Tag Archives: Pacific Northwest College of Art

Bonnie Bronson, in her own right

"Landscape through Window" (1986), lacquer on steel, 48 x 36 or 36 x 48 inches (installation  variable). Estate of Bonnie Bronson/Photograph: Ben Bright Photography.

By Bob Hicks

Artists get lost in the shuffle of time. It’s not unusual. Time loses all sorts of things, or rather, we humans lose track of things as time goes by. Reputations go up and down. Attributions change: “Caravaggio” becomes “Follower of Caravaggio” (note the anonymity of the designation), and sometimes the other way around. Whole schools and styles and time periods go in and out of fashion: Rococo, anyone?

Bonnie Bronson in her studio (1965). Photograph: Estate of Bonnie Bronson.Even in local and regional scenes, people get lost, especially after they’ve died: Out of sight, out of mind. In a way Bonnie Bronson, the Oregon City sculptor and painter who died in a mountaineering accident in 1990, was lucky: the annual art awards that sprang up in her honor have kept her name, if not her art, on people’s minds for the past 20 years. Still, most people who know about the Bonnie Bronson Fund don’t actually know much about Bronson the artist.

Thankfully, that’s changing this fall as a series of exhibits across Portland considers Bronson’s legacy in two ways: through the art produced by the 20 (so far) Bronson fellows, and through a long-overdue reassessment of Bronson’s own art. In Sunday’s Oregonian I took a look at two good exhibitions in town right now: curator Randal Davis’s gathering of Bronson’s art at Pacific Northwest College of Art, and curator Linda Tesner’s gorgeously installed exhibit of work by all 20 Bronson award winners.

By all accounts Bronson was a pretty amazing woman, adventurous and nurturing and free-spirited. It’s good to rediscover that she was a pretty fine artist, too.


PHOTOS, from top:

  • “Landscape through Window” (1986), lacquer on steel, 48 x 36 or 36 x 48 inches (installation variable). Estate of Bonnie Bronson/Photograph: Ben Bright Photography.
  • Bonnie Bronson in her studio (1965). Photograph: Estate of Bonnie Bronson.

Jack McLarty, 1919-2011: the final print

Jack McLarty's notebooks: Pacific Northwest College of ArtPacific Northwest College of Art

By Bob Hicks

This afternoon I drove into Northwest Portland to the Pacific Northwest College of Art to see the new exhibit of work by Bonnie Bronson, the Oregon City painter and sculptor who died in 1990 in a mountaineering accident. The show is the linchpin of a major citywide Bronson retrospective, which also includes exhibits at Lewis & Clark College, Elizabeth Leach Gallery and other exhibition spaces, and it’s well worth seeing: more on it later.

In PNCA’s little Corner Gallery just around the bend from the Bronson exhibit I discovered a small selection of prints by another Portland old-timer overdue for a revival of interest, Jack McLarty, and it delighted me. I’d been thinking about McLarty in the past few months, knowing he was getting older and wasn’t in the best of health, hoping someone might put together a retrospective or even a full-career catalog. And while this was just a very small show, it seemed like a beginning.

Then I discovered that Jack had died on July 10, at age 92. Because I’d been out of town (my own father had died two days earlier, at 94) I’d missed the news. This small show, it turns out, is a memorial. Assembled by artist Stephen Leflar, it opened on Aug. 4 and closes this coming Monday, Sept. 12, which means you don’t have long to catch it.

