Henk Pander

The ArtsWatch year in Visual Arts

This year the arts fought back by finding space for everyone and creating spiky work that reminded us where we are

We live in the best of times—at least measured by the profusion of visual arts in Portland and the state. The number of artists and the places they have found and created have both continued to grow. The thin infrastructure of existing institutions and galleries hasn’t been able to keep up, and so 2017 found us in the middle of a boomlet of new alternative organizations, cooperatives, groups and galleries. Many of these had a social and/or political bent to them, which makes perfect sense in this year of political tumult. The best form of resistance, both to the short-term national political condition and to the long-term drift away from democracy, is to develop new ways and platforms to share art-making, which itself can be a call to reflection and an appeal to shared experience and values. We will get out of this together, and when we do, we want to bring everyone with us.

As I wandered through the ArtsWatch visual arts stories of 2017, I was struck by two things. The first was that our resources were entirely insufficient to keep up with all that was going on. The second? The stories that our arts writers—all freelancers—created in response to what they encountered still managed to sketch an outline, an abstract, of what was going on. Hannah Krafcik, Paul Maziar and Nim Wunnan wrote about new galleries, new organizations and new artists showing in alternative locations. Paul Sutinen produced a series of interviews with some of our most decorated artists. Bob Hicks wrote compelling stories about the Portland Art Museum’s programming and the reimagining of the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education in its new Pearl District digs. And we had several one-shot reports—about an artist collective in Cuba, art made from the detritus washed ashore in Bandon, Oregon, and the back-and-forth between a model-photographer and the painter recreating her on canvas.

If you scroll through our visual arts category, you can find these and lots of other posts, most of them longer-form, all of them committed to grappling with art, artists and the culture in which they operate. The list that follows isn’t my peculiar assessment of the “best” visual arts stories of 2017. It just illustrates what I’ve been talking about, in one way or another.


ArtsWatch’s hit parade 2017

Readers' choice: From a musical fracas to rising stars to a book paradise, a look back on our most read and shared stories of the year

Here at ArtsWatch, it’s flashback time. It’s been a wild year, and the 15 stories that rose to the top level of our most-read list in 2017 aren’t the half of it, by a long shot: In this calendar year alone we’ve published more than 500 stories.

Those stories exist because of support from you and people like you. Oregon ArtsWatch is a nonprofit cultural journalism organization, and your gifts help pay for the stories we produce. It’s easy to become a member and make a donation.

Here, back for another look, is an all-star squad of stories that clicked big with our readers in the past 12 months:



Matthew Halls conducted Brahms’s ‘A German Requiem’ at the 2016 Oregon Bach Festival. Photo: Josh Green.

The Shrinking Oregon Bach Festival

In June Tom Manoff, for many years the classical music critic for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, looked at the severe drop in attendance and cutbacks in programming at the premiere Eugene music festival. He summarized: “Thinking ahead, I ask: If this year’s schedule portends the future, can OBF retain its world-class level? My answer is no.” His essay, which got more hits than any other ArtsWatch story in 2017, got under a lot of people’s skin. But it was prescient, leading to …

Bach Fest: The $90,000 solution. This followup that had the year’s second-highest number of clicks: Bob Hicks’s look at the mess behind the surprise firing of Matthew Halls as the festival’s artistic leader and the University of Oregon’s secretive response to all questions about it.


Eye to Eye

The artist/photographer Friderike Heuer poses for the painter Henk Pander. What transpires is a double portrait, a gift of being seen.

Photo essay by FRIDERIKE HEUER

It is an act of sheer defiance. It just is.

The plan to shed half of your clothes, allowing someone not your lover to peruse your scarred, dilapidated body, simply has no other explanation.

Defiance, then, of what? Rules of decorum that forbid old women from sitting naked for a painter? The public’s needs to keep substantive evidence of harsh disease forever out of sight, or else? Some urging of your timid soul that vanity and privacy should be protected? Demands of feminism not to yield to the male gaze, whatever that might be?

Artist and subject, subject and artist: the mutual gaze.

An educated guess: it is defying all of the above.

