storm tharp

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.


Portland2016: Disjecta goes gigantic

Contemporary art center Disjecta continues its biennial tradition with Portland2016, the most geographically extensive exhibit in Oregon art history

Last Saturday marked the start to Disjecta’s fourth biennial survey of local art, Portland2016, and for the first time in the contemporary art center’s history as a biennial maker, galleries and alternative spaces outside of Portland have been enlisted to host satellite shows. In total, 25 galleries are participating in Portland2016—fifteen located outside Portland—and the exhibit is being billed as the biggest art show to ever occur in the state. The aim is to expose more people to local art, exchange talent between cities, and “activate” new communities.

This time around, interdisciplinary artist, educator, and writer Michelle Grabner took the helm as curator. She comes credentialed with an extensive background in the arts, currently teaching drawing and painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and recently serving as co-curator of the 2014 Whitney Biennial, one of the art world’s most prestigious surveys of contemporary American art.


Anya Kivarkis and Mike Bray, installation, University of Oregon White Box, Portland2016/ Photo by Matt Stangel

Anya Kivarkis and Mike Bray, installation, University of Oregon White Box, Portland2016/ Photo by Matt Stangel

Filling 25 galleries with content is no small task, but Grabner rose to the challenge, selecting 34 artists and artist teams from the initial 400+ who applied—dedicating certain sites to single makers and other locations to smartly cherry-picked groups.

Other ArtsWatchers will be chipping in reports on those out-of-town shows. I’ll be talking about the local shows, a few locations at a time. Last Saturday, I hit up the opening reception at Disjecta—and over the following week, University of Oregon’s White Box in Old Town and the c3:initiative in St. Johns.


Worksound goes International in time for this month’s gallery walks

Introducing Worksound International alongside Storm Tharp, Ann Hamilton and more...

I know. We are still recovering from the whirlwind of experimental, new media, and performance art the Time-based Art Festival brought to town earlier this month, and a new round of gallery opening sounds…tiring. But many of the  October shows really aren’t to be missed. And this month features the launch of a new gallery dedicated to showcasing and connecting international artists with the local Portland scene.

Established by Modou Dieng, Jason Doizé, and Jesse Siegel, Worksound International launches its inaugural exhibition with Furniture Porn, paintings by Mark Takiguchi, Dean of Academic Affairs at the Pacific Northwest College of Arts (PNCA). Modou Dieng is an associate professor of painting and drawing at PNCA, the founder of the previous incarnation of Worksound, and a locus of Portland’s art scene.  Maybe you remember the mural that was his contribution to Disjecta’s Portland Biennial? His co-conspirators are Jason Doize, curator of FalseFront studio in Northeast Portland, and Jesse Siegel, a San Francisco artist recently transplanted to Portland.

Takiguchi_SpreadTogether they’ve restructured the Worksound space in Southeast Portland to create a platform from which local artists can access global perspectives. Mark Takiguchi’s work explores how commercial forces direct and define desire in our globalized economy. Furniture Porn uses abstraction to examine the dissonance between the presentation of interior design and the supposed happiness brought on by living in a well ordered home.

Worksound International will have the opening reception for Furniture Porn and launch its first season of exhibition programming on Friday, October 3 from 6 to 9 pm at 820 Alder St. Portland, OR. Furniture Porn: Paintings by Mark Takiguichi will be on display from October 3 through November 23. Hours: Friday and Saturday from 2 to 6pm, and Sunday from 1 to 4pm.


Victorian Antler Dance, 2014, Gouache, acrylic, pastel and colored pencil on paper

Victorian Antler Dance, 2014, Gouache, acrylic, pastel and colored pencil on paper

Charles A Hartman Fine Art – The newest body of work by Anna Fidler, A Dream within a Dream, features supernatural landscapes host to silhouetted figures performing ambiguous rituals. Inspired by the horror-mystery film Picnic at Hanging Rock, local scenery, and Gothic poetry, these works explore transformation through a topographic style of working on paper. Fidler’s paintings celebrate the euphoric, rebellious, and mythical power of ritual and landscape.



Foreigner, 2013, acrylic on panel.

Foreigner, 2013, acrylic on panel.






Upfor Gallery  – While I’m all for art off the beaten track now and then, the placement of Ralph Pugay’s contribution to Disjecta’s Portland2014: A Biennial of Contemporary Art at the corner of Southeast  Grand and Morrison made it difficult to appreciate the disquieting humor Pugay is known for: Viewers risked injury at the busy intersection. Which is why I’m all the more excited his first solo exhibition at Upfor, Critter, will include new acrylics of absurd narratives in which the mundane and the fantastical converge.


