blue sky gallery

Photography review: Photographs from the cold and wet

Corey Arnold's depictions of life at sea and Aleksey Kondratyev's ice fishermen contain a sublime shiver

By LAUREL REED PAVIC

Cold and ice were not the first things that I wanted to ponder mid-May, especially not this one, coming after a cold and rainy spring. But Blue Sky Gallery and Charles A. Hartman Fine Art both scheduled “cold and ice” shows before they could have known what we would be facing, so the perception of mockery with a late-arriving spring is probably unintentional. Neither Aleksey Kondratyev’s Ice Fishers (Blue Sky) nor Corey Arnold’s Aleutian Dreams (Charles A. Hartman) indulges springtime escapism. Instead they demand begrudging weather optimism: There’s always someplace colder than here.

Corey Arnold’s photographs are mesmerizing in their figuration of another life, one far more dramatic and dangerous than my own. Arnold spent eight seasons as a commercial fisherman in the Bering Sea. Though he no longer works in the industry directly, the current body of work was shot in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands. Aleutian Dreams returns to the subject of fishing and the sea while also chronicling life in a place with little division between “civilization” and the “wild.” Bald eagles rummage through garbage bins or patriotically adorn flagpoles (Dumpster Diver and Bald Freedom) and foxes roam the streets (Roadside Friend).

Corey Arnold, “Tad and Octopus”, 2017, Archival pigment print/Courtesy Charles A. Hartman Fine Art

Arnold’s approach to human subjects has changed in this series. Earlier photographs confirmed stereotypical expectations: the bearded man in waders (Ben and King (2009)) or the sea-hardened, turtlenecked figure in The Irish Skipper, Rossaveal, Ireland (2010). Aleutian Dreams includes no faces. In Rob and Skate, Rob’s face is entirely blocked by the fish, and in Tad and Octopus Tad’s head is covered by his orange hood so that all we see is his apparently gentle cradling of a limp octopus: an awkward pieta for the ocean set. In Pedro Mending, the hood of his outerwear shadows his face so the figure becomes an apparition in yellow against black net. People are named but faceless, subsumed by the enormity of the sea life and gritty necessities of the task at hand.

The experience is beautified and sanitized, expunged of visceral realities such as biting wind or stench of fish. The way dreams should be—all of the nice parts, the adventure without the discomfort: The Deadliest Catch translated from reality television to the art gallery, more beautiful and poignant and without the foul language or acerbic personalities.

*****

Aleksey Kondratyev’s photographs have less apparent drama. All are untitled. Most are single figures in billowing plastic bags against a snowy backdrop. Honestly, my first thought was the parental injunction against putting plastic bags over one’s head. This only confirms my coddled and well-mitttened upbringing. The Ishim River is in Kazakhstan, where it is cold. Not Portland “when is the snow going to melt” cold, but horrifically, brutally cold, up to 40 degrees below Fahrenheit cold. These makeshift plastic shelters are the only protection from these temperatures as the figures bend to the business of ice fishing.

Aleksey Kondratyev, Untitled, 2016, archival pigment print, 24″ x 30″/
image © Aleksey Kondratyev/Courtesy of Blue Sky Gallery

The shelters have a strange geometry, some are human-shaped ovoids while others are more directly reminiscent of their rectangular bag origins. Some appear sturdier than others, a blessing in the form of thicker-ply or even woven plastic. A few are patched with yellow tape. All are ingenious adaptations of the idea of “shelter.”
The figures inside the bags are vague forms hunched over unseen portals to the river below. Far more visible are the necessary tools: a plastic bucket, a hand-cranked drill, a can of Nescafe, a folding chair (at least some nod to comfort?). Particularly curious are the images of two or three fishermen right next to one another, but in their own shelters: a telling depiction of isolation in community.

Kondratyev includes several close-up images through the plastic. These are enigmatic. Condensation and ice mar the undulating plastic surface. Without the context of the shelter images, I would have no idea how to read these smaller works and yet their intimacy and draw is undeniable.

