Bob Keefer on art and music around Eugene, Oregon

Category: Art (Page 2 of 9)

A reminder to artists: It’s time to enter the new Oregon Biennial


Last year's final Mayor's Art Show

Last year’s final Mayor’s Art Show at the Jacobs Gallery

The Karin Clarke Gallery in downtown Eugene is now accepting submissions for its first Eugene Biennial juried show, which will run August 3 through 27.

Clarke decided to do the new show after the closing earlier this year of the non-profit Jacobs Gallery, which had been home to the popular juried Mayor’s Art Show for many years.

She’s made a couple changes from the Mayor’s show formula of the past. The Mayor’s show was open only to artists in Lane County; Clarke has expanded that to also include Linn, Lincoln, Benton, Douglas and Coos counties.

Second, artists can now submit two images for consideration; the Mayor’s show allowed only one.

The jury for the Biennial will be Clarke; Eugene art collector Roger Saydack; and Eugene painter Jon Jay Cruson.

A number of awards will be presented at an opening reception August 5, from a $500 Best of Show Mark Clarke award, in honor of Clarke’s father, a popular painter who died this year; a $500 Mayor’s Award, sponsored by the city of Eugene; and three Juror’s Awards, sponsored by Whiteaker Printmakers, the UO Duck Store and Oregon Art Supply.

Entry fee is $10 per image, and all submissions must be made digitally. Deadlne is May 31. Details are available on the gallery website.

Opening at the Clarke Gallery tonight, during the First Friday Art Walk: A show of new work by Eugene painter Carol Marine.

A quick trip to some Portland galleries today for First Thursday

Memory Theater, installation by Srijon Chowdhury at Upfor Gallery in Portland.

Memory Theater, installation by Srijon Chowdhury at Upfor Gallery in Portland.

I got up to Portland this afternoon to check out the offerings from the First Thursday Art Walk in the Pearl District. PDX still has galleries — certainly more than the tiny handful that remain in Eugene — and the trip is worth it, especially in such great weather.

The most striking thing I saw was an installation at Upfor, 929 NW Flanders St., by Portland/L.A. artist Srijon Chowdhury. Memory Theater, pictured above, is a play on an arcane Renaissance idea of using real or conceptual buildings and other structures to facilitate learning and memory. (Think memory palaces, used by competitive playing card memorizers.)

Chowdhury’s take is a beautiful semicircular enclosure made of scrims on which lights that surround the outside project shadows; these you can enjoy from the inside, while sitting on comfortable cushions. You can also wander around the outside and take in various objects made by 24 other artists, all drafted into the project by Chowdhury, and which cast their shadows on the scrims.

The whole thing is thoroughly engaging and fun, without ever trying to make too much of its roots in philosophical systems. It will be at Upfor — a relative newcomer to the Portland art scene, opened in 2013 by writer Ursula Le Guin’s son, Theo Downes–Le Guin — through May 28.

Over at the Froelick Gallery, 714 NW Davis, Charles Froelick is showing new paintings by Matthew Dennison, a gallery regular, along with paintings by Laurie Danial. Dennison’s work, which I had not seen before, completely captivated me. The title of his show is Commensalism, a term from biology that refers to a situation where one species benefits from another without harming or hurting it; the classic example is animals that eat food that humans discard.

Dennison’s animals are as wondrous as his humans are creepy, such as this oddly named mountain goat, Edward Goss. His work is up at the gallery through May 28.

Edward Goss, oil on canvas by Matthew Dennison; 13x20 inches.

Edward Goss, oil on canvas by Matthew Dennison; 13×20 inches.



New life for the Jacobs? And a possible art/tech hub downtown.


There’s a rumor going around town that the city is looking to open a new visual art space, perhaps run by a non-profit, in the Hult Center, in place of the now-defunct Jacobs Gallery.

If that’s true, it’s good news. I reached out last week to the city’s Cultural Services Director Tomi Anderson to find out what’s up on that front, and got what sounds like partial confirmation, though no details.