Needle in the Timestack, 2014 paperback book slices, wood, bookbinder's adhesive

Needle in the Timestack, 2014
paperback book slices, wood, bookbinder’s adhesive

Elizabeth Leach Gallery – In what we can only hope will become an annual event, Ann Hamilton is once again being exhibited in Portland. The show includes works originally commissioned to be a part of a 2009 installation for the Guggenheim Museum in NY. Book Weights is in conjunction with the Henry Art Gallery’s exhibition, Ann Hamilton: the common SENSE which will be on view at the Seattle gallery October 11, 2014 – April 26, 2015.


Eugène, 2014, oil on panel

Eugène, 2014, oil on panel





PDX Contemporary Art – Tiger is an exhibition of Storm Tharp’s painting with an emphasis on portraiture. Despite including an investigation of the history of painting and the historical debate over various theories of painting, Tharp’s work is accessible in that it is both figural and abstract and references such well-known artists as Eugene Delacroix, Lucian Freud, and Picasso. Central to his work is “the development of character and the human endeavor.”


HAP Gallery Special Edition: Pavo et Mus musculus, 2014 C-print, series of 30.

HAP Gallery Special Edition: Pavo et Mus musculus, 2014, C-print, series of 30.





Hap Gallery – Creatio is an installation designed specifically for Hap by artist Wendy Given, who recently designed a piece for the Portland Building Installation Space. Given’s practice is guided by her interest in natural philosophy, history, folklore, myth and magic. Through photography, drawing, sculpture, and installation, Given investigates multicultural creation mythology through current interpretations of archetypal symbolism to reflect on modern culture’s mode of assimilating and processing myth.


Finally, here are the links to two great maps of the many galleries and art institutions of Portland that have great shows beyond the scope of this humble guide:

Portland Art Dealers Association Galleries and Alliance Members

Duplex Collective’s Gallery Guide

Don’t forget to mention the shows you’re looking forward to below in the comments!

What is Practice Based Criticism, by Max Winter begins:

I have been looking at a certain cup for many days
The cup has revealed little of itself, in fact nothing
The cup cannot be blamed, I have asked nothing of it
If asked myself, then, I could say little about the cup
It is white, it is large, yesterday it contained, today nothing
It is not animate, it moves when I move it
It is mine, no one owned it before me,
and I will not relinquish it until it is broken
All I can say of the cup is what I have inscribed upon it
in my self-serving yet also cup-serving manner…

I recently attended a dinner Storm Tharp and Sarah Miller Meigs hosted at the Lumber Room in conjunction with Reader on a Black Background, an exhibition curated by Tharp from the collection of Miller Meigs. The conversation at dinner, spurred by an essay, “Equivalence,” by Tharp was meant to get at the question of when you strip everything else away—what you know, what you think you’re supposed to think when you look at art, what’s left? So Winter’s musing on looking and reacting that I stumbled upon was very timely.


Storm Tharp. The Decorator, 2010 ink, gouache, colored pencil, charcoal and gold leaf on paper 57.5" x 85". image via


“When you look at the art object — what do you recognize? What does it say? Or rather, what do you say to yourself? Can you explain what you say to yourself? Are there words?”

Storm Tharp, “Equivalence”

I think I may use this metaphor too often. But maybe only in my own head. I imagine one of those faceted spheres, the crystal prism that hangs from the rearview mirror. It does two things. One, it fractures light that enters it into the thousand tiny rainbows it brightly projects like a disco ball. And, if you look closely into it, you can see little aspects of what it sees, the kaleidoscope of the real.

This fracturing mirrors the individual nature of the experience of art. But I want you to think of the light source. Simply, very simply, the light that enters the crystal mind is the retinal information about the work the viewer sees. But you know and I know it’s not that simple. Rather the light is the seen, the light is the web of things we have felt and known and think about those things. All of it enters the prism and is fractured into a million rainbows. My job then as well as my way of seeing and experiencing art is to capture some of those rainbows and put them in words. For me, writing is a way of thinking through. It is a way of looking, understanding, making meaning. I will write the retinal then cross my mind’s eye and see again allowing in all of the associations and questions that arise, the little aspects of the real.

One thing I will note about the cup
is that it acts upon you – MW

Storm asked what we recognize when we look at art. It’s only by checking what we see against what we’ve seen or know that we can recognize. And he asked, “What does it say?” And I suspect that what he wanted to get at is what does it say when one quiets one’s mind and allows oneself to see in an unmediated fashion.  But that’s just the beginning.

 It is almost as if you had a “thing” for the cup,
as if you didn’t feel quite yourself in its presence
Which is acceptable, in the main
because what we learn through talking about the cup, through writing about it,
through living with the cup in its exquisite plainness,
is that all things said about it are all right,
fine for now, fine perhaps for eternity
provided the right readers are awake – MW



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