marie watt

Crow’s Shadow’s art of the land

The Hallie Ford Museum's generous retrospective of 25 years at the innovative eastern Oregon print center reveals a vital sense of place

Ghost Camp, a four-piece suite of lithographs by James Lavadour from 2002, all but jumps off the wall as you wander through the generous new exhibit Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts at 25 at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem. Lavadour prints and paintings have a way of leaping like that: they have what curators and dealers like to call “wall power.”

But something else is going on in this suite, too. In that familiar Lavadour way Ghost Camp is partly abstract and partly taken from the spacious hilly land of eastern Oregon and Washington near Pendleton, where he lives. A scrawl of lines seems almost arbitrary until you look a little closer and realize they are deft intimations of shapes on the horizon or buildings breaking up the open spaces. Searing streaks of color suggest trees, red and glowing and perhaps – who knows, in a runaway fire season like this one? – on the way to being charred.

James Lavadour (Walla Walla, b. 1951), “Ghost Camp,” 2002, ed. 16, suite of four, four-color lithographs with graphite pencil on Arches 88 white paper, 34 1/4 x 43 3/4 inches overall, CSP 02-114 a, b, c, d. Photo: Dale Peterson

Oh: and, sticking up from the top right print like a towering forest snag, the jagged teeth of a giant crosscut logging blade grind relentlessly at the sky. The suite is inspired by Lavadour’s memories of a forest he used to wander as a child – a forest that’s since been clear-cut, and essentially no longer exists. The lithographs are at once an honoring of the past, a preservation of history, a documentation of a present state of mind, an act of beauty, and a lament. The more you look the more you see; the more you see the more you feel.

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Governor’s Arts Awards, revived

After a 10-year hiatus, the governor's awards return with five honorees. Plus: some highlights from September's gallery shows.

With school in session and Labor Day in the rear view mirror, Thursday is the first First Thursday of the fall season (even if autumn doesn’t officially arrive until Sept. 22), and art galleries across the city are busily installing new exhibits.

We’ll get to that. But first, some good news from the state capitol in Salem: After a 10-year hiatus that began when the state and national economies cratered, the Governor’s Arts Awards have returned. Gov. Kate Brown’s office announced Tuesday morning that the revived awards, which also coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Oregon Arts Commission, will go to two individual artists and three organizations.

Governor’s Arts Award winner Arvie Smith’s “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” (2015, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches, collection of Nancy Ogilvie) was part of his APEX retrospective exhibition at the Portland Art Museum in 2016/17.

Portland painter Arvie Smith and Yoncalla storyteller Esther Stutzman are being honored with lifetime achievement awards. Pendleton’s innovative Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, Portland Opera, and the James F. and Marion Miller Foundation are also being honored.

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Santa Fe ups the Wattage

Portland artist Marie Watt blankets the territory in Santa Fe's Northwest-tinted summer of art

SANTA FE, New Mexico – Marie Watt’s blankets march down the expanse of a large gallery at SITE Santa Fe, hanging like somebody’s spectacular wash from a row of receding clotheslines. The Portland artist, who comes from Wyoming ranchers on her father’s side and the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nation on her mother’s, holds down much of the main territory at Santa Fe’s leading home for contemporary art, and her work reaches well beyond the blankets themselves. Cut apart and reimagined, added to by dozens of hands, pictorialized and abstracted, traditional and thoroughly contemporary at the same time, Watt’s blankets reclaim history and invent the future, subtly ravishing the eye along the way.

Marie Watt's blankets at SITE Santa Fe. Eric Swanson Photograsphy

Marie Watt’s blankets at SITE Santa Fe. Eric Swanson Photograsphy

Watt is just one of several Oregon and Pacific Northwest artists whose work is popping up prominently in this city of Southwestern art. Painter and sculptor Rick Bartow is a key part of a show of work by contemporary Native American artists at Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art through Sept. 5. Many fine Northwest pieces, from Alaska to Oregon and Northern California, are in the large exhibition Connoisseurship & Good Pie: Ted Coe and Collecting Native Art, through April 17 at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. And as the annual Santa Fe Indian Market and its new rival, IFAM, the Indigenous Fine Art Market, crowded the town with visitors over the past week, a solid sprinkling of Northwest artists were part of the mix.

Santa Fe, with its deep history and mingling of three cultures, has an art scene that is divided along Indian, Hispanic and Anglo cultural lines, but that also crosses borders in interesting and sometimes innovative ways. The museums and popular markets such as Indian, Folk Art, and Spanish work closely together: indeed, the organization that runs the Spanish Colonial Museum also runs Spanish Market, and is trying to expand the market to other cities in the Southwest.

Unlike Portland – which has one large art museum and a single smaller one, the Museum of Contemporary Craft – Santa Fe is littered with small museums, both private and public, in addition to the larger, general New Mexico Museum of Art downtown. What you don’t find in one place, you likely will in another, from the Georgia O’Keeffe to SITE to the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts to the four institutions within easy walking distance on Museum Hill: the Spanish Colonial, Wheelwright, International Folk Art, and Museum of Indian Arts and Culture.

The commercial gallery scene, meanwhile, is vibrant, with many old-liners and a new crop growing in the emerging Railyard District, where the farmers’ market also keeps things bustling, especially in summer and fall. Smallness can have its problems, in funding, collecting, and administration, but the varying sites and approaches create a sense of excitement and churn that single institutions often can’t match. What’s more, unlike other multiple-museum centers such as Los Angeles and New York, everything in Santa Fe is pretty much close to everything else. That makes museum-hopping fun.

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By Graham W. Bell

Marie Watt’s work is about community involvement. It needs it to survive, and in her small but potent retrospective at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem right now, each element speaks to a greater company of bodies than Watt’s own.

Collaborative practice, whether in collectives or as artist-and-audience social works, is gaining steam as a more regular mode of art production. Artists increasingly band together or reach out, hoping to combine minds and create something new and enticing that goes beyond the more traditional model. But what about the artists who work directly with others instead of merely involving them as audience? What are the tactics of a process-oriented artist who thrives on the participatory model? Marie Watt’s work bridges the gap between traditional methods and conceptual art practice while referencing her Native heritage, art history and the ideas of community.

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