“Cooking up a plan for Jacobs but not ready for prime time yet,” she emailed. “Let’s talk in early May…”

Meanwhile, it seems like the idea that Eugene needs a visual art center of some kind — and on the scale of the Hult Center — has begun to take hold around town, with lots of glimmers of activities. There was that City Club forum, for example, and the big article in the Weekly about the state of visual art here.

Artist Charly Swing is trying to get funding for ArtCity Eugene, which she describes as “a multi-disciplinary artists’ studio community.” That’s a big vision, and one I like, so I hope she pulls it off.

Meanwhile, one of the most interesting possibilities being floated is the idea of turning the old Lane Community College downtown center into a tech/arts hub. That idea is apparently to be discussed by the Eugene City Council at a meeting May 23, and by the LCC board sometime in May as well.








Painter Rick Bartow, 1946-2016

Rick Bartow in his studio south of Newport

Rick Bartow in his studio south of Newport in 2008

Oregon artist Rick Bartow, a master of visionary imagery that reflects his Native American roots, died last night at his home south of Newport. He was 69.

A Vietnam veteran, a graduate of Western Oregon State College, a recovering alcoholic and a fine rock ‘n’ roll musician, Bartow made big, intense, and sometimes downright weird paintings and sculpture in a wide variety of mediums. Frequently using animal imagery, his work has been shown around Oregon and around the country, from the Portland Art Museum and the Hallie Ford Museum of Art to Arizona’s Heard Museum and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis.

Last year his career was examined in a large retrospective – “Things You Know But Cannot Explain” – at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene. Curated by JSMA’s executive director Jill Hartz and associate curator Danielle Knapp, the show has since traveled to the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where it runs through April. It will travel to the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe later this year; to the Heard Museum in Phoenix and to the Washington State University Museum of Art in Pullman in 2017; and to the Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles in 2019.

Bartow, a hawk-nosed man who sometimes covered an inner darkness with his affable demeanor, lived most of his life at the tumbledown homestead that his grandfather, John Bartow, a Yurok Indian from northern California, established on Yaquina Bay in South Beach, south of Newport.

In a series of ramshackle studios there, he continued to paint and draw and sculpt until his heart began to fail last fall. A pacemaker was implanted in September, but it didn’t help much, friends said, and Bartow was often unable to paint or even talk in his last weeks.

He got his bachelor’s degree at Western Oregon State – now Western Oregon University – in 1969, expecting to teach. Instead he was drafted and sent to Vietnam, finding himself in the middle of a war zone with a job – teletype operator – that he was never called on to do.

To divert himself he began playing guitar at officers’ clubs and after-work parties. Soon he was performing for patients in military hospitals, drinking all day long and pounding out Buffalo Springfield songs as the enormity of the war crowded in on him. He never saw combat, but in the hospital wards where he entertained he was surrounded by its aftermath.

“It was years later I realized most of the people were probably already dead that I saw,” he told me when I first interviewed him in 2002. “They were living on morphine. They were doped out to the max to keep them together.”

Bartow came home from the war an embittered 21-year-old drunk; he threw out the Bronze Star he had earned for his service as a musician (though his mother recovered it). Years later, after failed marriages and a life spiraling downward, he woke up one morning after being beaten up on the street.

Bartow's 1984 self-portrait, 'Self.'

Bartow’s 1984 self-portrait, ‘Self.’

“A local man saved my life, basically, kicking me pretty well down the waterfront with his cowboy boots,” he told me years ago. “I was horrified and embarrassed to realize I had hit bottom. I stumbled home a bloody mess. I woke up with the pillow stuck to my face. Knots all over the top of my head, one eye closed, teeth busted. Everything you look like after a good drunken brawl. I needed a lesson.” He joined Alcoholics Anonymous and began a life of sobriety.

With his extraordinary vision and solid work ethic, Bartow soon attracted the attention of serious art lovers and buyers.

