Stephen Hayes

Profiles & Conversations 2017

From poets to painters to dancers to actors to musicians, 21 tales from ArtsWatch on the people who make the art and why they do it

Art is a whole lot of things, but at its core it’s about people, and how they see life, and how they make a life, and how they get along or struggle with the mysteries of existence. That includes, of course, the artists themselves, whose stories and skills are central to the premise. In 2017 ArtsWatch’s writers have sat down with a lot of artists – painters, actors, dancers and choreographers, poets, music-makers – and listened as they spun out their tales.

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Here are 21 stories from 2017 about Oregon artists and artists who’ve come here to do their work:



Erik Skinner. Photo: Michael Shay

Eric Skinner’s happy landing

Jan. 18: “On the afternoon that Snowpocalypse struck Portland, Eric Skinner walked into the lobby at BodyVox Dance Center after a morning in the studio and settled easily onto one of the long couches in the corner. As always he looked trim and taut: small but strong and tough, with a body fat index down somewhere around absolute zero. If anyone looks like a dancer, Skinner does. Even in repose he seems all about movement: you get the sense he might spring up suddenly like a Jumping Jack on those long lean muscles and bounce somewhere, anywhere, just for the sake of bouncing.” In January, after 30 years on Portland stages, Skinner was getting ready to retire from BodyVox – but not from dance, he told Bob Hicks.



Les Watanabe in ‘Sojourn’ by Donald McKayle, Inner City Repertory Company. Photographed by Martha Swope in New York. 1972. Photo courtesy of Les Watanabe

Les Watanabe on Alvin Ailey, Lar Lubovich, Donald McKayle and his life in dance

Jan. 20: In a wide-ranging Q&A interview, Jamuna Chiarini hears a lot of modern-dance history from Watanabe, who was in the thick of it and now teaches at Western Oregon University:

“During Alvin Ailey’s CBS rehearsals, Lar Lubovitch was teaching in the next studio. I ran into him at the drinking fountain. While living in L.A., I had read articles about him in Dance Magazine. So while he was stooped over drinking, I exclaimed, ‘Lar Lubovitch! I’ve read all about you!’

“At that point he stood up facing me wiping his mouth and looking incredulous like, ‘Who is this guy?’ I then asked, ‘Do you ever have auditions? I would love to dance with you.’

“’Are you dancing now?’ he asked.

“’Yes, with Alvin Ailey next door, but it is only for five weeks.’

“’Where do you take class?’ Lar asked. ‘At Maggie Black’s,’ I answered. ‘Good. Let’s meet at her first class. Then you can rush back to rehearsal. See you next week.’”


A conversation with painter Stephen Hayes

Since 2015, Stephen Hayes has painted the mundane sites of horrific tragedies

Tad Savinar, writing in the catalog for Stephen Hayes’s 2013 retrospective at the Hoffman Gallery at Lewis & Clark College, said, “I believe good artists are good scientists, constantly searching and testing in order to refine and express their pursuits.” Over the past three decades Hayes has moved his painting from a controlled, uniform touch to wildly brushed, smudged, scraped and daubed compositions as free as improvisational jazz. His recent work focuses on seemingly mundane scenes, but locations of horrific tragedy.

A new group of Stephen Hayes paintings is at Elizabeth Leach Gallery from October 5-28.

So how long have you been a painter?

That’s kind of a trick question. It’s interesting you ask that question because I’m currently writing a fellowship proposal, and in there I wrote that when I graduated from grad school and went off on my journey to make work, I was not a painter, so I recognize that I was wasn’t a painter coming out of school.

What did you think you were?

Somebody who got his MFA. I focused on drawing primarily. I did painting, but then I spent a couple years in Cyprus trudging the hills and painting en plein air. I learned a lot about what it was to make a painting. I traversed a whole bunch of sort of hackneyed ground, but also discovered what the material was, how much I felt connected to it, how much I didn’t know about it. That was 1980 to ’84. I was not really thinking of myself as a painter, but I was trying to learn something about painting.


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/

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

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?


Stephen Hayes: Keeping painting new

Painter Stephen Hayes show at Elizabeth Leach Gallery points in a very particular direction

Just over 40 years ago Artforum magazine published a “special painting issue.” Painting was in trouble, losing status as a vehicle for the “avant-garde” as it had been from the time of Impressionism (a hundred years earlier), through Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and Color Field Painting. In the magazine was “Painters Reply…,” an article in which more than a dozen artists gave responses to a short questionnaire. The intro to the questionnaire began, “ARTFORUM wishes to ask you, as a painter, what you consider to be the prospects of painting in this decade. It appears that painting has ceased to be the dominant artistic medium at the moment.”

