Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gestures of Resistance at MOCC

I've been volunteering at The Museum of Contemporary Craft off-and-on for about a year now. I chose them because even though they are small, all of their exhibits that I have seen actively challenge the boundary between art and craft, and even between exhibition and collaborative art practice. The current show, Gestures of Resistance, especially does just that.

This is a show where if you enter the museum expecting to passively observe finished works, you will be sorely dissapointed. However, if you take the time to understand the show's context and enter the museum as an active collaborator you will be greatly rewarded.

This show is constantly changing and building upon itself. A series of artists have been invited to create work that will either contribute to, or build upon work of the other artists. Their disciplines vary but the one theme that can be strung between them is their use of their practice as gestures of resistance.

The museum is transformed from a place of absorption to a place of creation and collaboration. Visitors can directly interact with the artists. If you visited last month you can come back and have an entirely new experience this month. It's a truly engaging experience.

I will let you read more about the artists and such from the Museum itself. Don't miss this one!

Admission is $3 and FREE on First Thursday's. To get the most from your admission I'd recommend checking the schedule and visiting on a day when a resident artist will be there. If you become a member you can check back as frequently as you like and support one of Portland's best art institutions.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

PNCA Fine Art Library: A Hidden Gem Resource for Artists

So, it has been a very long time since I have updated. I apologize for that. I've been busy applying and planning for graduate school. In the Fall I will be starting the Arts Management program at The University of Oregon. I am really excited about this.

Today I got invited by my friend who is getting her Master's of Library Science degree, to take a tour of the PNCA Fine Art Library guided by library director, Dan McClure. As soon as we walked in, one of the first words out of his mouth was, "No whispering allowed." At that moment we knew that this wasn't your usual library. He explained later that the Fine Art Library is a place where students meet and where artisitic discourse is encouraged. Many of the public areas are set up more like a living room with a television screen playing movies on mute in the background.

The library has every art magazine you can dream of. They also have an extensive collection of visual reference materials that most libraries would discard, including old LIFE magazines from the 50s and vintage Victorian woman's magazines.

The best and lesser known fact about the library is that it is public. Anyone can hang out and peruse their extensive collection of art books and magazines. The only catch is unless you are a student, or pay $75 membership fees, you can't check anything out, but with reading areas replete with couches and comfortable chairs you don't even need to!

Next time I am downtown and in the mood to catch up on art news I will skip Powell's and head over to PNCA.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Not Forgotten

So it seems I almost forgot about the existence of this blog. A lot of non-note-worthy things have been going on in my life to distract me. There is one thing that is totally note-worthy however, my show at Face Body Soul. I am showing art work inspired by the blossoming trees around Portland. It will be hanging through March. Face Body Soul is at NE 47th and Fremont, next to Cha Cha Cha. Make an afternoon of it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Conversation with Etsy's Matt Stinchcomb

Tonight I attended a lecture with Etsy's Matt Stinchcomb as part of the new PNCA + CYAN PDX Cultural Residency Series. It offered a rare opportunity to gain a glimpse of the people and motives behind a site that has become a crucial part of many lives, including mine!

Etsy started out, as many genius ideas do, in a living room as a conversation between two roommates, Matt, and Etsy founder Rob Kalin, who Matt points out bears a striking resemblance to Mark Zuckerburg (founder of Facebook).

This was not the first business venture for the pair. Matt, who played in a rock band, would screen-print merchandise for shows. He would often screen-print things for friends as well. Rob, the entrepreneur, saw Matt's screen printing as a business opportunity and asked a restaurateur across the street from their apartment in Brooklyn to give them all the money they needed to buy a printing press and rent a space. He did. The same restaurateur became one of Etsy's first investors.

Being in the handmade trade, it was apparent to them that the online marketplace lacked a niche for artists. They came up with Etsy as a solution. A site for all things handmade, where the buyer is directly connected to the maker. When asked where the name "Etsy" came from, Matt responded, "Only Rob knows for sure and everything you read online is a lie." The general motive behind the name was to pick something that would not come with any preconceived notions.