*****

Both Arnold and Kondratyev make photographs dealing with fish and ice, but the real parallel here is the venerable artistic tradition of the sublime. The sublime has many meanings in philosophy, but the one most familiar in art is Edmund Burke’s 18th century definition: the sublime is equal parts awe and terror. The sea has always been a favored subject in the consideration of the sublime, beautiful and dangerous. It was especially popular subject when people were dependent on it for transportation, trade, military protection, even light. Caspar David Friedrich and Joseph Mallord William Turner both painted several churning sea images. Arnold’s Dark Sea and Shifting Sea link directly to these predecessors.

Corey Arnold, “Colliding Sea”, 2015,
Archival pigment print/Courtesy Charles A. Hartman Fine Art

Kondratyev’s embrace of the sublime is less obvious but offers a fitting commentary for the contemporary world. Ice fishing is a traditional and historic practice on the Kazakh steppe. Plastic bags are a modern invention. The shelters represent a marriage of tradition and convenience: they lend a modicum of control in an unforgiving landscape.

Control, however, is an illusion. A plastic bag doesn’t protect against sub-freezing temperatures. The way we talk about climate change implies that we have some control over nature. We made the mess; we can fix the mess. But nature doesn’t care about us. Weather isn’t benevolent or malevolent. We are always outmatched. Our best efforts and most fervent attention, while urgently necessary, amount to little more than a film of plastic held together with some yellow tape.

Be in awe. Be terrified.

And be glad that it isn’t actually that cold.

NOTES

Corey Arnold’s Aleutian Dreams continues through May 27, 2017, at Charles A. Hartman Fine Art, 134 NW Eighth Ave.

Aleksey Kondratyev’s exhibition continues through May 28, 2017, at Blue Sky Gallery, 122 NW Eighth Ave.

DanceWatch Weekly: Spring Break dancing

Just because school's out doesn't mean the dancers aren't dancing

It’s spring break here in Portland, and I am living vicariously through all of you with a margarita in hand who have spent the week on a soft, warm, tropical beach somewhere. Yes, it’s finally happened: I have Rain Fatigue. We had one sunny day on Monday, and I was bouncing around like a puppy.

But, all of this relaxing and vacationing does not mean that Portland dancers are on a break too, by no means, because, you know, dancers never rest. Right? Well sometimes they do, but not this week, rain fatigue or not.

Skinner/Kirk’s Burn It Backwards repeats for a second weekend. Martha Ullman West reviewed for ArtsWatch (“What the company is dancing about this year is the many ways men relate to each other, or fail to, and also about American social and political norms”) and I previewed for the Oregonian, and Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus goes inside the body continues as well.

In Conversation—photography and performance with dance artist Tracy Broyles along with musicians Adrian Hutapea and Lisa De Grace plays one night only at Blue Sky Gallery, and “Duality: Dance Ballet of India” by bharatnatyam choreographer Jayanthi Raman has a one-night stand as well.

On Saturday I will be hosting a free, informal showing of choreography by three Portland choreographers—Jana Zahler, WolfBird Dance (a Portland dance company directed by Selina Dipronio and Raven Jones) and myself. I have remounted my The Kitchen Sink, which debuted in November, with two new dancers, and we are headed to the Bay Area next week to perform in the Dance Up Close/East Bay festival, alongside Bay Area choreographer Abigail Hosein’s (ahdanco) and Tanya Chianese (ka.nei.see|collective). If you are interested in seeing dance in all of its developmental stages, this is the evening for you.

Closing out the weekend will be Shen Yun, a large scale dance production created in response to the Chinese Cultural Revolution and its destruction of ancient Chinese culture billed as “5000 years of chinese music and dance in one night.” The dancing, colors, costumes, lighting and virtual transport to another era are a perfect way to welcome spring.