I like experiments; I always did. Not just as a psychologist researching memory, or as an artist translating my thoughts to visual image. Since early days I have perceived the world as something meant to be explored. That probing, experimental, sometimes even reckless interaction tells me who I am. The gifts of education, intellect, curiosity and extroversion made risking possible. The challenges of life in post-war Germany as well as lifelong bouts of illness made it a must.


Henk Pander’s memories of Nazi occupation

Dutch-born Henk Pander lived his early childhood in occupied Holland, an experience he has captured in his work

The painter Henk Pander was born in Haarlem, in The Netherlands, in 1937.

That meant he was three years old when the Nazi occupation of that city began in 1940 and eight, when it finally ended in 1945. The “Hunger Winter” of 1944-45 was especially bad. Food was scarce; the Nazi occupiers and their Dutch collaborators were desperate to find resources, human and otherwise, to keep the war going; it was an extremely cold winter.

That winter the Nazis came for his father, who managed to escape. But would he be able to escape the next time?

Henk Pander, "The Floor"

Henk Pander, “The Floor”
“On our street another large family was involved in the resistance. There were routine house searches. People hid between the joists under the floors. The wife pretended to be ill. I tried to make these works from a child’s point of view.”

That profound experience of occupation stayed with Pander as he grew up in Holland, training to be an artist, as his father was. A primary lesson: “The government can walk into your world without hesitation,” Pander says. When he arrived in Portland in 1965, after marrying an American and starting a family, he brought that sensitivity to the coercive power of government. And he saw that power exercised in Portland, in response to the anti-Vietnam War protests of the time. He drew, painted and caricatured that Portland, and continues the practice of capturing the world around him—animated by his classical Dutch art training—to this day. From a purely documentary viewpoint alone, that work is fascinating—among the most important contributions to our understanding of Portland, Oregon, and America that I know of—even before we start to interpret it.

What that little boy witnessed in Haarlem between 1940 and 1945 became another vector of exploration. After seeing an Anselm Kiefer mixed-media painting show in Paris in 1984, a mediation on World War II and the Holocaust, Pander filled several drawing books with his memories of the war.
And then between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s, he started painting them. I would suggest that those memories haunt much of Pander’s work, but these paintings allow us to see, feel, and experience what life under Nazi occupation was like. At the same time, they operate on a metaphorical level, too, the level of nightmare. Art historian Roger Hull calls them “among Pander’s most moving and profound accomplishments,” in the catalog essay for the Pander retrospective at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem.

Pander isn’t given to euphemism. “I again live in a Fascist period,” he says of this time. He’s not talking about Obamacare, and he’s not being metaphorical.

During the recent election, I heard the words “Nazi” and “Fascist” used more frequently than I had since my childhood, when they were used mostly to describe actual Nazis and Fascists from the recently concluded war. Mostly, the words were used loosely, I thought. Trump supporters used them, and so did Clinton supporters, neither side making a particularly coherent argument in the process, partly because the definitions of those words are contested and complicated, far more than our political conversation can handle at this perilous point. What is the proper application? I’m not a political scientist, but perhaps experiences like the ones Pander painted.

It’s possible that these paintings seem a long way from your everyday life in Portland; for some, though, they may capture the essence of it, especially if they are at Standing Rock right now. At the very least, they serve as a warning: We do not want this in Portland, in Oregon, in America, not for ourselves and not for anyone else.

Pander contributed the captions for these paintings.

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Face to Face: K.B. Dixon photographs Oregon artists

The photographer and novelist's new book and exhibition turns the camera on 32 working artists in their homes and studios

Face to Face,” novelist and photographer K.B. Dixon’s new book, features photographic profiles of thirty-two Oregon visual artists, mostly in their studios. An exhibition of the photographs opened Wednesday at Michael Parsons Fine Art in Portland, and runs through February 27. Opening reception is 1:30-3:30 p.m. Saturday, February 6. ArtsWatch’s Bob Hicks wrote the introduction to the book. We reprint it here, in slightly revised form.


Walk with photographer K.B. Dixon into the studios and homes of the thirty-two Oregon artists in Face to Face and it’s as if you’re walking into industrial zones. Which, of course, you are. These are working spaces, and working faces.