Just like the products they sell, the site was entirely handmade using hand built computers, servers and code. After three months of sleepless nights, the first version of Etsy was launched in 2005. Since then Etsy has exploded. They now have a staff of 70 which they expect to reach 100 by the middle of next year. They have 200,000 active sellers and over 3 million members, a number which is exponentially growing every day.

Unlike other online marketplaces like Amazon or Ebay, Etsy has a broader social mission: "To empower people to change the world economy by bringing heart to commerce." They achieve this by giving people the tools they need to start their own business and to tell their story. It isn't only about the finished product, but about who made it and how. They really show the person behind the product and give the power of commerce back to the people.

They also provide tools for building craft communities. At Etsy's home base in Brooklyn they have the Etsy Lab which is open every Monday night to any and all crafters and provides all the tools for making you can dream of. They also hold lectures and workshops for improving business skills. These real life Labs are then incorporated into Virtual Labs on the site for the benefit of the entire Etsy community. There is the possibility of satellite real world Etsy Labs popping up in urban centers, but until then there are Esty Teams which function like artist guilds. They are a way for Etsy shop owners working in similar media or in the same location to combine forces and share expenses. Did you know there are even Etsy Grants? Yes, if you are part of an Etsy Team you can apply for a grant to pay that craft show booth fee!

So where is Etsy headed? They are growing rapidly and with that growth comes new responsibility, which means hiring experienced staff to make sure the site stays up and running, and to ensure buyers keep coming. They are trying to reach out to a broader range of buyers who may not be privy to the DIY community. They are doing this by partnering with mainstream media such as, Martha Stewart, and People Magazine. They are also working with SEO specialists to optimize the site so that Etsy listings will gain higher rankings in search engines. The goal is to make Etsy a household name, so that the next time the most suburban dweller needs a wooden bowl they will think to check Etsy before heading out to Pottery Barn.

Etsy also plans to make their categories more robust. One of the biggest problems for the site is that there are so many items it is often hard to find what you are looking for. They would like a buyer who is looking for high end art to be able to follow a simple path in that direction while likewise someone looking for cheap clip on earrings can also follow a simple path straight there.

While Matt admits the listing process could be a little less painstaking, their current priority is to make it as easy for buyers to buy as possible, so we may have to wait a little while longer for improvements there. I don't mind if it brings me more sales.

They've also been talking with schools and museums like PNCA and The Museum of Contemporary Craft about the possibility of having group Etsy communities and stores. This would allow these organizations to have stores that represent a number of makers in one place, a practice which as of now is not allowed through the site.

One idea Matt mentioned in jest that would be really exciting (possibly illegal) is creating an app through iphone that you can take with you to the GAP. The app will have a barcode scanner. If you see a sweater you kind of like, you can scan it with your iphone and it will link you to similar HANDMADE items on Etsy. Wouldn't that be something?!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I finally got around to watching Julian Schnabel's Basquiat last gramercy_park_hotel_yes_that_is_a_damien_hirstnight. I'm ashamed to admit I had only become aware of Basquiat's work a little over a year ago when my boss had asked me to research artists whose works were being included in Ian Schrager hotels. This lead me to the discovery of Gramercy Park Hotel in New York. I saw that the visual concept was designed by Julian Schnabel, artist and film director extraordinaire. I had seen and loved The Diving Bell and the Butterfly but had no idea Julian Schnabel was so multidisciplinary. The concept of Gramercy Park was to have a hotel where guests could appreciate 20th century masterpieces. The hotel functions in many ways as a museum in that the pieces would change, many of them on loan.