Performances happening this week

Skinner/Kirk. Photo by Christopher Peddecord

Burn It Backwards
Skinner/Kirk Dance Ensemble
Presented by BodyVox
March 30-April1
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave
Add Martha review
Burn It Backwards is a new work from BodyVox Dance company founders Eric Skinner and Daniel Kirk that combines five male dancers—Kirk, Skinner, James Healey, Chase Hamilton and Brent Luebbert, with the music of the late Portland singer, songwriter and musician Elliott Smith.

The work explores relationships: the bodies relationship to itself; to other dancers’ bodies; to the space around the body; and to the world at large. And it also looks into such concepts as ostracism and optimism through patterning, geometric shapes and physicality.

Photo courtesy of Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus.

Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus goes inside the body
Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus
March 31-April 1
Echo Theater, 1515 SE 37th Ave
Sir Cupcake, a gender-bending circus performer, is stranded in the future and his magic time-traveling pocket-watch had been sabotaged. His internal organs have been all mixed up and his heart has gone missing. The Queer Circus must travel inside Sir Cupcake’s body and put his organs back together and find his missing heart, in this performance/adventure featuring rope artist Kiebpoli “Black Acrobat” Calnek, from San Francisco, DieAna Dae and Box of Clowns, contortion by Meg Russell, and duo acrobatics by Ari and Ben, and more!

Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus celebrates queer and trans identities with storytelling and performances by queer and transgender people and their allies. The Saturday March 25 performance will be ASL interpreted and Audio Described (headsets provided). Echo Theater is wheelchair accessible and has a gender neutral bathroom.

The Kitchen Sink  by Jamuna Chiarini. Photo by Chelsea Petrakis.

Informal showing of new work
Jamuna Chiarini, Jana Zahler and WolfBird Dance
6 pm April 1
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave

See above.

“Velvet” by Lauren Semivan at Blue Sky Gallery.

In Conversation- photography and performance
7 pm April 1
Blue Sky /Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts. 122 NW 8th Ave
In response and reflection to Lauren Semivan’s current photography exhibition at Blue Sky Gallery, Portland dance artist Tracy Broyles, musician Adrian Hutapea and musician Lisa De Grace will come together and recreate live, images and sensations from the photographs.

The 20-minute performance will be repeated six times over the course of 90 minutes, and the audience is invited to come and go as they like.

Duality: Dance Ballet of India
Presented by Rasika, Jayanthi Raman
4 pm April 1
Portland bharatnatyam choreographer Jayanthi Raman tells the story of Lalitha Ram, a young girl who moves from South India to Portland, Oregon, and finds herself straddling dual cultures. The performance will be supported by a visiting dancers from India and with the music of maestro U. Rajesh, featuring the voice of Bollywood singer Hariharan and percussionists Selvaganesh and S.V. Ramani.

Shen Yun
Presented by Oregon Falun Dafa Association
April 4-5
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay Street
Shen Yun, or “the beauty of divine beings dancing,” is a production created in response to the Chinese Cultural Revolution and its destruction of ancient Chinese culture. Shen Yun was created in 2006 by a group of artists and Falun Dafa practitioners in New York City as a means to revive Chinese culture through dance, music and storytelling. Because Shen Yun does not abide by the Chinese Communist Party rules, the company has been harassed from its inception. Documentation of those experiences by the company are shared on their website under the heading “Challenges we face.”

