Scatters revisited: Let’s play catch-up

Art Students and Copyists in the Louvre Gallery (for Harper's Weekly), 1868, wood engraving, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Art Scatter is considering a new motto: All the news that fits, comes back to bite you again.

Maybe it’s not as elegant as the New York Times’s All the news that’s fit to print or as slobberingly juvenile as The Onion’s Tu Stultus Es (translation from the Latin: You Are Stupid). But we seem to be getting pingback, and we are not referring simply to those odd “comments” that pop up semi-regularly from online hucksters selling axle grease or whoopie cushions. (Mr. Scatter attempts to zap those into oblivion before our readers have a chance to see them, unless the links are unusually entertaining, such as the one that seemed to translate this post into some unknown language and back to English again, transposing “large smelly boys” into “vast sharp boys” and “Portland public schools” into “Portland open propagandize system.”) Stories don’t always end when the writer thinks they do. So consider this a chance to revisit some of our recent hits, with updates and amplifications:


COPY CATS: In our recent musings on the value of museums (we had worked ourselves into something of a dither, a century late, over the idiocies of the Futurist Manifesto, which called for abolishing them) we tossed in this aside: “Why are our young artists not haunting the halls of the museums? Rarely – almost never – do you see someone set up with easel and paints in a Portland Art Museum gallery, copying the masters to learn their techniques, a sight that is common in European museums.”

That prompted this note from the museum’s Jennifer Amie:

I thought you might be interested to hear that this summer, you WILL see people drawing from the masters in the galleries at the Portland Art Museum! We’re offering a five-part drawing workshop in conjunction with this summer’s exhibition of Old Master drawings from the Crocker Art Museum. The workshop will be led by Eduardo Fernandez, who was recently commissioned to paint the governor’s portrait.

Friends, don’t trip over those easels. Pay attention, copy carefully, and you might win the commission to paint Randy Leonard and Rosie Sizer duking it out in the final seconds of their fifteen-round championship bout (don’t forget to sketch in Mayor Sam as referee). The Crocker show of master drawings (Durer, Rembrandt, Ingres, Boucher, Callot, Carpaccio, Fra Bartolommeo and a few other old-timers) runs June 12-Sept. 19. The drawing sessions will run Saturday afternoons, July 31 through Aug. 21, with an introductory talk July 29. Keep an eye on the museum Web site for details on signing up.


THE GREAT PAINT-OFF: In that same museum post, we linked to a story in The Guardian about the artistic battle royale between Michelangelo and Leonardo, creators, respectively, of a couple of modest pieces known as David and the Mona Lisa. That prompted this note from playwright and Friend of Scatter George Taylor, himself something of a Renaissance man:

Thought you might be interested to hear that this is the very subject of my 2007 play Renaissance. Leo and Mick’s famous rivalry is at the center of the play, both in their own time and 500 years later. The play was a finalist for the 2008 Oregon Book Awards, and was recognized with fellowships from the Oregon Arts Commission and Oregon Literary Arts. It’s had staged readings in 2007 in Portland and Denver at the invitational Playwright’s Showcase of the Western Region.

George is hoping for a full production in Stumptown this fall. For more on Renaissance, visit his Web site here.


A little over a week ago we filed this report on the impending shutdown of the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, which has suffered apparently fatal aftershocks from the Great Economic Quake of 2008 and ’09. This morning’s Oregonian offered two dissections, a news analysis by Allan Brettman, following an opinion piece by columnist Anna Griffin. Whatever you think of them, lots to think about in both pieces, and lots for arts groups to chew on: In a struggling economy, who goes forward and who falls behind? What is the public’s role in keeping a company viable? What is the board’s role? How should tough times change how you think and what you do?


TALE WAGS DOG: Finally, we filed this report a few days ago on a couple of old-timers, actress Wendy Westerwelle and the improv comedy troupe Waggie and Friends, hitting the boards again. For the Waggies, it was the first reunion since the group disbanded in the mid-1990s, making this a little like a rerun of the Macarena except a lot less frightening.

On Friday night Mr. Scatter & Son ambled down to the Brody Theater to take in the Waggie action, and it was a love fest. Mr. Scatter ran into so many old friends and acquaintances his cheeks are chapped from European-style brush-kisses. The Large Large Smelly Boy, a keen student of the comedy-improv arts, talked smartly and politely with several of these older folk, and during audience-participation periods peppered the stage with enough verbal powder to set the whole room into a sneezing fit. Most of his suggestions were quite clever.

So were the Waggies. This was no mere nostalgia trip: We’d forgotten what a genuine kick they could collectively be. Scott Parker and his stuttering little-boy telling of the nativity story. (“I thought you were a round yon virgin!” Joseph says in astonishment when he discover’s Mary’s going to have a baby.) David Fuks as a rabbinical stand-up comedian, parsing talmudic queries with demented logic. Scolding schoolmarm/tease Cindy Tennant. Dipsydoodle country singer Victoria Parker-Pohl, headed for another breakdown. Pie-eyed and rubber-boned Eric Hull, master of the physical double and treble takes. And filling in for Gary Basey and representing the younger generation, the quick-witted and very funny Ian Karmel, another in the long and honorable line of nimble-footed portly comics that stretches from Oliver Hardy and Fatty Arbuckle to John Belushi and John Candy.

Maybe you can’t go home again, and maybe the old jokeslingers couldn’t keep this thing flying night after night. But on one night, at least, they had the crowd roaring happily — and one 15-year-old apprentice comic dreaming of a whole career of knocking ’em dead.


ILLUSTRATION: Winslow Homer, Art Students and Copyists in the Louvre Gallery; Harper’s Weekly, 1868; wood engraving; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.