Looking at the portraits and studio shots in Dixon’s selection of photographs, I think of muscle and work and energy in repose, just itching to get back at it. Dixon’s photos aren’t tidy images of finished artwork lining pristine gallery walls. They’re backstage documents of the process itself; of the zone where ideas and industry merge and creation begins. Making art is hard physical work, an intense undertaking that involves the brain and hand and sinew and bone. Seeing these practitioners in these settings is like seeing dancers in the studio, or athletes in the weight room.

  • Sculptor Lee Kelly, sitting like a craggy farmer amid the spools and vises of his machine shop.
  • The young drawing and printmaking artist Samantha Wall, pencil in hand, bent intently and precisely over her work desk.
  • Printmaker Tom Prochaska, hair bristling like an absent-minded experiment in static electricity, framed by the gears and wheel of his press.
  • Sculptor M.J. Anderson, surrounded on the steps of her Nehalem studio by a worn broom, a giant dustpan, stacks of buckets, and heavy-duty hooks and chains.
  • Ceramic and steel artist J.D. Perkin, standing amid a welter of hoses and hand tools and a big rustic kiln, torsos and body parts and a big striped head lined neatly on shelves.
  • Painter Laura Ross-Paul, straight and sturdy, balanced between brawny paintings taller than she is.
Lee Kelly. Photo: K.B. Dixon

Lee Kelly. Photo: K.B. Dixon

Like the work of most good portrait artists, Dixon’s photographs perch somewhere between self-aware surfaces and excursions in depth. They’re collaborations, partnerships between subject and artist. The subjects know they’re being photographed, and pose for the camera, but also leave themselves open to the subtleties and secrets of what the camera finds. The results can be startlingly varied, from Sally Cleveland’s anxious gaze, to Jack Portland’s rumpled-Yoda reflectiveness, to Sherrie Wolf’s hands-on-hips declaration of independence, to the elder cool of Mel Katz, leaning back, smiling quizzically, cigarette propped jauntily in hand.


Since the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge began in January, we have seen lots of still and moving images of the roads leading up to the refuge, roadblocks, burly men with guns, protesters supporting different sides in nearby Burns, and occasional clips of the landscape around the refuge, showing how still and empty it is in winter. These images tell a very particular story, a limited one. So when I saw that long-time Portland artist Henk Pander had begun posting photographs on Facebook of his Malheur watercolors, I asked him if ArtsWatch could display a sample of them. He agreed to send us a few.

If other artists have representations of Malheur and want to share them on ArtsWatch, we’d love to show them. We think that the arts have a part to play in healing that landscape, both the literal one and the one in our minds now, after this possibly disastrous disruption of its normal patterns. And maybe it’s better to start now instead of waiting for the occupation finally to end.

Henk Pander, "River in Refuge," (2015) 40x60 inches, watercolor

Henk Pander, “River in Refuge,” (2015) 40×60 inches, watercolor

Since moving to Portland from Amsterdam in 1965, Henk Pander’s practice has included drawings, watercolors and large-scale paintings of the landscape of the American West. Some of those landscapes are nearly pristine, but many also contain signs of human habitation, usually abandoned to a slow decay. For example, Pander captured the drama around the grounding of the New Carissa oil tanker and attempts first to move it and then scuttle it. These watercolors from Malheur, though, give us a lush and lovely Malheur, with no human-inflicted scars on the landscape.

Here’s what Pander wrote in his note describing the paintings:

In the mid-1980’s my astronomer friend Doug McCarty introduced me to the intensely beautiful landscape at the Malheur Field Station, an independent educational institution located in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. I discovered that the landscape there, including the Steens Mountains and the Alvord Desert, is extraordinarily beautiful, isolated and wild, a true expression of the American West, especially from the perspective of an European immigrant.

As a landscape painter, having made watercolors in nature in the Netherlands since I was a young child, it seemed natural to continue this process in the United States, when I moved here in the 1960s. The expansiveness of the space stimulated me to do large watercolors, which reflect the scope and scale of the landscape. Over the years, I have become very familiar and friendly with the management of the Field Station. It has become a retreat for me where I can rejuvenate. The result has been that throughout the past 30 years I have made a great many spontaneous paintings there. The watercolors here are only a very small sampling of that work.