Performances next week

April
April 6, Moving History: Portland Contemporary Dance Past and Present, Eric Nordstrom
April 6-8, Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, Presented by White Bird
April 7-29, Butoh College Performance Series, Hosted by Water in the Desert
April 8-9, A Festival of Dance, NW Dance Theatre, choreography by Laura Haney, Maria Tucker, Leonid Shagalov, M’liss Stephenson and Erin Zintek.
April 8-9, The Snow Queen, Eugene Ballet Company
April 9, Spiral-a dance film by Amit Zinman, Portland Underground Film Festival
April 10, Noontime Showcase OBT2, Presented by Portland’5

Upcoming Performances

April 15, Episode III, dance film by Jin Camou and Julia Calabrese
April 15, Synesthesia, BodyVox, TEDx Portland
April 15, Bridge the Gap, Presented by Sepiatonic
April 13-22, Terra, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 14-16, New work by Jin Camou, Performance Works NW Alembic Co-Production
April 21-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre
April 22-23, Annual School Performance, The School of Oregon Ballet Theatre, choreography by George Balanchine, Nicolo Fonte, Alison Roper and Anthony Jones
April 25-26, Che Malambo, Presented by White Bird
April 27-29, Contact Dance Film Festival, Presented by BodyVox and NW Film Center
April 28-29, Appalachian Spring Break, Scotty Heron and Brendan Connelly, Presented by Performance Works NW / Linda Austin Dance
May
May 4-7, Taka Yamamoto, Produced by Portland Institute for Contemporary Art
May 5, Spring Dance Concert, The Reed College Dance Department
May 5-7, In Close Proximity, The Tempos Contemporary Circus
May 5-7, Inclusive Arts Vibe Annual Performance, Disability Arts and Culture Project
May 10, Martha Graham Dance Company, Presented by White Bird
May 26-28, N.E.W. Residency performance, Dora Gaskill, Jessica Kelley, Stephanie Schaaf, and Michael Galen
May 26 – 27, Spring Concert – Tribute to the Ballet Russes, Featuring work by Michel Fokine, Tom Gold, George Balanchine, and Lane Hunter, The Portland Ballet
June
June 2-4, Interum Echos, PDX Contemporary Ballet
June 8-10, Summer Splendors, NW Dance Project
July
July 15, Pretty Creatives Showing, NW Dance Project
August
August 24-September 6, Portland Dance Film Fest, Directed by Kailee McMurran, Tia Palomino, and Jess Evans

… and oddly, as a pitched political battle sweeps the nation, life goes on. How will the arts world respond to the extraordinary events of the day? How, if at all, will this most divisive and pugilistic of administrations respond to the world of art? Shoes could drop at any moment: the administration has already stated its intent to kill the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, and to end federal funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. While Nero threatens to cut off the fiddles, here are a few highlights of what’s going on in and around town.

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IT’S FIRST THURSDAY this week, when many galleries open their new monthly shows, so visual art is on our minds. The Portland Art Museum has opened Rodin: The Human Experience, a major show of 52 bronzes, and Constructing Identity, an important overview of historical and contemporary work by African American artists.

Louis Bunce, “Apple”, 1968. Oil on canvas. 41” x 48”//Courtesy Hallie Ford Museum of Art

And the invaluable Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem has opened Louis Bunce: Dialogue with Modernism, a retrospective on the late Oregon artist, who Paul Sutinen, in his ArtsWatch review of the show, identifies as a key figure in the city’s cultural life, the catalyst for making Portland a city of modern art. “It is an important show,” Sutinen declares. “It is a great show. It is accompanied by a monograph on Bunce by Roger Hull. It is important. It is great.” And then he explains why. See the sort of thing that the Savonarolas of the federal purse are eager to upend.

Continues…

ArtsWatch Weekly: Blue Ribbon Special

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

Summertime, and the feeling is scattered. The rhythm of the season is both relaxed and jagged, irregular, prone to long gaps and sudden leaps. Quick: a day in the mountains, a weekend at the beach, a backyard barbecue before the weather turns and the kids head back to school.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 1.55.34 PMIn the past week or so I’ve spied a lovely giant wood-carved Bigfoot lurking by the side of the road on the way to Timberline Lodge, which whetted my appetite for funky folk art; and a swayback, smudged-white horse grazing idly beneath a giant Trump for President sign on a farm north of Ellensburg in central Washington, which whetted my appetite for oddball juxtapositions. Both are peculiarities that seem congruent with an August day.