So this spurred a fascination with Julian Schnabel and all of his work. I discovered the Basquiat was a close friend of his and that he made this film in his honor. It provides an insightful snapshot of the New York art world in the 1980s through Basquiat's triumphant and tragic tale. He went from living in a cardboard box painting poetic graffiti as SAMO to being at the top of the art world, exhibiting at the Whitney Biennial, dating Madonna, selling pieces for millions all by the ripe age of 24. His life was cut short tragically when he was only 27 from a drug overdose. Schnabel portrays his rise to fame as almost purely accidental, a series of (un?)fortunate meetings. He sees Andy Warhol walk into a cafe and manages to sell him some post card drawings for $10 a piece. A critic then stumbles upon one of his paintings hanging in a friend's apartment at a party and throws him a show. Before he knows it he is the most talked about artist in New York. He is being heralded as the first "important" African American artist in modern art history. He seems to be just rolling along with the current, oblivious to the conventions of the art world. Getting lost in the hierarchies of the ladder to success and not paying attention to the people who got him there until it's too late and his only friend left in the world is Andy Warhol.

I recommend seeing the film. As if David Bowie playing Andy Warhol isn't reason enough --not to mention appearances from Parker Posey (as a sassy Mary Boone), Gary Oldman, Benicio del Toro and Christopher Walken.

I watched some clips from real interviews with Basquiat and Jeffrey Wright's portrayal seems to ring pretty true. Here are some great Youtube clips:

Warhol and Basquiat:

A Clueless Interviewer:

Interviewer: "No Haitian Primitives on your walls?"
Basquiat: "Haitian Primitives? What do you mean? People?"

Was this really the 80's?

My Favorite TBA Moments

PICA's 10 day marathon of Time Based Art has come to a close. I had a great time getting sweaty and dirty at Washington High School as a volunteer. I had even more fun stumbling from venue to venue taking it all in.

The most magical moment for me was Ethan Rose, Laura Gibson, and Ryan Jeffrey's Younger. They holed themselves up inside the white walls of PDX Contemporary Gallery downtown and created an improvisational performance. Ryan Jeffrey created video pieces inspired by Laura and Ethan's previous recordings which he would project on the windows for the duration of the 3.5 hour performance. The audience would be on the street looking in.

After spending an afternoon watching Melody Owen's eclectic collection of video works Circles and Spinning Wheels at the Northwest Film center I decided to wander around town until 6:30 when their performance at PDX Contemporary was scheduled to start. I walked towards the waterfront in search for a cheap lunch and stumbled onto Art in the Pearl. I explored all of the artisan's booths over pumpkin curry and then headed towards PNCA for Robert Boyd's Conspiracy Theory. As I walked past PDX Contemporary around 6 the space was full of movement as people set up equipment but there was no sign of any observers yet.

I was the only one in the room for Conspiracy Theory. It is a double channel video installation of television clips related to conspiracy theories. It started with footage of the two towers crumbling and quickly lead into AIDS being a conspiracy to wipe out homosexuals and drug addicts to UFOs and back again in a quick and climactic rhythm. It is set to Kylie Minogue's Believe. It made me want to dance. It made me want to believe while at the same time making me want to shake every conspiracy theorist I've ever had to listen to.

It was now time for the performance to start. I returned to the corner of 9th and Flanders and there was a crowd of maybe 15 people starting to gather. The sounds started... gentle and soothing as the morning dew... subtle chimes and ambient noise. Then Laura started to sing and her voice is that of a songstress from a bygone era. It is almost sunset. The video projections on the front window can barely be made out. Not soon after they began the crowd slowly grew shutting down the block. People would stop in their tracks. Cars who drove by would roll down their windows and pause. As the sun set the sky grew purple and the light reflected off the buildings and the projections became more defined. A child wandering through a meadow her hand brushing the grass, embers from a fire, piles of old manuscripts scattered across the floor of an old abandoned house... I must've lingered for hours. I never got bored... I just got hungry. It was dark when I left. The most magical part was watching the people who stumbled upon it unbeknownst to them. It's not everyday you get to sit in the middle of a downtown city street and just linger and absorb beauty like that through all of your senses.