He met his current Portland gallerist, Charles Froelick, in 1992, when he was showing work at the Jamison Thomas Gallery in Portland, where Froelick worked. Froelick went on to open his own gallery in 1995, after William Jamison died, and Bartow was his first solo show. “Rick and I had hit it off well from the beginning,” Froelick said. “He really opened my eyes. He was completely unique, highly articulate in both mark and words, prolific, passionate and committed to making art. He was inspiring; he was intellectually and esthetically challenging, and he was not afraid of making tough work, nor afraid of beauty and engagement.”

The two men went on to become fast friends.

“Rick knew how to compose with graphic and lyric strength and beauty,” Froelick said. “He knew and expressed his vulnerabilities with humor and poignancy. He was an un-assuming fellow and did not have airs of importance or elitism about his art making. He was not desperate for fame.”

Last year, in conjunction with the JSMA retrospective, Bartow and Froelick and I shared a stage in the Hult Center’s Studio. The two men talked, and I moderated – or, more to the point, I was on hand to make sure Rick had opportunity to gracefully recover from the occasional moments of aphasia he suffered after a stroke.

Despite his occasional difficulty finding words, Bartow was as charming that night as ever. He spoke candidly about the effects of the stroke, drawing warm laughter from the audience when he described an episode in which, after being introduced to a woman, he couldn’t stop saying wildly inappropriate things that he didn’t mean or intend.

A few days later he played guitar with his band in a gallery at the Schnitzer during a reception at the opening of his retrospective. His music, like his drawing and painting, were unaffected by the stroke, and the whole room got up and danced.

He also showed work last year at the Karin Clarke Gallery in Eugene. “I am so deeply saddened by this news,” Karin Clarke said. “Rick Bartow was one of the greats of our area. Not only was he a fierce and incredible artist, he was an authentic and kind person. It felt really special to be around him, listening to his stories, like he had a deep knowing about animals and the spirit world. His marvelous work, in all its forms, completely stops you in your tracks and you feel it at your core.”

The Jordan Schnizter Museum of Art sent this statement following Bartow’s death:

“All of us at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art were tremendously fortunate to work so closely with Rick and to spend so much time in the presence of his work over the last several years as we organized the major touring exhibition and accompanying publication.

“Rick was a master of materials, an exceptional colorist, and an artist without pretense. His imagery—ranging from self-portraits to animals and spirits—had celebratory, restorative, and emotionally vital qualities. Rick was the ultimate story-teller and he made work that resonated with everyone who saw it. His mark-making was a physical and intuitive process, drawn from his own memories, traditional stories, world cultures, and other diverse influences. It was an honor to witness this process in action when visiting Rick in his studio in Newport and while observing his collaborative projects with Mika Aono in the School of Architecture and Allied Arts printmaking studio last spring. We knew his health was fragile, but we didn’t expect that he had so little time left. At least we have his work, which communicates so directly, authentically, and powerfully.”

A memorial is pending.


RickBartow plays with his band during a reception for his exhibit at the Schnitzer in 2015.

Bartow plays with his band during a reception for his retrospective at the Schnitzer in 2015.

Which way to the future of the arts in Eugene?


Now that the Jacobs Gallery is dead and gone, what actually is the future of the visual arts in Eugene? A noontime discussion at the City Club of Eugene today brought in four experts to address that very question in front of an audience of a hundred or more people.

Listening to the hour-long presentation nudged my own thinking forward quite a bit about how and why we might pull together here to create a visual art center. I have, for too long, conflated the ideas of “art museum” and “visual arts center” without paying proper attention to a huge distinction that needs to be made.

An art museum hangs paintings.

A visual arts center provides a broader spectrum of experience.

In a talk I gave in November to the Round Table Club of Eugene, I mentioned these five ingredients as a minimum for a visual arts center here:

1. Gallery space for changing exhibitions as well as a permanent collection of art.

2. Studio space, including live-work studio space for visiting resident artists.

3. Classroom/auditorium space for teaching and presentations.

4. A cordial place where people can hang out and drink beer or wine or coffee and waste time on a rainy day. I think this is a necessity.