Down in Salem the Oregon State Fair opens on Friday (“Here Comes the Fun!” the promos shout) and I doubt I’ll make it this year, but if I do I’m also pretty sure I’ll find some blissful oddities to contemplate. I note, for instance, that one of the ongoing features is something called Machine Mania, in which “Pistons Rule!” Plus, this year there’ll be a blue ribbon for marijuana crops. The mind boggles.

 


 

AUGUST ARTS EVENTS are often quick-and-dirty affairs, too, here and gone again almost before you can blink. A couple of short-term things coming up this week, plus a longer-running show to get on your calendar before it disappears:

"The Reimagining of French Gray by the Displaced Woman." Photo: Chain Reaction Theatre.

“The Reimagining of French Gray by the Displaced Woman.” Photo: Chain Reaction Theatre.

The Re-Imagining of French Gray by the Displaced Woman. The world premiere of Elizabeth Huffman’s reimagining of a 1967 Josef Bush play will run Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Milagro Theatre. A co-production of Huffman’s Chain Reaction Theatre and Cygnet Productions, it’s directed by Cygnet’s Louanne Moldovan and stars Huffman in the dual roles of a wealthy Austrian queen caught in the aftermath of the French Revolution in 1793 and a wealthy Syrian bon vivant caught in an Arab uprising in 2016.

Continues…

Harold Feinstein’s camera was always at the ready

A Blue Sky photography show gives us the quick eye of a New York photographer

I’ve been looking at art for nearly 50 years. I rarely get a surprise anymore. I was about a quarter of the way around the front gallery at Blue Sky when I thought, “Holy smoke, who was this Harold Feinstein and why didn’t I know about him before?”

I was looking at Blanket Toss, 1955, a photo of activity at Coney Island. In a broad void of blank sky, a guy in swim trunks flies high above the tossers below. The tossee flails in a gesture that would never be found in painting because the angle produces a hard-to-grasp view of the anatomy—in painting it would not be believable. We would think that the artist had exaggerated, or misunderstood anatomy.

Blanket Toss

Harold Feinstein, “Blanket Toss”, 1955/Courtesy Blue Sky Gallery

But in photography we believe it because it is a photograph, something that records what is actually there. Especially long before Photoshop. The awkward gesture of the tossee is important, but I think the key to the picture is the pair of boys at the front foreground, who have turned away from the action to smile in our direction. In these pictures Feinstein often makes the spectators as important as the performance.

Continues…

Because the past is just a goodbye

Blake Andrews at Blue Sky gallery

I’ve known about Blake Andrews for many years. He is a force to be reckoned with in the world of photography, particularly because of his minimally titled blog, B. Steeped in the history of and a dialog about photography, the blog is informative, but its real bite comes when Andrews applies his creative, incisive wit—sometimes so dry that how one interprets him says more about the person reading than what he writes—that makes it a must-read. Those who make the mistake of taking him at face value are said to start bleeding a good 24 hours later from the place his scalpel almost imperceptibly pierced their skin.

But we’re here to talk about his exhibit of photographs, specifically his exhibit, Pictures of a gone world at Blue Sky Gallery. All framed by sprocket holes (not visible in the reproductions here), the 28, black and white, analog photographs carefully attend to a specific aesthetic and technical history of his craft. The subject matter is mostly his wife and kids, which some might consider a bit of a throwback. But the images illustrate the title for the exhibit, “Pictures of a gone world,” which, the exhibit’s PR informs us, is also the title of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s first book of poems.

“Gone?” If I were of a literal bent, I’d see no pending doom in these photographs. (Well, maybe in one photo, but we’ll get to that in a bit.) Quite the contrary: I see joy, even in the most chaotic of moments portrayed in these images, and a lot of fun being had.

Emmett (2013)/Blake Andrews

Emmett (2013)/Blake Andrews

Oh! “Gone!” Like in “Gone, Daddy, gone,” as in “far out,” taking things to a new level, or being unconstrained. It is a vernacular older than Andrews; another time lost; still, albeit anachronistic, applicable for this exhibit.

