Evertt Beidler performs his sculptures. His “Moves Manager” is a custom walking machine. Wearing a suit and tie, Beidler is strapped into the machine, and as it rolls forward, it moves his arms and legs in a manner that imitates walking. In a video document of the performance, the straight-faced Beidler presents a melancholy picture of the company man living the regimented life, making all the right moves and getting (almost) nowhere. In “The Driven Driver,” Beidler, suspended in a harness above a trailer, runs on a treadmill as a truck tows the trailer down a country road. Beidler’s works exist as the objects themselves, as performances, and as short videos that beautifully document those performances.
It wasn’t always this way. Beidler had reached a point in his practice where he emphasized technical skills, making work that, “removed the artist’s hand so the viewer couldn’t tell how it was made,” says Beidler. The object, with nary a mark of its maker’s hand, “just sat there.” According to Beidler, the process became unenjoyable and he soon realized he wouldn’t have a career in art if he continued to do things this way. At the same time, he read Robin Collingwood’s Principles of Art, and was inspired by the notion that art had to do with emotion. Previously, he’d focused on form and technique. This new way of thinking became a point of re-entry for Beidler. Art was fun again. “I still obsess over the way it is made, but function had to come before image. That was very liberating for me.”
Beidler will use the fellowship opportunity to build infrastructure. “The fellowship will permanently impact my work, allowing me to do things I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do.”
Mike Bray addresses the artifice of film and the spectacle of rock and roll performance via works in still images, short video loops, and sculptural objects, sometimes of epic proportions. Bray’s “Black Glass” was a full-size sculptural recreation of the stage setup for The Rolling Stones’ performance at the Altamont Free Concert. But as the spectacle at that concert shifted from what was happening on the stage to what was happening in the audience where a Hell’s Angel “security guard” stabbed an audience member, Bray has created a mirror image of every object on the stage--the stacks, the drums, everything—in black-painted wood. Bray has in fact made a whole body of work addressing “Gimme Shelter,” the film documenting the Stones at Altamont
including “Lead and Glass,” a haunting four-panel photo document of “Black Glass” where each panel is 6’ high.
The Eugene-based Bray has shown nationally and is represented by Fourteen30 Contemporary in Portland. This year Sienna Art Gallery presents his Collaborative solo exhibition at Pulse Art Fair in New York. Bray also is part of the collective, Ditch Projects, in Springfield, Oregon which presents a compellingprogram of contemporary art in rural Oregon.
“This award could not have come at a better time for me,” says Bray. “My last project went over budget and exhausted my studio budget for the year in about six weeks. I was prepared to consider the rest of the year a research period, but I am much more excited to get in the studio and get to work.” Bray is working on a project about the depiction of jewelry in film with his wife, Anya Kivarkis, who is a conceptual jeweler. At the same time he’s working on a body of work on the lens Stanley Kubrick developed for Barry Lyndon.
“I’m about making things, not the image or pure expression,” says sculptor, Karl Burkheimer. Burkheimer thinks of the large-scale sculptures he builds primarily of wood as being the “residue of the process” of their making. That may be, but to say as much might be misleading, drastically understating the impact of Burkheimer’s impeccably crafted works whose aesthetic is always elegantly resolved. Most recently, this “residue” was “In Site,” a nearly room-filling platform in the expansive space of North Portland’s Disjecta that sloped gently upward and had a large circular hold in its center. Burkheimer says he asks, “What does the space need?” not, “What am I expressing?” By building at that scale in that space Burkheimer challenged the viewer to touch the art, there was almost no other option as it both offered little space around its exterior and a welcoming ramp toward the front entrance of the gallery. Each viewer had to reconsider her relationship to sculpture and how she typically viewed art. “I thought about the object in the museum,” Burkheimer says. “Could you imagine yourself in it? You might want to explore it through touch, to activate it, but the guard won’t let you.” It’s rare, let’s admit, to experience a work of art while you are standing on top of it. His regular consideration of the body in space speaks to the fact that he began his career as an architecture student (who worked his way through school in construction jobs).
Burkheimer’s work has been exhibited widely, including at the Museum of Contemporary Craft. He has for many years been the head of the Wood Department at the Oregon College of Art and Craft, and he’s currently teaching in the Applied Craft and Design MFA program that is offered jointly by OCAC and Pacific Northwest College of Art.
“As a teacher I regularly push my students to reach beyond their limits. So I have to walk the talk,” Burkheimer says. “It keeps me honest.” Burkheimer will have an exhibition at the White Box Gallery in Portland in October 2012 that extends the work he began with “In Site” at Disjecta.