"Gordon and Vivian," Jack McLartyI never really knew Jack, although I talked with him several times. In the 1970s and ’80s I used to frequent the old Image Gallery that he and his wife Barbara ran downtown, a pioneer space that included Inuit and Mexican and other “folk” art in addition to McLarty’s own brand of homegrown modernism — pretty much no one of note was as intensely a Portland artist as he was. I reviewed a couple of his shows, briefly, and always enjoyed the long chatty letters that Barbara sent out, blends of professional marketing and family updates. I sometimes thought of McLarty as a sort of flip-side Henk Pander, a socially aware chronicler of the life directly around him, the Loki of the Portland art scene to the younger Pander’s reluctant Odin. All right, that’s an exaggeration. McLarty and Pander are both more and less than that. But they are that, too. One of my fears was that when Jack died he’d be forgotten, because I knew it was happening already. I also knew that only those who somehow hit it big are remembered beyond their own generation, and although I’m OK with that — it’s the way of the world — I also think that in certain cases it’s something of a shame. Because to me, Jack McLarty spoke to the spirit of a quickly vanishing Portland, a Portland that wasn’t necessarily better than the city it’s become but that was decidedly, and often fascinatingly, different — more independent, more rowdy, more straitlaced, more raw, less stuck on itself. It was a town that could be racist and uptight and wide open and generous at the same time, a place where cowboys and Greek sailors and slumming Ivy Leaguers liked to come to have a good time, which they were allowed to have, as long as they didn’t stray too far out of line or try to stick around and vote. Jack seemed to see all of that, and spoke to it in a way that artists can and politicians can’t or won’t.

McLarty’s work is busy and engaged and sometimes a little gossipy and often sharp at the elbows, in a sly to satirical way. He liked to be topical, and he liked to put prominent local art figures in his work, people like Gordon Gilkey, the garrulous print collector and curator who established the Gilkey print and drawing collection at the Portland Art Museum. Of the 15 prints on view in this mini-show, the one I love is McLarty’s chubby-cheeked, angel-winged vision of a superheroic Gilkey descending from the heavens into Portland. (I’m stealing an image, inset, of Gordon and Vivian, another McLarty print of Gilkey, from a Northwest Print Council page on the Western Oregon University web site, in hopes they’ll understand the theft is meant in the best possible way.) I’d give my eyeteeth for a copy of that angel-winged Gilkey print, if I could figure out exactly what an eyetooth is.

Nan Curtis? Pick up the phone, please

Portland interdisciplinary artist Nan Curtis is the 20th recipient of the annual Bonnie Bronson Fellowship Award. There’ll be a free public reception for her from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 25, in the Gray Lounge of Kaul Auditorium at Reed College.

Nan Curtis, "My Mom's Cigarette Wrapper" 2009 cigarette wrapper, paper, frame“My Mom’s Cigarette Wrapper,” 2009

By Bob Hicks

Don’t call them. They’ll call you. But you really do need to pick up the phone.

“My cell phone rang at 8:30 at night,” Portland artist Nan Curtis recalled the other day over coffee at inner Southeast Portland’s J&M Cafe. “My kids had just gone to bed, and — I didn’t know that number, so I didn’t pick it up.”

Then her land line started ringing. This time Curtis figured something must be up, so she answered.

Nan Curtis, "Mom Rocket," 2010. Steel, afghan, pillow.It was Christine Bourdette, the Portland sculptor who was the first recipient of the Bonnie Bronson Fellowship Award 20 years ago and is chair of the Bronson fund advisory committee. Congratulations, Bourdette  said. We chose you. Oh — and you can’t tell anyone for two months.

Just like that, Curtis joined a distinguished list of Oregon artists who have been named Bronson fellows. In order, the fellows include Bourdette, Judy Cooke, Ronna Neuenschwander, Fernanda D’Agostino, Carolyn King, Lucinda Parker, Judy Hill, Adriene Cruz, Helen Lessick, Ann Hughes, Malia Jensen, Christopher Rauschenberg, Kristy Edmunds, Paul Sutinen, Bill Will, Laura Ross-Paul, MK Guth, Marie Watt, David Eckard, and Curtis.

“Those are totally the artists that I grew up beneath. It’s a pretty cool list of people,” Curtis said.

Continue reading Nan Curtis? Pick up the phone, please

Wednesday hot links: Get yer fresh dogs on Rye!

All right, so Mr. Scatter’s been doing this no-meat thing long enough now that veggie franks have actually started to taste good.

At least, if they’re slathered with enough mustard/relish/barbecue sauce/onions/sauerkraut/melted cheese.

And, no, no-meat doesn’t mean no fish or shellfish, or even the very occasional chicken thigh, or (once in a couple of blue moons) a blessed slice of crisp bacon.

Yes, I embrace the vegetable kingdom. No, I’m not fanatic.