Continues…

News & Notes: Good news for Cappella Romana, OBT and human understanding

Cappella Romana is off to DC after all, OBT hires a new school leader, Blue Sky lecture added

Nothing but good news, rainbows and sunshine today on News & Notes! (We’re saving the bad stuff for later in the week, when we’re better able to handle it…)

The government shutdown ended just in time to save Cappella Romana’s trip to Washington, D.C, to sing at the National Gallery of Art with a stop in Richmond the day before to perform at the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

Icon of the archangel Michael (detail), first half 14th century, tempera and gold. Athens, Byzantine and Christian Museum

Icon of the archangel Michael (detail), first half 14th century, tempera and gold. Athens, Byzantine and Christian Museum

The National Gallery was closed by the shutdown along with its exhibit “Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections,” which was to have opened on March 6. Now, both Byzantine art and its choral tradition are back on the docket, and Cappella Romana, which had almost decided to back out of the commitment because of the uncertainty around the event, will be airborne soon, executive director Mark Powell said.

The chorus will sing October 26 in Richmond and the 27th in the high-profile National Gallery’s music series. They’ll be singing a wide-ranging program starting with ancient Byzantine chant, its entanglements with the Crusades and Venetian empire, including polyphonic music from Crete, and then to 20th century expressions of the tradition.

Cappella Romana will also perform in Los Angeles when the exhibition moves to the Getty, April 9-August 25, 2014.

***

Oregon Ballet Theatre has found a replacement for Damara Bennett to lead its well-regarded ballet school. He’s Anthony T. Jones, who has spent time at Pacific Northwest Ballet, where he was a soloist from 1990-96, and who, like artistic director Kevin Irving, knows his way around the choreography of Balanchine, having studied at the School of American Ballet, the school of New York City Ballet, Balanchine’s home company. Since James Canfield and Haydee Guierrez through Christopher Stowell and Bennet, the artistic director and the head of the ballet school at OBT have been on the same aesthetic page. The Jones-Irving pairing makes similar sense.

Jones has been teaching dance in Dresden, Germany, most recently, according to the OBT press release, and he’s had extensive experience as artistic director of the Huntington Dance Centre in New York and the Ridgefield Civic Ballet and Conservatory of Dance in Connecticut, since ending his dancing career.

***

Philip Glass's face gets a weave./Courtesy Blue Sky Gallery

Philip Glass’s face gets a weave./Courtesy Blue Sky Gallery

How did photographer Chuck Close print his photographs of famous artists on those textiles in his “Tapestries” show at Blue Sky Gallery? For some of us, “magic,” may be enough, but others demand an answer. The process involves detailed digital scanning and Jacquard looms and a company called Magnolia Editions, but add that up and it still spells “magic” to me.

So to make it all clear, Blue Sky has just announced a free lecture by Shelley Socolofsky, who teaches at the Oregon College of Art & Craft and has worked with the translation of artist images into textiles. That work has included study of the Jacquard looms in question, so even Luddites have a shot at understanding what’s going on. (The Luddites were actually weavers themselves, so of course they’d understand!)

She’ll be talking at 6 pm, Thursday, Oct. 24, at Blue Sky, 122 NW 8th Ave., on the North Park Blocks.

****

I’ve been following Pink Martini’s European Vacation, I mean Tour, via Facebook, and noted that the group played in London this weekend, converting the skeptical London critic of the Telegraph, Helen Brown, to their cause.

“It’s fitting that the evening’s biggest cheers are for an elderly Turkish audience member who dances alone at the foot of the stage, shaking her white hair and becardiganed bosom in time with Storm Large and singing along to the Turkish folk song Uska Dara. As we leave, balloons descend on the crowd and we feel happy as children. International children, mind. The balloon I take home for my kids reads: Get Glücklich!”

 
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