Younger (Ethan Rose, Laura Gibson, and Ryan Jeffery)
09.06.09 at PDX Contemporary Art
2009 Time-Based Art Festival, PICA
Photo by Wayne Bund
All Rights Reserved, PICA

To learn more about Ethan Rose and Laura Gibson you can go to their myspace:

The closest thing I could compare them to are Mùm or Park Avenue Music.

My second runner up for best TBA moment was hands down Pan Pan Theatre's The Crumb Trail. A modern interpretation of Hansel and Gretel. They are a theatre troupe from Ireland. The show starts out with good old British humor. The four actors introduce themselves...poke fun at one another...quote reviews written about their own play. You feel like you are observing your own friends at a dinner party. Then the mood grows somber. Gretel starts to speak of death and loss and is drowned out by popular Youtube clips. She and Hansel are eventually kicked out for her unpleasantness. "My eyes will haunt you" she whispers as she leaves like a curse. She comes back...her face covered in blood asking for help but they do not let her in. Then the actors move to the corner where and play a drone filled song bathed in red light from the video projector..."maternal love only lasts 33 months after that it's pure affection." Throughout the whole play they had bread baking in a breadmaker. The smell permeated the theatre. I hadn't eaten dinner. I was so hungry. I would have done anything for a slice of that bread. In one scene Arthur is asked what he would kill for. "I don't I suppose" He is then asked to read the scene from Hansel and Gretel where the witch tries to trick Gretel into climbing into the oven...but how Gretel locks the witch in instead. He ends the passage with the witches curdling scream...

I appreciated the performance because while it challeneges the conventions of theatre it still managed to move me in a profound way. I have to admit I am getting bored of work that merely exists to challenge convention. This performance was disjointed and poetic in it's presentation. It left much to be implied. Maybe fables in their seemingly innocent terror aren't so far form reality. The wicked witch was hungry and pushed to the drastic measure of eating children for her own survival. We live in a world where children are killed for perversion more often than survival. A world where very real terrors exist... murder... hunger ...disease ..poverty ..and worse of all is our own apathy and detachment towards it all ... where we hide from our own pain and loneliness by surfing the web... broadcasting ourselves on Youtube... dancing because there's nothing left to do.

You can view a condensed version of The Crumb Trail here:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

TBA:09 Opening Night

We are nearing the end of another Time Based Art Festival put on by The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA). I had the joy of being a volunteer this year which meant tons of free passes!

This year PICA gained access to Washingotn Highschool. It was built at the turn of the century and has been vacant for over 20 years. PICA transformed it into a venue for performance artists, musicians, and installations.

Here are some pictures from opening night. I will write more about some of my favorite moments of the festival later.

There are still three more days, so if you live in Portland be sure to catch what you can! for more info about the artists and the festival visit

Jesse Hayward's Forever Now and Then Again-- painted cubes in a room to be built up and climbed upon by viewers.

Ethan Rose's sound installation titled "Movements". Made from old music boxes that are wired and carefully timed to create a magically gentle chime-like flutter of sound.

Ma Quisha From No/4 Pingyuanli to No.4 Tianiaobeili
An autobiographical video performance where she tells the story of the pressures she faced, and the sacrifices her family made for her to be successul. She tells the narrative with a razor blade in her mouth obstructing her speech.

Antoine Catala "TV" video installation

Robbinschilds video installation inside a carpeted geodesic half dome. These two were some of my favorite performers of the festival. They are interested in the places where the body and landscape/architecture intersect. They dress up in semi ridiculous color coordinated costumes and do odd dance moves in many locales: the high desert, expanses of highways, redwood forests, trash dumps, minivans. etc. all to the rocked out tunes of Seattle based Kinski.

The halls of Washington High are super crowded.

Washington Highschool was going to be used by the Red Cross to house Katrina victims. The Red Cross set everything up but the victims never arrived. When the artists did their walk though of the school they found piles of donated Levi's and letters written for the victims by school children. This window box represents that aspect of the school's history.

The view from the lawn.

Gang Gang Dance performs in the school's auditorium.

A very crowded beer garden.