For her solo exhibition, The Rekindling, at Nine Gallery in January 2011, Nan Curtis sat at a work table surrounded by plastic bins of stuff. There was a box of old purses, thimbles, and antique lace. “I brought all of my stuff and assumed I'd be building more stuff out of my stuff,” Curtis says. “People asked, actually Joan Shipley was the first to ask, can I bring my stuff?” Curtis decided to invite patrons to bring her their personal collections and commission her to “rekindle” the collection as a work of art. During the month-long exhibition more and more works were commissioned, each patron filling out a form with questions including whether the collection could be altered, but having no say in what the work might be. One of the resulting works, “Untitled (LACE)” is a photo of the artist completely wrapped from head to toe in the precious antique lace. Fourteen patrons commissioned works. Curtis is exploring both making an exhibition and a publication of the work.
Curtis’ sculptural works about social interaction have often addressed her personal history in an oblique way. For example, “Chair Fort” is four dining room chairs roped together facing away from each other creating a hiding spot…or a void in the center of them. “I like personal work,” Curtis says, “but I don't want to be just about Nan. That's where I cull stuff from, but that's not where it resides.” The Rekindling, then, represents a new challenge, working with someone else’s personal history as it is located in things. “These new works, they don't want to refer back, but they're definitely personal,” Curtis says.
Nan Curtis has taught at Pacific Northwest College of Art for 16 years. She was the Feldman Gallery + Project Space director and curator at PNCA from 2000–2006, as well as chair of the sculpture department during the same period. Curtis was recently awarded the 20th Annual Bonnie Bronson Fellowship Award and a Creative Capital grant. She’ll use the resources of the fellowship to rebuild her website and complete the Rekindling commissions.
Anna Fidler works big. She made a splash with a massive show of works entitled The Game at Disjecta where the scale and ambition of the unusual works matched their subject matter: portraits and raw action shots of the professional basketball players of the Portland Trail Blazers. “Oden Dunking” was approximately 8 feet by 6 feet. And she works in unusual ways, layering paper forms like topographical maps, tracing textural lines, allowing bleeding washes. The works are rewarding from far off as familiar pop images; complex and almost confounding close up, as the image devolves into the gestures that make it.
Fidler is preparing a new body of work that will be exhibited at the Portland Art Museum as part of its APEX series that offers solo exhibitions to mid-career regional artists. “Vampires of Oregon” envisions notable 19th and 20th century Oregonians as vampires. Fidler writes, “Energy has been the overarching theme in my work for the past ten years...photosynthesis, electricitybinaural rhythm patterns and their relationship to lucid dreams.” In the case of the vampires, she focuses on the energy exchange in the “transference of the life essence from one being to another.” At the same time, she's interested in the romanticism associated with the legend of the vampires and the repopularization (yet again) of the vampire legion.
Fidler regularly shows nationally and was included in the 2006 Oregon Biennial at the Portland Art Museum. She's currently at work on large-scale portraits of female rock icons including Stevie Nicks and Joan Jett.
Erik Geschke's most recent work is a 2V geodesic dome at the scale (4'x 8') of the climbing structure at my elementary school but constructed of what appear to be bleached human femurs. “Untitled (Social Engineering)” is a blunt reminder that the utopian hopes of visionaries like Buckminster Fuller coincided with man's increased capacity for war and atrocity throughout the 20th century. This theme of the playful meeting the dark side recurs in Geschke's work. The deconstructed Big Bird in “Vanitas” (flocked head on one pedestal, a pile of yellow feathers on another) comes to mind. Fragments of the human body also recur, but in absurd ways. Two highly realistic hands emerge from the sleeve cuffs of a double-ended arm, the sculpture and its mate, a double-ended leg, make up the work “Latitude and Longitude.”
“Humor is always an important part of my work,” Geschke says. “I like inviting the viewer in with playful elements to get at some things that might be more unsettling.”
Geschke's work has been exhibited internationally, notably at the Hammer Museum of Art, The Navy Pier in Chicago, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, the Center on Contemporary Art, and The Tacoma Art Museum. He was awarded a Betty Bowen Special Recognition Award, the Seattle Artists Award, and has received awards from the Jerome Foundation, College Art Association, and others.
The fellowship will help Geschke build work for an upcoming solo show at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder in September and the Museum of Fine Arts at Florida State University. His work was included in the Portland2012 Biennial at Disjecta.
“My privilege as an artist is that I get to research things, to sit around and think about things,” Brian Gillis says. “I make art under the auspices of wondering about a question.” In the process of wondering and researching, Gillis makes sculptural objects and installations that function as both archive and mine. “My overarching project,” Gillis says, “is that of a storyteller or historian who works without a lens or agenda.”