And, finally:

5. Magic.

Panelists at today’s City Club discussion were Tina Rinaldi, former Jacobs Galley director from long ago and now head of the University of Oregon Arts & Administration Program; Charly Swing, an artist who is head of a new venture, ArtCity, which she describes as “a multi-disciplinary artists’ studio community”; Miriam Alexis Jordan, former board member of the Jacobs and of DIVA; and Libby Unthank Tower, chair of the Oregon Arts Commission. Eugene architect Otto Poticha moderated.

Right off the bat, I found myself listening to Tina Rinaldi read from an article I posted in July about the need for a visual arts center here and pointing out – justly, I think – that the vision I expressed there had some shortcomings.

“Having a fancy building with pictures hanging on the walls is not enough,” she said, citing statistics from a couple of national surveys showing that engagement with traditional art is in serious decline. “Most people under the age of 50 don’t want to sit down and hang around and talk about art.”

Yes, that’s probably true (though I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want to). But attendance at well programmed arts events is good here in Eugene. Lane Arts Council’s occasional First Friday Art Talks has been wonderful.

What I need to make clear is that any possible visual arts center that can be dreamed of, planned and built in Eugene needs a solid foundation of programming from which to grow. You can’t just create a big, beautiful building. It has to be a building that houses the energy thrown off by lively arts institutions that are already functioning. (That may have been one of the biggest factors in the demise of DIVA some years ago.)

Look back to the 1970s and ’80s, when the Hult was being planned and built. The Hult didn’t happen in a vacuum. We already had a symphony, a ballet, and a repertory theater all wanting to perform there. That kind of arts programming made the Hult not just possible, but necessary.

Is there such programming in the visual arts here? Yes, but it’s scattered. One of the great success stories in Lane County has been the Emerald Art Center in Springfield, founded by a Sunday watercolor society but now housing gallery space and offering instruction. Another is Maude Kerns Art Center. Another is Whiteaker Printmakers.

We also have a university art museum in town – a museum that has, for some time, been looking to establish a downtown presence.

What if the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art teamed up with Emerald Art Center and with Maude Kerns and with WhitPrint and, perhaps, with the film and video group that grew out of the now-defunct DIVA and Charly Swing’s new ArtCity – and found temporary quarters to move into, together, downtown?

Yes, there are million problems. Maude Kerns and Emerald Art Center, for example, own their current facilities. Why should they move into something with an uncertain future? Collaboration is always uncomfortable.

But collaboration also has huge benefits, from efficiencies of scale to the synergy that comes from packing creative people into close proximity day after day.

And drawing on the existing institutional strength of those organizations and others like them might just be the surest way forward.

The entire hour-long City Club program on the visual arts will be broadcast on KLCC at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 28.

Reimagining Edward Curtis at the Portland Art Museum

Wendy Red Star's Apsa’alooke Feminist 3

Wendy Red Star’s Apsa’alooke Feminist 3

There’s just no escaping Edward Curtis. The hundreds of photographs he made of early 20th century Native Americans in his 20-volume opus The North American Indian helped define our idea of what it means to be an Indian. Google “American Indian,” and a handful of Curtis photographs will be among the first images that pop up.

In Contemporary Native Photographers and the Edward Curtis Legacy, which runs through May 8 at the Portland Art Museum, three contemporary native photographers add their own vision to Curtis’ powerful, romanticized, and sometimes historically inaccurate photos, which he often posed in an effort to recreate what he saw as a vanishing culture. I don’t know that  this exhibit adds anything new to the question of evaluating Curtis’ huge body of work, which has been much discussed and criticized over the past century. But the photographs here by Wendy Red Star, Zig Jackson and Will Wilson are smart, engaging, and fun — and entirely worth a trip up I-5 to see them.

Edward Curtis, Black Eagle, Nez Percé, 1911, photogravure, from The North American Indian.

Edward Curtis, Black Eagle, Nez Percé, 1911, photogravure, from The North American Indian.

Portland artist Wendy Red Star grew up on the Crow Reservation in Montana. Her work reacts to two aspects of Curtis’ photos: first, he photographed few women, and second, his black and white photographs necessarily missed the opulent color of traditional Crow costumes. An enormous color self portrait with her daughter tackles both issues head on; she also invites people to add their own color, using colored pencil, to some reproduced Curtis images.