Today there is no “dominant artistic medium at the moment,” and the concept of “avant-garde” is not an issue. As Buffie Johnson said in her reply to Artforum: “Having been proclaimed ‘dead’ more than once, the persistence of painting is remarkable.”

Stephen Hayes, "Paris, Bataclan (11.15.15)", oil on canvas, 2016, 23 x 35 inches

Stephen Hayes, “Paris, Bataclan (11.15.15)”, oil on canvas, 2016, 23 x 35 inches

If you want a great example of remarkable, persistent painting, see Stephen Hayes’s exhibition at Elizabeth Leach Gallery, which continues through May 28. 


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.


News & Notes: Future Pinter provocations, Kristy Edmunds returns, more!

Imago has scheduled a second Harold Pinter play this season, Kristy Edmunds will lead a roving band in conversation

Tomorrow, we fully intend to get back to Maguy Marin’s “Salves (Salvos)”, which created quite a stir over the weekend. And maybe we’ll even take another jaunt to Lisa D’Amour’s “Detroit,” because suddenly the one informs the other. We’re so fond of ripping the scab off the Body Aesthetic to re-explore previous wounds!

Today we will start for Provocations Future, however.

Anne Sorce and Kyle Delamarter in Imago's "Beaux Arts Club"/Jerry Mouawad

Anne Sorce and Kyle Delamarter in Imago’s “Beaux Arts Club”/Jerry Mouawad

Jerry Mouawad has decided to double up on his Harold Pinter this season. Previously slated to direct Pinter’s dark classic “The Caretaker” (OK, “dark classic” describes just about ALL Pinter’s work), with Allen Nause as the homeless tramp Davies and Todd Van Voris as the man who invites him home, Mouawad has decided to bring the one-act “The Lover” to the Imago Theatre stage, as well. Anne Sorce and Jeffrey Gilpin star.

The Nause/Van Voris combination was already a highlight of the season. Nause, who recently stepped down as artistic director at Artists Repertory Theatre and is among the best actors in the history of Portland stage, starred opposite William Hurt in Pinter’s “No Man Land” two years ago, a production that stirs debate any time it comes up because of Hurt’s radical take on Spooner (or “insane take,” depending on which side you’re on). Van Voris, who has worked illustriously with Nause at Artists Rep, played in Mouawad’s previous Imago encounter with Pinter, “Betrayal.”

Allen Nause, left, with William Hurt in "No Man's Land" at Artists Repertory Theatre/Owen Cary

Allen Nause, left, with William Hurt in “No Man’s Land” at Artists Repertory Theatre/Owen Cary

I haven’t seen a production of “The Lover” in Portland, and Sorce’s comic predilections might signal that’s the direction Mouawad will go with it, though it can also play as a drama. “The Lover” plays for nine shows only, opening on December 5. “The Caretaker” opens on Feb. 27. To purchase tickets call Imago Box Office at 503-231-9581 or Ticketswest at 503-224-8499 or online at Or email


Kristy Edmunds, who changed the face of Portland arts by founding the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, will be back in town from her post as executive and artistic director of the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA on Sunday to moderate a discussion with artists Stephen Hayes and Fernanda D’Agostino about their respective exhibitions.

The twist is that these conversations will start at 2:00 pm at The Art Gym at Marylhurst University, where D’Agostino’s installation, “The Method of Loci,” is on display. Then everyone will pack up and move to Lewis & Clark College’s Hoffman Gallery, where Hayes’s deeply engaging “Figure/Ground: A Thirty Year Retrospective” is hanging from the walls, and where the conversation will pick up at 3:30 pm.

Stephen Hayes's retrospective, "Figure/Ground' at the Hoffman Gallery.

Stephen Hayes, “Film Still,” monograph, in “Figure/Ground’ at the Hoffman Gallery.

The conversations are free, but an RSVP is requested at or 503-768-7687. For more information, contact The Art Gym or the Hoffman Gallery.


Computer analysis suggests Shakespeare had a hand in three collaborative plays, the anonymous  “Arden of Faversham,” Thomas Kyd’s “The Spanish Tragedy” and the anonymous “Mucedorus” all of which were performed by his London acting company. The three will now be included in a major edition of Shakespeare’s collaborative plays.


The ‘smart’ business guys on the NY City Opera board pretty much killed it by raiding the endowment, the New York Times reported.


This is the 50th anniversary of John Rechy’s “City of Night,” a first novel of uncommon craftsmanship and one with an uncommon protagonist, a gay hustler in New York City who resembled Rechy himself. Charles Casillo celebrates the novel in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Oregon ArtsWatch Archives