In a way, his practice recreates for the viewer the experience he had as an 18 year old, reading Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States for the first time. This new information knocked his world sideways. But, as Gillis points out, “Objects can do things words can’t do.” And he uses objects to present information in a way that is, “accessible and democratizing.”
Many times, Gillis' installations include familiar, functioning, readymade objects like the full reprographic center in “Disobedience, Abstraction, and the Opposable Thumb” or a functioning ATM in “You Deserve More,” which produced an artist's edition as a receipt. “You Deserve More” saw Gillis installing a cell phone tower, roof trusses, and other ready-mades from companies that are divisions of Halliburton in a roofless former ice house in Arizona.
“My installations, in a way, take advantage of the clinical space where someone comes to understand things through metaphor,” says Gillis. Gillis has shown widely throughout the United States and this year will have solo exhibitions at CUE Art Foundation in New York and at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Laura Hughes makes work about light and space and the perception of the two in relationship to each other and to the viewer. Her subtle, site-responsive installations play off the way light acts in a certain space; she creates the appearance of shadow or reflection or amplifies the play of light with the rainbow effects of holo-sheen adhesive vinyl. Often naturally occurring light in a space is used to co-create her work or play against it as with “Untitled (Light Beams)” where the sunlight coming in through large paneled windows created white polygons on the floor that played with the rainbow hued polygons Hughes had applied to wall and floor that captured the shapes that light from the windows made at one moment during the day. Without artificially static light of the typical white box gallery space, Hughes was able to create a work that was different at every time of day, her minimal intervention in the space drawing attention to the temporal light-drawing of everyday sunlight.
Hughes believes that “perception is not simply a question of vision but involves the whole body” and so challenges “distinctions between artwork, viewer, and the surrounding environment so that the viewer's physical presence plays a crucial role in how the work unfolds.” This was never more the case than with “The Span of an Instant” which presented as faint light cast on the dark walls of Appendix Project Space. It appeared that the glow of the streetlight was casting shadows of the nearby trees onto the walls...until the viewer stepped in front of the wall...and cast no shadow, as if the viewer's presence had been erased.
Hughes, who won the MFA Thesis Award in 2010 at PNCA, was nominated for the Brink Award and was curated into the 10th Northwest Biennial at the Tacoma Art Museum.
Peter Johnson creates what look like industrial ready-mades—vaguely familiar as if they are giant parts of engines or turbines—and he makes them of the traditional craft material of clay. His latest project, in fact, involves using 2,000 pounds of clay to create facsimiles of the grapples that are used to pick up scrap metal. He'll fabricate as many of the grapple forms as that amount of clay will allow for “A Ton of Grapples.”
This meeting of tradition and industry is everywhere in evidence in Eastern Oregon where Johnson's forms have been inspired by the neglected or abandoned and rusting equipment he saw at former lumber mills or on farms. In a way, he is an archeologist of the future.
“For the last seven years I have been dealing with two things: artifact and invention,” says Johnson. “I'm interested in the historical the archeological, in how materials are connected to time.”
His process, too, marries contemporary technology with traditional technique as he first models his clay forms in computer-aided design programs, creating patterns and jigs to aid in their making.
Johnson, who has exhibited widely, including shows at Australian National University and KIT in Calgary, will be part of the NCECA Emerging Artist Exhibition in April 2012.
Donald Morgan's sculptures are aestheticized versions of familiar objects one might find in the natural world in the Pacific Northwest. Objects like logs, hides, shells, ferns, pine cones are refined and filtered through Morgan’s process and finely honed craft. This has the effect of capturing the minimal essence of the thing, but often in a humorous way.
So a log might be a hexagonal tube, made of wood like the log of which it is an abstraction, but clad in masonite. Or, as in “Gentleman Farmer”, a tiny mushroom on a cowpie may be cast in aluminum, perched on a fabricated “log” which is displayed on a wood box. A “Hat Rack” might hold two international orange hats…and a wasps’ nest. “Snake in a Wood Pile” is a cast metal snake in a wooden cylinder that is crafted of a combination of plywood and an offcut of a log.
Morgan says he thinks of these objects as artifacts from trips to the wilderness that Morgan has taken, imagined, or drawn from fiction. Think Sometimes a Great Notion, for example.
Morgan, who teaches at the University of Oregon and is part of the artist collective and presenting organization Ditch Projects has had work in the Portland2010 Biennial and is represented by Fourteen30 Contemporary. Morgan says, “The fellowship will allow me to realize a large body of work made up of inter-related prints, painting, sculpture, and furniture based works, all thematically organized around what I can best describe as an imaginary nightmare about a Bauhaus-era art professor's office. The pieces have been taking shape in my sketchbook for over a year now and are inspired by Claes Oldenburg's famous Bedroom Suite as well as Bauhaus didactic teaching objects, such as three-dimensional color wheels.”