Still, most of my links these days are of the virtual variety, a few of which I freely share with you:


To Move, To Breathe, To Speak. Michele Russo, 1960PNCA at 100: Two good pieces on the new exhibit at the Portland Art Museum celebrating a century of the Pacific Northwest College of Art, which began life as the Museum Art School. A few quibbles, a lot of insights and an impressive parade of names from Oregonian arts writers D.K. Row, here, and Barry Johnson, here. Read ’em both and you’ll want to rush right down to see the show yourself. I haven’t yet. I will soon. And if your reflexes are slow, don’t worry: The exhibit stays up until Sept. 13.


LOUISE NEVELSON, OUT OF THE BOX: One of the liveliest, best-written arts blogs in town is Fifty Two Pieces, a site that takes as its starting point artists and artworks in the collection of the Portland Art Museum and follows them wherever its muse travels. Right now the site is concentrating on the great and formidable Louise Nevelson, she of the black boxes. Dig back a few posts and you’ll find a series on Portland sculptor Lee Kelly. You should know this site!


CULTURE JOCK DRIVES TO SEATTLE: … and sees the sights along the way. For anyone who makes that dreary I-5 drive semi-regularly (and don’t a lot of us?) CJ’s tongue-in-cheek record of his recent trip is priceless. Which means you can’t buy it with your Master Card. But you can read it free, here.


HOLDEN CAULFIELD, WON’T YOU PLEASE STAY HOME: For a 90-year-old recluse, J.D. Salinger is a pretty darned public cantankerous cuss. He’s made such a fetish of his desire for privacy and his insistence that his artistic creations are inviolable that by now he’s better known for his churlishness than for the 58-year-old novel, The Catcher in the Rye, that made us aware of his existence in the first place.

rye_catcherMr. Salinger does know the legal profession, and in pursuit of his vaunted rights has made liberal use of it over the years. The New York Times reports here that now he’s suing over copyright infringement — “a ripoff pure and simple,” as his lawyers put it — by the 33-year-old Swedish author of a book titled 60 years Later: Coming Through the Rye.

Now, I’m all for copyright laws and the right of artists to protect their creations. But Salinger has a pretty weird idea of what’s his and what’s out there in the ether to be grabbed and reinterpreted. In Salinger’s mind, John Donne got it wrong: One man is an island entire of itself. Donne, at least, seemed to intuit that life, and art, are about borrowing and sharing and rethinking and creating something new from something old. Salinger thinks they’re immovable ice statues, frozen in time.

According to the Times, Fredrik Colting, the author of 60 Years Later (which revisits Holden Caulfield as an old man of 76), says his novel is a “comment on the uneasy relationship between his imagined version of Mr. Salinger and the Holden Caulfield character: ‘In order to regain control over his own life, which is drawing to a close, “Mr. Salinger” tries repeatedly to kill off Mr. C by various means: a runaway truck; falling construction debris; a lunatic woman with a knife; suicide by drowning and suicide by pills.’

Sounds like Mr. Colting’s caught the contemporary point: Salinger himself is at the center of the Caulfield universe, and putting him there explicitly is a sufficient reinterpretation of and commentary on the original to qualify it as a discrete work.

I do wish, however, that Colting’s defense weren’t sprinkled with this sort of academic obfuscation: “In additional written declarations, Martha Woodmansee, a professor of English at Case Western Reserve University, writes that Mr. Colting’s novel is a work of ‘meta-commentary’ and ‘is thus a complex work, more complex than’ Mr. Salinger’s novel.”


I have a toothache. Leave me alone.

Or I’ll sue.

Putting the art in the scatter: Escher, Ainu, PNCA, beads

It’s a big weekend in Portland art. Not only are most of the city’s commercial galleries showing new stuff after their First Thursday and First Friday openings, but the Portland Art Museum also has a couple of big openings on Saturday, and another opens Saturday in the pavilion of the Japanese Garden. The Scatter brain trust will be busy making the rounds.