Here’s a gallery of Pander’s Malheur work.


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ArtsWatch Weekly: Dance ’til we drop. Rach around the clock.

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

THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY? That, as ArtsWatch reader and Oregon composer Jack Gabel reminds us, is the title of a 1969 Jane Fonda movie about marathon dances, those Depression-era competitions that went on and on until the prize money finally went to the last man and woman standing.

Alessandro Sciarrone’s dance FOLK-S, Will you still love me tomorrow?, which played a few nights ago at Portland’s annual TBA Festival, might not have the same tinge of desperation. But as Andrea Stolowitz writes for ArtsWatch, it’s a marathon nonetheless. And it’s dance until almost everyone drops.

"FOLK-S, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?": Dance 'til you drop. Photo: Andrea Macchio

“FOLK-S, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”: Dance ’til you drop. Photo: Andrea Macchio

“The lights bumped up,” she writes. “An actor came forward and said, ‘Tonight we will perform a dance traditional of the Tyrolean region. We will keep performing this dance until either no one of you is left in the audience or no one of us is left on stage. Anyone who leaves the theater will not be allowed back in.‘ And with that gauntlet thrown, the dance started again.”

Later, as the crowd and stage begin to thin: “They danced through heat and sweat and in twosomes and fivesomes, and sometimes alone. Audience members began to leave. And still the five danced. And you could think that so long as someone was there to watch them maybe they would dance forever. And on they danced. Until another actor left. We sat there, shocked. It was happening. We were down to four. And more audience left.” That was not, as you might surmise, the end. Still, just to reassure you: No horses were harmed in the making of this dance.

In TBA goes local, ArtsWatch’s Jamuna Chiarini slips behind the scenes for quick-hit interviews with several Portland dancers and choreographers who’ve been showing their work on the festival’s stages.

TBA continues in venues across the city through Sunday, with some visual arts exhibitions lasting until October 11.


Photo: Third Rail Repertory Theatre

Photo: Third Rail Repertory Theatre

OPENING THIS WEEKEND. Maureen Porter (above) stars as Aphra Behn, “poet, actress, spy, and one of the first professional female playwrights of the Restoration,” in Third Rail Rep’s production of Liz Duffy Adams’ comedy Or, opening Friday at Imago.

Also new on Portland stages this weekend:

A big, full-bore revival of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town at Portland Center Stage.

La Luna Nueva, Milagro’s wide-ranging festival of performance for kids ranging from First Nations storytelling to West African and taiko drumming, Mexican legends, flamenco guitar, Tahitian dance, and more.


SABINA POOLE IS ON A MISSION. It’s a good mission. You might even say, fascinating. In a nutshell, over the past year and a bit she’s visited 70 artists in their studios around Oregon, gathering photographs and interviews for a book coming out in October, Connective Conversations | Inside Oregon Art, 2011-2014. She’s begun to run excerpts – intriguing snippets, really – weekly in ArtsWatch. “My method was, I hoped, unobtrusive,” she writes. “… My role was to document the artists in their unique environment – in the lighting they were used to, in the rooms they lived and worked in, surrounded by the things they loved and cared about, even if that meant dogs and children or other unanticipated creatures.”

The series so far:

Introducing Connective Conversations. The nitty gritty on the project and Poole’s rules of engagement.

Renee Couture: A trailer with a view. A visit to the wild woods east of Roseburg, where Poole hikes uphill to her studio trailer in Peele, which “is near a place called No Fog. No kidding.”

DE May: Inside a studio, darkly. Among Poole’s notes on finally getting to see the reclusive Salem artist: “HATES daylight, only likes to be up and about in the dark – hence his darkened windows, and all the shadows. … darkness is key to his work, and ethos. Interesting relationship with goldfish.”