A weed growing through the cracks in asphalt before a derelict wooden building in Ryan Pierce's 2010 painting “Gila Bend” offers a microcosm of the artist's project. His vivid paintings have often depicted a dystopic future wherein wrecked structures of the built world are recolonized by flora and fauna.
Pierce's work has been shown internationally, and he has an upcoming exhibition at Elizabeth Leach Gallery in Portland in May. Pierce says, “My next solo exhibition, New World Atlas of Weeds and Rags, will be new paintings inspired by the resilience of the natural world. This body of work is formally influenced by botanical illustration, and celebrates the concept of weeds and our own weedy species, seeking to understand our role in the complex and interconnected natural systems of our planet.”
In addition to his own practice, Pierce runs Signal Fire Arts with Amy Harwood. “I plan to spend the fellowship funds on this summer's programming for Signal Fire. Amy Harwood and I founded Signal Fire in 2008 to facilitate wilderness opportunities for artists from all disciplines. We provide remote residencies and retreats on public lands, highlighting both the restorative power of wild places and the need to protect those same places for future generations. This year's Outpost residency will take place in the Wallowa Mountains of northeast Oregon, and we will host eight artists, writers, and performers in canvas wall tents. We are also running the Overture Backpacking Retreat, a remote collaborative journey through the ancient forests of Mount Hood National Forest, as well as a canoe trip down Utah's Green River.”
Pierce received the MFA Grant Award from The Joan Mitchell Foundation and has been awarded residencies at Caldera, Sitka Center for Art & Ecology, and LKV in Norway.
Curator and artist Jack Ryan’s sculpture, drawing, sound, and video works often deal with intersections of the natural and manmade worlds. A campfire may be represented by flickering amber bulbs, the beautiful powdery cascade of an avalanche obliterates a shack, the moon’s glow is represented by a circular fluorescent tube, an entire exhibition is curated around Werner Herzog’s trek across Europe on foot in the middle of winter. And Ryan has explored other liminal spaces in the natural world as where the ocean meets the shore in the video “Never Surrender.” As you might be able to tell from that title, there is often a wry humor in Ryan’s idiosyncratic work as with Scriabin’s Mustache, the solo exhibition of work he built around the carbuncle embedded in the mustache of early modern Russian composer and mystic Alexander Scriabin whose rupture killed him. Ryan’s interest in Scriabin may have been because of the composer’s mysticism, and the resulting works may have been elegant, but the note of dark humor remains. See also his body of work around a YouTube video of the explosion of a dead whale on an Oregon beach in 1970.
But Ryan has a way of cutting to the essence of the thing: the form of a long piece of driftwood as mimicked by a fluorescent tube embedded in it, or the sound of light—solar wind field recordings that are part of the soundtrack to the video “Moonrise.” In fact the group exhibition Trait at Archer Gallery, seemed to have been curated by Blake Shell around Ryan’s ability to get at the thingness of the thing in an elegant manner.
Ryan’s work has been exhibited or screened internationally at venues including The Drawing Center, American University Museum: Katzen Arts Center, The New Media Institute, The Canadian Film and Video Institute @The Banff Center and The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Ryan was recently included in the Portland2012 Biennial at the Art Gym at Marylhurst University.
Cara Tomlinson works in paint, drawing, sculpture, video and sound. A recent body of work finds Tomlinson responding to her own paintings with sculptural “supplements.” These are supplements in the sense of (hello, high school geometry!) the supplemental angle which completes the whole, not supplements in the Derridian sense. They are objects—plaster forms perched on rolling dollies—that combine the made and the readymade and are meant to be exhibited in proximity to their corresponding paintings, to engage in mute conversation. Other supplements she's created have been boards piled with globs of paint (the detritus, perhaps, from her process of painting her more refined canvases), also on dollies, always movable, mutable.
For her 2004 installation, “Conversation Piece,” Tomlinson collaborated with ants to make a video (the tiny black marks of their bodies outlining and moving to and away from a slick form in the center of the frame) and related drawings.
In that instance, the ants stand in for the world external to the artist. “My recent work is really about tension between intention/knowledge and autopoesis/self-organization,” Tomlinson says. As with the world at large, in her works, “the organization that comes out of process.” For Tomlinson, the strata built up on the surface of the work evince process, some of which will be hidden, some on view. She writes, “This process mimics the evolving self; the momentary resolutions that cover over all the other possibilities separating meaning from non-meaning, forming a narrative.”
Tomlinson grew up in Oregon, then moved away to study at Bennington and was gone for half of her adult life. She returned half a dozen years ago, and teaches at Lewis & Clark.