively, is that they must be the people who adamantly declare “my country (or my president) right or wrong,” those whose modes of thought and belief are primarily binary, who see a white and a black in every situation with no recognition of the vast shadings and illuminations between. And although I don’t deny I am not fond of their hard-line ideas, it is less true that I am their enemy than that they consider me theirs.

In Ibsen’s play the newspaper editor is a collaborator and the “enemy” is a whistleblower.

This is a far, far smaller definition of the American people than my own old-fashioned idea of a populace enriched by its multitude of backgrounds, talents, experiences, expressions, and beliefs. The president’s declaration, it seems to me, is a siren song to know-nothing insularity, a constricted, self-defeating, fear-driven, and exclusivist view of the American ideal of what a “people” is (or are). Under its sway a belief in a middle ground of understanding over ideology, even when the understanding must come by asking hard questions and seeking answers from alternative sources when the primary ones hide or lie about what they know, becomes a ground of treason. It is thinking that divides the country into “real” Americans – the true believers – and, well, enemies. Including those members of the press who point such things out.


And suddenly it’s October. Among other things – pumpkin patches, Yom Kippur, the World Series, Halloween – that means we’re two days from First Thursday, Portland’s monthly gallery hop of new shows. This week’s visual art calendar is a doozy, from open studios to Warhol with lots between.

A few of the highlights:

James Lavadour Ruby II, 2016 oil on panel 32" x 48"

James Lavadour, “Ruby II,” 2016, oil on panel, 32″ x 48.” PDX Contemporary.

James Lavadour at PDX Contemporary. It’s always a good day when new work by Lavadour, the veteran landscape expressionist from Pendleton, comes to town. This show, called Ledger of Days, furthers his exploration of the land and its mysteries. “A painting is a structure for the extraordinary and informative events of nature that are otherwise invisible,” he writes. “A painting is a model for infinity.” Lavadour is also one of the moving forces behind Pendleton’s innovative and essential Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year. Watch for what’s coming up.

The new Russo Lee Gallery: 30 years. What you’ve known for years as Laura Russo Gallery is celebrating three decades with a showing of new work by its distinguished stable of artists – and with a new name. The name is a fusion of the gallery’s long tradition and current reality. After founder Laura Russo died in 2010, her longtime employee Martha Lee bought the business and continues to operate it. This show promises to be a statement of sorts, and will have a catalog available.


June is upon us and this month marks a full year of monthly gallery guides from yours truly. With any luck the sun will come back out, but don’t forget to stop by some galleries and see some art not matter the weather! I hope you once again find something interesting to see and consider in my totally biased art selection, and if not share what you’re looking forward to below in the comments!

~ – Katie Batten, Jonathan Casella, and Sarah Mikenis— the three young artists on view in Nationale’s group painting exhibition Everything We Ever Wanted— explore the friction between artifice and authenticity as it transpires into explosions of color and pattern appropriated not from magazine pages, but the Internet’s undulating stream of imagery. Opening reception Wednesday, June 3 from 6-8pm. Through June 29th.

unnamed (2)Adams and Ollman – Presents a two person show of landscapes by Joan Nelson and Joseph Yoakum. Joan Nelson emphasizes Oregon geography, while Yoakum’s work features the places he’s traveled to around the world. This will be an opportunity to put the Oregon landscape tradition in broader conversation with ways of looking and defining place through painting. First Thursday reception June 4th. Through July 11th.




yoonhee1Blackfish Gallery – For over a decade, Yoonhee Choi has explored the potential of diminutive, mass-produced materials such as bread clips to express multiple scales of spatial experience and intimate, personal associations. In TRAWLING she continues her sensitive searchings into the possibilities of these materials—trailing a metaphorical fishing net behind her wherever she goes. First Thursday reception June 4th. Through June 28th.




Todd FF Image



False Front – Todd Johnson’s latest work features malt liquors and cold cuts. On the surface the work looks quite literal, but in person there is bound to a more elaborate metaphor and Johnson’s dark humor will give it an edge of social critique. From here the work gives off a Warholian air, so the work will be undoubtedly interesting in person. Opening Reception: Saturday, June 13, 6 – 9pm. Through July 12th.








PICA – Rounding out the month, No Boundaries presents the work of nine trailblazing Aboriginal artists who were inspired by their ancient cultural traditions to forge one of the most dynamic painting movements of recent times. Created at the frontier where Indigenous and Western cultures meet, these paintings speak across cultures, a reminder that contemporary art comes from all corners of the globe. Although rarely seen in the U.S., these artists stand at the vanguard of global contemporary art practice. Mason Erhman Building Annex, 467 NW Davis. Opening Reception June 20th at 7pm. Through August 20th.


Finally, here are the links to two great maps of the many galleries and art institutions of Portland that have intriguing shows beyond the scope of this brief 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!

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