Sherrie Wolf

ArtsWatch Weekly: the kindness of strangers and the skin of our teeth

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

Here it is, the middle of May, and suddenly Portland’s theater season is entering its final stretch before summer, which brings its own busy theater mini-season, indoors and out. The city’s two biggest companies open shows this weekend, both high-profile American classics and both due for a fresh look.

Flickering desire: "Streetcar" at Portland Center Stage. Photo: Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv.

Flickering desire: “Streetcar” at Portland Center Stage. Photo: Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv.

On Friday, Portland Center Stage opens its revival of Tennessee Williams’ rough, sensual, groundbreaking A Streetcar Named Desire, which in its 1947 debut featured Jessica Tandy as Blanche, Kim Hunter as Stella, and a smoldering hunk of muscle named Marlon Brando as Stanley. Center Stage has come up with a new Southern strategy, rethinking the play in a thoroughly multiracial milieu, with national players Kristen Adele as Stella, Demetrius Grosse as Stanley, and Diedrie Henry (a onetime regular at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival) as Blanche. Can we depend on the kindness of strangers?

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Painting in the long shadows of painting

Painters Sherrie Wolf and Jan Reaves take full advantage of the history of art and their painting skills

“It seems that the main focus of painting is to give pleasure,” the painter Robert Ryman said. “If someone can receive pleasure from looking at paintings, then that’s the best thing that can happen.” If you have interest in the pleasures of looking at paintings, this is a really good month.

Sherrie Wolf and Jan Reaves, showing at Laura Russo Gallery, work at opposite ends of the old false dichotomy between representational and abstract painting. Wolf paints still-lifes in a very tight realist way, and Reaves paints big bold painterly abstractions.

Sherrie Wolf, Sunflowers, 2016, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 inches

Sherrie Wolf, Sunflowers, 2016, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 inches

In a recent essay bemoaning the state of painting pedagogy that nowadays mistakes verbal critical thinking for the knowledge of painting acquired through the practice of actual painting skills, Laurie Fendrich says, “every painting exists in the long shadow of great paintings of the past.” Sherrie Wolf illustrates her shadows both by quoting the classic objects of still-life—glassware, crockery, fruits and vegetables, vases of tulips—and by incorporating images of “great paintings of the past” in her paintings of the present. The genre of still-life doesn’t have the meaning it had in its 17th century beginning. What was exotic, expensive or symbolic centuries ago in great still-life painting is now ordinary. We can buy fresh fruit at any time of the year. Glassware is cheap. Tulips used to be fantastically expensive, and the short life of flowers and insects could symbolize mortality. What once were possessions of the rich have become everyday stuff. Wolf’s paintings are about using mundane subjects richly.

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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.

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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.

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A stylish new Baroque CD from Greg Ewer and Adam LaMotte

The duet play Jean-Marie LeClair's sonatas for two violins plus a Sherrie Wolf museum show and an anti-bully play winner

For several years Greg Ewer, Oregon Symphony violinist AND driving force behind the chamber music group 45th Parallel, and Adam LaMotte of the Portland Baroque Orchestra have been working on a two-CD set of Jean-Marie LeClair’s Complete Sonatas for Two Violins. Today, they are releasing that music in high definition on PureAudio Blu-ray.

LeClair is best known for bringing Italian-level violin technique to France and for his violin compositions, which by “weaving together elements of Italian and French music, he created an entirely new compositional style. His duos influenced later composers such as Mozart, de Beriot, Viotti, and closer to our own time, Bartok and Berio,” according to publisher Sono Luminus. I happen to be listening to Ewer and LaMotte playing LeClair right now, and it’s delightful, and yes, the spirit, intelligence, and joy of Mozart, say, emerges almost immediately. It’s easy to see what attracted Ewer and LaMotte to this under-recorded Baroque music.

Ewer and LaMotte met many years ago in Houston, Texas. Here’s how Ewer described it on Facebook:

Back in the mid-1980’s in Houston, I rode the bus to middle school with a class clown by the name of Adam LaMotte. It was a rough and tumble school, so probably in the interest of self-preservation, neither one of us ever mentioned the fact…that we were students of the violin. We would only discover it upon showing up at the High School for Performing and Visual Arts with violin cases in hand, totally bewildered that this commonality had never come up in conversation.

Fast forward almost 30 years, and both of us are now living in Portland, Oregon, collaborating and performing together on almost a weekly basis. In 2001, our search for great music for two violins led us to discover the Duo Sonatas of Jean-Marie Leclair, two sets of little-known gems by this great French Baroque composer. We are proud to announce the release of a landmark recording of these 12 incredible pieces of music, available for the first time as a complete set and in high-definition on PureAudio Blu-ray. Leclair’s contribution to music history cannot be overstated, and neither can our excitement about this project! We hope you’ll be inspired to pick up a copy of our new two-CD set from Sono Luminus.

This is the sort of musical collaboration that I love—from the heart, sustained over a long period of time, beautifully played and recorded.

Speaking of Baroque, Portland painter Sherrie Wolf exhibition Baroque Sensibilities opens at the Long Beach Museum of Art in California April 3 through June 15.

Sherrie Wolf, "Still Life With Puget Sound"/Laura Russo Gallery

Sherrie Wolf, “Still Life With Puget Sound”/Laura Russo Gallery

Chloe Rust, whose play Bullies Anonymous was a finalist in Oregon Children Theatre’s Bully Project last year, did even better on the national stage: The play was named the runner-up in the national Dramatic Change: Anti-Bullying Initiative competition.

The national competition was sparked by OCT’s original idea, and artistic director Stan Foote and Michael Bobbitt (of Adventure Theatre, Baltimore) decided to try to expand it nationally. They found partners at Theatre for Young Audiences USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, and the Dramatic Change/Young Playwrights for Change. And Rust, who is an 8th grader at Lakeridge Junior High in Lake Oswego, entered.

This year, round two of the project is already under way. Six finalists were selected to work with professional playwrights Matthew B. Zrebski and Debbie Lamedman of Playwrights West to revise and craft their scripts in a workshop setting. The final scripts will be featured at a public staged reading at 5 p.m. May 11, the Winningstad Theatre, and members of OCT’s Young Professionals program will direct and perform the six plays. The six finalists in the OCT contest this year include Rust, Mariana Penaloza-Vu, Kendall Uslan, Hannah Bachman, Lizzie O’Mahony, and Pablo Reese. The winners will be announced on May 1st.

“We love this project because it gives kids a voice about issues that are real and immediate to them,” OCT Artistic Director Foote said. “Plus, it offers young writers a chance to work with professionals to hone their craft.”

 
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