Ellen Goldschmidt

VizArts Monthly: December edition, signs and whispers

The arts exhibitions in Portland are full of wonders and portents, never before seen in these parts.

We have reached the threshold of the December First Thursday/First Friday matrix of arts openings. You may enter, restoreth your sanity and perhaps purchase an item or two or three for special people on your holiday list. Or you can return to the soulless clicking of online shopping! For my money (what little there is of it), I’d prefer to give those special people arts experiences (tickets, memberships, actual art, music) or the means to make them themselves (paints, instruments, dance class) than participate in the random circulation of consumer goods I know are close to obsolescence even as I fork over the cash. And that’s just a small part of the problem with them—though I’m in danger of arguing myself out of the ho-ho-ho spirit if I dive into this particular rabbit hole.

Anyway, I’m better off bundling up and hitting the galleries. Below, a few of the gallery openings that caught my eye, then a list of shows at a few institutions that you might want to see before they come tumbling down, and finally some ArtsWatch stories in the visual arts realm that are worth some attention, at least in my book and I hope in yours.

Upfor Gallery: Michelle Grabner curated last year’s Oregon Biennial at Disjecta, and she’s also an artist, deeply involved in using domestic fabrics as source materials. Anne Crumpacker also uses traditional materials and traditions, in this case bamboo and the Japanese art and crafts tradition. Does freedom await us inside the “empty” areas of those patterns and designs?

Blackfish Gallery: Ellen Goldschmidt’s new paintings explore the past, via family photo albums. “These pictures ponder the inner life of a child sensitive to her perilous environment and the lingering echoes of emotional trauma experienced in the shadows. It’s not the whole story, but it is my attempt to create, in the language of paint, a partial memoir of my emotional life.”

Ellen Goldschmidt, “Essential Male”, acrylic on board in birch frame, 23.5 x 23.5″/Blackfish Gallery

Froelick Gallery: Speaking of memories and images of the past, Micah Hearn turns to his Southern roots in his first solo show at Froelick Gallery.

Micah Hearn, “Mantle and Sink”, acrylic, oil stick on canvas /Photo Mario Gallucci

Charles A. Hartman Fine Art: For the past year, Rachel Davis has been keeping a visual notebook, a “Book of Days,” to record her responses to the tumult around us—political and environmental. She writes, “…this new US political landscape and its ripple effect around the world required its own visual language. With how rapidly events have changed from day to day, it necessitated working on something small to respond to with immediacy. The equivalent of a painted tweet.”

Rachel Davis, “May 1”, Watercolor on paper,
5″ x 5″


Somehow Wayne Coyne’s King’s Mouth has the perverse effect of showing us how capitalism ends—inside a big, shiny installation with a foam tongue to lounge on as a light show synchronized to Flaming Lips songs fills the cavity around you. Or maybe that’s just me. Coyne is the frontman for the rock band Flaming Lips, but he’s also followed other artistic pursuits. This installation, which also includes Coyne drawings completed on the road, continues at PNCA’s Center for Contemporary Art & Culture through January 6 in the 511 Gallery. PNCA’s public art spaces will be filled with lots of other cool stuff this month, too.

Wayne Coyne’s “King’s Mouth” is at PNCA, for your edification/Courtesy of PNCA

Is Cloud of Petals an invitation into a “safe” future, where roses are stripped of their thorns? Is it a warning? Or is it a strange environment that you make sense of in your own way? Maybe it depends on your mood. The second exhibition by Disjecta’s curator-in-Residence Julia Greenway is an installation by Sarah Meyohas, and we’ll let them explain:

“…the artist organized a crew of 16 men to pluck the petals off 10,000 roses. These performers selected and photographed each petal according to the artist’s stringent guidelines. The images were then uploaded to a cloud server, where they became “inputs for an artificial neural network”, an algorithm that builds, connects, and intertwines to create a system that is self-learning, rather than programmed.

Upon entering the exhibition, the viewer is lead into Disjecta’s darkened and cavernous gallery space. Headsets are suspended from the ceiling, displaying the virtual environments created from Meyohas’s network of petals. Also on view is Meyohas’s 30-minute highly saturated 16mm film, documenting and contextualizing the scope of the artist’s unique process at Bell Labs.”

The exhibition continues through January 13.

Cloud of Petals Teaser from Sarah Meyohas on Vimeo.

This is the last weekend to see Bill Will: Fun House at Lewis & Clark College’s Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art. Maybe think of it as a very large, 3-D, experiential political cartoon aimed directly at our times. “In the context of state terror and mystification, clinging to the primacy of the concept of truth can be a powerful and necessary form of resistance,” Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri argue in their analysis of the post-modern condition, Empire. Laurel Pavic reviewed Will’s show for ArtsWatch.

Bill Will, “Bloat”/Photo by Robert M. Reynolds

The show closes on December 10.

Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads is back in the state of Oregon—it last showed here in 2015, and I happened to rub a few words together about it, including these:

“So, a consideration of Ai Weiwei is going to be messy, a mixture of art, history, politics, and cold, hard cash. He’s responsible directly for some of the confusion—I’d even say it’s part of the point of what he does. But a lot of it is indirect, the world’s interpretation of Ai, how it deals with the freedom of artists (and other citizens) and entangles them in its self-defense mechanisms.”

The installation continues at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on the campus of the University of Oregon through June 24, 2018.

Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold, 2010, Bronze with gold patina, Dimensions variable. Private Collection. Images courtesy of Ai Weiwei.



Recent ArtsWatch stories with a visual arts bent that you might want to consider?

What is the artistic gaze? How is it shared? Artist friends Friderike Heuer and Henk Pander go eye to eye in the studio—he with his paintbrush, she with her camera—and produce a deep double portrait. Heuer tells the story in words and photos.

Hannah Krafcik reports on the extraordinary artists at Field of View, a program of Public Annex that places developmentally disabled artists in artist residencies in the Portland area. The story of how Public Annex came to be winds around the complex history of the State of Oregon’s treatment of this particular community.

Paul Sutinen continues his series of interviews with prominent Portland artists, this time talking with Lucinda Parker.

Sutinen: I think that Frank Stella said something to the effect that you learn more from your fellow students than from the instructor.

Parker: You learn a lot from what they do. There’s no question about it, that you learn a tremendous amount by watching people make stuff—and it’s the making of it, the stroke-by-stroke, the changing of it—that’s why you have to be in a studio. If you go by yourself to your own studio and think you’re going to learn art, the echoing chamber of your isolation make it hard for you.

What Mel Katz says is true: it takes 10 years to learn how to use a studio.

You have to learn how to get in a groove, to provide your own criticism of yourself, you have to learn how to appreciate what you’re doing, and you have to learn how to look over your shoulder and it out front at the same time.

That’s all we have time for today, I’m afraid. But the comments section is open for your suggestions for upcoming or ongoing arts events. Don’t be shy!

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!

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