In the meantime, here’s our (just invented) Friday Scatter Rotogravure:



PNCA at 100, at the Portland Art Museum: The museum kicks off this centennial celebration of the Pacific Northwest College of Art, which for most of its lifetime was connected to the museum and was known as the Museum Art School. Now it’s on its own and bursting with ambition. This show goes back to the beginning with works by the likes of Anna B. Crocker and Harry Wentz, and includes Northwest icons such as Louis Bunce, Michele Russo, Lucinda Parker, George Johanson, Paul Missal and Jay Backstrand, all of whom have had close connections to the art school. Pictured here is Parker’s 1980 acrylic on canvas Feast of Stephen, a museum purchase from the Helen Thurston Ayer Fund.

This show, curated by Bruce Guenther, hangs around until Sept. 13.

M.C. Escher, Encounter, 1944. Collection Dr. & Mrs. Robery W. LearyM.C. ESCHER at the Portland Art Museum: Truly an artist for the Age of Engineering — a draftsman for the dreamers, a dreamer for the draftsmen. On Saturday the museum opens Virtual Worlds: M.C. Escher and Paradox, and somehow that’s got us us humming a tune from The Pirates of Penzance:

A paradox?
A parodox,
A most ingenious paradox!
We’ve quips and quibbles heard in flocks,
But none to beat this paradox!

The Escher Equation continues through Sept. 13 at the museum. Pictured is Escher’s 1944 lithograph Encounter, from the collection of Dr. and Mrs. Robert W. Leary.

This show, curated by Annette Dixon, hangs around until Sept. 13, too.


Ainu group, 1902 or 1904/Wikimedia Commons

PARALLEL WORLDS at the Japanese Garden: Subtitled Art of the Ainu of Hokkaido and Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, this appealing-looking show brings together traditional ceremonial robes and other woven pieces by northern Japan’s Ainu ethnic group and the more familiar work of Tlingit and other artists from Alaska and British Columbia.

The Ainu story is intriguing: It’s a native nation from Japan’s northern islands, with a little spillover to main land Siberia, that has struggled to maintain its own identity: Only recently has Japan reversed a decades-long policy of forced assimilation.

The photo above isn’t from the exhibit. It was taken in 1902 or 1904, and was printed in the book Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People. It’s from Wikmedia Commons.

The exhibit, curated by Diane Durston, is in the Garden Pavilion through June 28.


Columbia Plateau beaded bag, ca. 1900-20. Coll. Arlene and Harold SchnitzerGIFTS OF HONOR at the Portland Art Museum: This very good show has been up since the end of last August in the museum’s Marge Riley Education Gallery, which straddles the museum’s two buildings, but it ends June 30, and you should try to catch it before it disappears.

Assembled from the collection of Arlene and Harold Schnitzer and subtitled Beaded Bags From the Columbia River Plateau, it’s a terrific sampling of 35 bags, ranging in age from about 1900 to about 1960. The one shown here is circa 1900-1920, and is made of glass beads, hide, wool, cotton cloth and cotton string.

The quality and variety of work in this show, which is curated by Anna Strankman, is immensely pleasing.


This is, of course, only a taste of what’s out there to be seen in the city’s galleries and museums. And we haven’t even mentioned its theaters and concert halls. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for instance, Oregon Ballet Theatre performs its season-ending show of Jerome Robbins and Christopher Wheeldon at Keller Auditorium. Go forth, fellow Scatterers, and multiply across the face of the city.

The craft of merging: Thoughts on a museum in flux

Tip Toland at Bellevue Arts Museum

What is craft? What is art? What is folk art? Outsider art? Contemporary art?

Are the distinctions real? Do they matter, or are they intellectual games people play, rococo road blocks in the path of direct emotional response to aesthetic objects?

Oh — and what’s a museum supposed to be, anyway?

Dumb questions, maybe. Or, as I prefer to think, basic questions — and sometimes, when you’re staring a big change in the face, basic questions are very good things to ask.

Here’s another one: How many museums does a city need to have a healthy critical mass?

Like a lot of people, I’ve been pondering the impending takeover of Portland’s financially sinking Museum of Contemporary Craft by the expansion-minded Pacific Northwest College of Art, a merger that might become final next month. The question at this point is no longer, “Is this a good idea?”. Barring the sudden swooping down from the heavens of a previously unsuspected angel, some sort of merger seems necessary if the museum is to survive, and this is the one that’s been worked out. So the question now is, “How will this work to the best long-term advantage of both institutions?”