Renee Couture inside her trailer studio. Photo: Sabina Poole

Renee Couture inside her trailer studio. Photo: Sabina Poole


WELCOME TO ARTSWATCH WEEKLY. We’ve been sending a letter like this every Tuesday for a couple of years now to a select group of email subscribers. We’ll continue to do that, and now we’re posting it weekly on the ArtsWatch home page. In ArtsWatch Weekly, we take a look at stories we’ve covered in the previous week, give early warning of events coming up, and often head off on little arts rambles that we don’t include anywhere else. You can read this report here. Or, you can get it delivered weekly to your email inbox, and get a quick look at all the stories you might have missed (we have links galore) and the events you want to add to your calendar. It’s easy to sign up. Just click here, and leave us your name and e-address.



A choral Rach around the clock. ArtsWatch visited St. Mary’s Cathedral to hear the vitalchorus Cappella Romana perform Rachmaninoff’s immensely moving, century-old All Night Vigil: “It seemed to traverse time, reaching far back to simple lines and harmonies and recombining them in complex ways.”

Henk Pander," Observation Post," pen and ink. Courtesy of the artist.

Henk Pander,” Observation Post,” pen and ink. Courtesy of the artist.

HENK PANDER: AFTER THE APOCALYPSE. Paul Sutinen considers the Dutch-born and -trained Portland artist’s “delicious” show of recent large drawings at Nine Gallery of “apocalyptic fantasies.” He likes what he sees.

THE UNDERSTUDY: DRIVING IT HOME. Gavin Hoffman’s “antic, pacing, begging, whining, very funny stand-up comedy routine of an opening scene,” I write, is key to understanding Theresa Rebeck’s actors’  vehicle of a comedy at Artists Rep.

ONCE UPON A TIME: TRUE STORIES. Christa Morletti McIntyre discovers a whole family of personal storytelling at Alberta Abbey in Portland Story Theater’s season-opening show.

NEW MUSIC, NEW BLOOD, NEW HORIZONS. ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell looks back over several months of Oregon music news and recaps some of the scene’s biggest trends.

Rebecca Ridenour and Keith Cable in Post5's "Equivocation." Photo: Russell J Young

Rebecca Ridenour and Keith Cable in Post5’s “Equivocation.” Photo: Russell J Young

SKULDUGGERY IN HIGH PLACES. Marty Hughley speaks forthrightly of Bill Cain’s audacious comedy-drama Equivocation at Post5 Theatre: “Equivocation is a bear of a script to tackle. For Post5, a young company blessed with more pluck than resources, it counts as a remarkably ambitious choice.”

THE HOUSE ON THE WALL, THE HOUSE IN YOUR HEART. Samuel Eisen-Meyers discovers “loss, dread and revitalization” in Ritsuko Ozeki’s recent show of prints and paintings at Froelick Gallery that were prompted by Japan’s massive earthquake and tsunami of 2011 that led to the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.

STILL WAITING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS. “Gogo’s feet stink. Didi reeks of garlic. And, no, Godot never does show up. I take a deep dive into Northwest Classical’s “itchy and morosely funny” revival of Waiting for Godot at the tiny Shoebox Theater.

“I LOVE WHAT YOU’VE DONE WITH THIS ROOM!” Visiting Leslie Baum’s exhibit at Hap Gallery, Patrick Collier writes, is a bit like “how one might encounter an orchestrated suburban living room (but in a good way.)” He adds: “Despite the bright colors that abound, I read this collection of work as a subtle critique of the more comfortable constructs of making and seeing, plus a little elbow to the ribs of those self-seduced, dulled attendees of the soirée.”

Leslie Baum, an inexplicably social situation. Photo: Hap Gallery

Leslie Baum, an inexplicably social situation. Photo: Hap Gallery


And finally…

We end with a couple of requests. First, if you have friends or family members who you think would enjoy our newsletter and our cultural writing online, could you please forward this letter to them? The bigger our circle of friends, the more we can accomplish. Second, if you’re not already a member of ArtsWatch, may we ask you to please take a moment and sign on? What you give (and your donation is tax-deductible) makes it possible for us to continue and expand our reporting and commenting on our shared culture in Oregon. Thanks, and welcome! Becoming a member is easy:

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