Katherine Bradford

ArtsWatch Weekly: Triffle on a cloud, a lobster in the tank

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

Carol Triffle is Portland’s most prominent stage absurdist, a quiet comic renegade who makes a virtue of never connecting the dots. Her theater is whimsical, outrageous, so ordinary that it defies the ordinary, stretching it into cosmic pretzel shapes. It’s an anti-theater, almost, bopping narrative on the nose and then ducking around the corner to put on clown makeup and reappear as something utterly different, yet somehow also just the same. At its worst, it falls apart. At its best, it feels a bit like watching Lucille Ball or Danny Kaye caught inside a spinning clothes dryer and howling to get out. Head-scratching occurs at a Triffle show, and the audience can be divided between those who adore the effect and those who simply scratch their heads.

Source, Fagan, Hale, on a sofa, on a cloud, in a funk. Imago Theatre photo.

Sorce, Fagan, Hale, on a sofa, on a cloud, in a funk. Imago Theatre photo.

Francesca, Isabella, Margarita on a Cloud, Triffle’s newest show at Imago Theatre (where she is co-founder and, with partner Jerry Mouawad, creator of the mask-and-costume phenomenon Frogz), is the story, if that’s the right word, of three sisters who feud inseparably, supporting one another through thin and thin. Margarita (Ann Sorce, an Imago vet who’s utterly internalized Triffle’s madcap expressionist style) is the one who won all the beauty contests. Francesca (Megan Skye Hale) is the one who lost all the same beauty contests. Isabella (Elizabeth Fagan), the baby, is the one who seems to have just accidentally starred in a porno film. Isabella’s boyfriend RayRay (Kyle Delamarter) and Margarita’s fella Bob the Weatherman (Sean Bowie) drop in now and again, eager, somehow, to attach to the sisterly scene.

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Katherine Bradford: We float and dream

"Katherine Bradford: Divers and Dreamers" at Adams and Ollman loves its medium

Until June 3rd, you have the chance to immerse yourself in a small, luminous set of Katherine Bradford’s acrylic paintings, Divers and Dreamers at Adams and Ollman. While Bradford is a regular at A & O, this show is the first one dedicated to her recent paintings of rough-hewn figures awash in a firmament of some kind. The bathing figure is a well-established theme of figurative painting, but Bradford’s sort of humble mysticism goes somewhere entirely different than any formal study of a body in water. From a recent review in  Art in America: Hers are salt-of-the-earth American swimmers and surfers, not fancy-pants ‘bathers.’” There is humor and a sort of ringing, distant strangeness in the atmosphere and material of these paintings.

Before you picture these paintings, you need to know about the surface. The paint is thick and layered to a degree rarely seen with acrylic. Acrylic has long been characterized by its fast drying time, its water solubility, its capacity for bright synthetic colors, and the literal plasticity of its dozens of mixing media. These qualities, compared to the alchemy of oil paint and its media, are inescapably modern: acrylic is bright, fast, synthetic, and convenient. Bradford works with acrylic in a way that takes advantage of these qualities of the medium in a way almost no one else does. Big names like Warhol, Riley, Kelly, and Lichtenstein got acrylic into museums as an almost ideally-flat medium, a spiritual middle ground between painting and photography. The surface of Bradford’s paintings reads more like a Monet.

Katherine Bradford, Three Swimmer Pool, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 21 x 24 inches/Adams and Ollman

Katherine Bradford, Three Swimmer Pool, 2016, acrylic on canvas,
21 x 24 inches/Adams and Ollman

Bradford’s colors are broken and reassembled over many layers, and they build depth and vibrance through complex relationships of transparency, texture, and accident. Her figures are immersed in this sea of material, and built up from it, with an overall effect of a magical, electrified land populated by lumpy people either enjoying a day at the beach or a spiritual ascension.

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