Continue reading The craft of merging: Thoughts on a museum in flux

From Lar to PAW: a Monday link and scatter

Lar Lubovich Dance Company. Photo: ROSEThings have been busy here at Scatter Central the last few days; so busy that we haven’t had a chance to post since we left poor Jean-Paul Belmondo in the clutches of all
those nasty French critics
Never mind, Jean-Paul. As far as we’re concerned here on our far side of the puddle, you’ll always throw a mean left hook.

So, time for a little update.

Lar Lubovitch, a genuine. living and working part of American dance history, shows up Wednesday night at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland, and the White Bird dance series reports it still has good tickets available. The Lubovitch company hasn’t toured in 10 years, and it’s been a good deal longer than that since it’s been in Portland, so this is a good opportunity. The program looks intriguing, and all of the dances are relatively recent: last year’s Jangle, Four Hungarian Dances, set to Bela Bartok’s Rhapsodies #1 and #2 for Violin and Piano; 2000’s Men’s Stories, A Concerto in Ruins, with audio collage and original score by Scott Marshall; and 2007’s Dvorak Serenade, set to Antonin Dvorak’s Serenade in E Major. Plus, Lubovitch will be on hand for a question and answer session after the show.

White Bird has some deals on tickets, including 30-buck Level 3 seats, in addition to its usual student/senior rush tickets two hours before the 7:30 curtain. Details here.

mandy_greer_dare_alla_luce_05Over at his alternate-universe home, Portland Arts Watch (or PAW, as we like to call it), Scatter impresario Barry Johnson has been following the proposed merger between two Portland art stalwarts: the financially struggling Museum of Contemporary Craft and the recently vigorous Pacific Northwest College of Art. Good idea? Bad idea? Necessary idea? In his Monday column in The Oregonian and on Oregon Live, Barry comes down with a case of cautious optimism. Read it here.

And speaking of synchronicity (we were, weren’t we?) my review of the craft museum’s two newest exhibits, by installation artist Mandy Greer and textile artist Darrel Morris, will run on Friday, Jan. 30, in The Oregonian’s A&E section and on Oregon Live. Look for it then.

Did we say alternate-universe homes? We’re embarrassed to reveal that only recently have we discovered the second virtual home of one of our best online friends, the ubiquitous and perspicacious Mighty Toy Cannon of the invaluable Portland arts and culture site Culture Shock. Seems MTC also maintains a fascinating, if less regular, music site called, appropriately, Mighty Toy Cannon. From Nick Lowe and Richard Fontaine to Ruth Brown and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, MTC takes a welcome and refreshing curatorial approach to the wonders of the YouTube musical world. Give it a look, and a listen.

Henry James, by John Singer Sargent, 1913Meanwhile, who’d have guessed that the path to understanding Henry James runs through William Shakespeare’s most infamous stage direction? (That’s “exuent, pursued by a bear,” from The Winter’s Tale, by the way.) The grapevine that slithers through our mutual abode tells us that Part Five of Laura Grimes’ running riff on all things Jamesean, coming Sunday, Feb. 1, in The Oregonian’s books pages and on Oregon Live, is going to be a doozy, complete with Shakespearean bear. In yesterday’s Part Four, Grimes — Friend and Supporter of Art Scatter First Class — gets caught up in a neighborhood book group and unveils a Henry James contest, complete with a prize. Read it here.

Portland’s stages have been simply aburst with fresh new work, thanks to the citywide Fertile Ground festival of new plays. At The Oregonian, Scatter friend Marty Hughley kept up with some of the most recent action in Monday’s paper: Read it here.

Scatter’s been hitting the festival, too. We’ve already run our report on Apollo and Vitriol and Violets. And my review of Northwest Children’s Theater and School‘s new jazz version of Alice in Wonderland also ran in Monday’s Oregonian; read it here.

reGeneration: 50 photographers of Tomorrow
, a traveling exhibit that’s just landed in the Hoffman Gallery at Lewis & Clark College, is a chilly but pretty darned fascinating look at 50 young photographers worldwide whose work, the shows’s curators believe, will still be vital and important in the year 2025. My review ran in brief in Monday’s Oregonian; for the much more complete version, see it on Oregon Live here.

Finally, we’ve been amused and bemused by the misadventures of operatic tenor Jon Villars,
who walked off the stage during a dress rehearsal of Beethoven’s Fidelio at the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto, reportedly because he didn’t like the conductor’s tempo. Here at Art Scatter, we confess to skipping out on a show early a time or two over the years, too. But not when we were part of the cast.

Craft commits suicide; art envy arrested on suspicion

The victim pulled the trigger on itself, detective Garth Clark says, but it was under the influence of Art.

That’s Art, no last name, sometimes known as Fine Art. And though the corpse keeps getting tricked out for public events like the stiff in the movie comedy Weekend at Bernie’s, the actual time of death was, oh, somewhere around 1995.

That, more or less, is the argument Clark gave to a packed and sometimes steaming house last night in the Pacific Northwest College of Art‘s Swigert Commons. Clark, a longtime gallery owner, curator and prolific writer on craft (the guy knows his porcelains), was lecturing on “How Envy Killed the Crafts Movement: An Autopsy in Two Parts,” and he meant every word of it.

As he delivered his wry and scholarly Molotov cocktail, Clark reminded me a bit of John Houseman in The Paper Chase, measured and severe but with a, well, crafty twist of humor to his delivery. He knew he was going to be tromping on some toes, and while he delighted in the process, he did so en pointe so as not to cause too many hurt feelings. “Hi, my name is Garth Clark,” he greeted the crowd. “I’m a recovering art dealer.”

What is this art envy? Good question.

Surely it has something to do with money. Clark quoted one excellent potter of his acquaintance who says he and his friends have a word for potters who make a living entirely from their craft. It’s unicorns, “because we’ve never seen one.”

And surely it has something to do with reputation, with being taken seriously. Artists are simply thought of more highly, as more creative beings, more intellectual, and therefore more important (and, let’s underscore, more worthy of high prices in exchange for their work).

Perhaps it has something to do with escaping an eternal past. “Craft has been overdosing on nostalgia,” Clark averred. “This is craft’s Achilles heel.” That’s not surprising, he added, since the modern movement (which he stretches back 150 years, a very long time for a movement of any sort) was born as a revival, and thus looking backwards from its beginning.

Continue reading Craft commits suicide; art envy arrested on suspicion

“At Freedom’s Door”: Novels in paint, provocations in fabric

Ropes and chains and the piercing masts of slave ships at harbor pop up as boldly as the brilliant colors that command Arvie Smith‘s paintings in the exhibition “At Freedom’s Door.” Smith’s big oils of slave auctions and lynchings and other aspects of the bleak side of antebellum life are like jam-packed chapters in a vast historical novel bursting to be told. Some of his more satiric images are reminiscent of Robert Colescott, and his brown-yellow-red palette brings to mind some of the color combinations of fellow Portland artist Isaka Shamsud-din. But in their narrative urgency, their invocation of historical moment and their sometimes quizzical snatches of story (you get the feeling that you’ve been dropped into the middle of something, but you’re not quite sure where it started, although you have a good idea where it’s likely to end) Smith’s paintings also have a novelist’s sense: They make me think of Charles Johnson and his great American slave story of the beginnings of things, “Middle Passage.”

“At Freedom’s Door,” which also includes fabric art by Baltimorean Joan Gaither and the admirable Portland artist Adriene Cruz, was originally shown last year at Baltimore’s Reginald F. Lewis Museum, where Smith and Gaither were artists in residence. Now in the Feldman Gallery of Pacific Northwest College of Art through March 8, it’s one of a pair of provocative exhibits in Portland noncommercial galleries that commemorate Black History Month. The other, on view through March 2 at Reed College’s Cooley Gallery, is “Working History”, which features work by such nationally notable artists as Kara Walker, Io Palmer, Faith Ringgold, Kianga Ford, David Hammons and Nick Cave.

The combination of these three artists in “At Freedom’s Door” plays a nice ping-pong in your head, knocking you back and forth among varying aspects of the African American experience. And they represent three intriguingly different artistic sensibilities.

Continue reading “At Freedom’s Door”: Novels in paint, provocations in fabric