Zig Jackson's reservation

Zig Jackson’s reservation

Zig Jackson’s work may be the funniest here. A native of  Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara descent, Jackson — who goes by the name Rising Buffalo — addresses the condescension of the dominant white culture to natives in a variety of ways, through series such as Indian Photographing Tourist Photographing Indian and through his series of photos set in Zig’s Indian Reservation. His work is sharp without being sardonic, and it capture some of the sadness that Curtis was trying to record in his photographs of a vanishing race.

Curtis' Storm - Apache

Curtis’ Indians ride into the sunset in Storm – Apache

Will Wilson, a Diné photographer who grew up in the Navajo Nation, is more directly a successor to Curtis’ work. Wilson uses old photographic methods such as wet plate and tintype to create portraits of contemporary natives, sometimes in an environment he calls beautifully toxic.

Will Wilson's portrait of Eric Garcia Lopez

Will Wilson’s portrait of Eric Garcia Lopez


A new juried art show being planned this summer to replace the defunct Mayor’s Art Show

Art lovers at last summer's Mayor's Art Show at the Jacobs Gallery.

Art fans at last summer’s Mayor’s Art Show at the Jacobs Gallery.

When the Jacobs Gallery died last month, it took with it the popular Mayor’s Art Show that was held there every summer, packing the Hult Center full of art lovers.

Now Eugene gallerist Karin Clarke has stepped up with a substitute.

Clarke is planning a juried Eugene Biennial during August at her downtown gallery, she said last night. While the structure is similar to the Mayor’s Show of the past, it has the interesting twist that artists will be invited to submit up to two works for consideration (the Mayor’s Show allowed only one per artist).

“Lane County artists 18 years and older will be invited to submit one or two recent works of art in any medium to be considered for this inaugural Eugene Biennial at Karin Clarke Gallery,” Clarke emailed.

Jurors will be Clarke, Eugene art collector Roger Saydack and Eugene painter Jon Jay Cruson.

Clarke said her gallery, at 760 Willamette Street, will be able to exhibit about 40 works in the biennial, which will open August 3 and run through August 27. A reception and award ceremony will be held during the First Friday Art Walk on August 5 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

“This exhibit will showcases artistic excellence by visual artists of our area,” she said. “There will be a small entry fee to be submitted with digital images, and more information will be available in the coming weeks.”

Further details have yet to be worked out.

“Please do not contact the gallery with inquiries at this time,” she said. “Information will be posted on our website and Facebook page by mid-March.”

The gallery is currently showing plein-air watercolors by Humberto Gonzalez.


Heather Halpern’s dark prints at Eugene’s Out on a Limb gallery

Halpern in her studio

Halpern in her studio

Heather Halpern is, among other things, an unusually neat and tidy artist. Walk into Whiteaker Printmakers, the public studio she’s begun down near Second and Polk, and you’re startled by the lack of grime and chaos. This might be a hospital operating theater or the garage at a Formula One road race. Nothing is out of place, or dirty, or dangerous looking.

The prints and pastels Halpern is showing this month at Tim Boyden’s Out on a Limb gallery downtown have a similar quality, in which deep and possibly dark emotions are channeled into a crisp, clean expression.

Her exhibit at the tiny gallery fills one wall, with pictures hung salon style, and it takes some discipline to look at each individual work. It’s worth the effort.

My favorite works in the show are the large and the small. Halpern has a big monotype that shows a glowering scene from Fern Ridge Reservoir near town; it’s loose and dark and dreamy, with the dead black brooding silhouettes of ferns forming the foundation for a more typical image above of a waterway, reeds and distant trees and sky.

A much smaller print is titled “Insistent’; it shows a pair of flower blossoms in monochrome against a dark background.

In her artist statement for the show, Halpern notes that her recent work grows out of pain and grief. In the past she’s gone through the serious illnesses of friends and family members. Suffering isn’t obvious is any of these works; rather, it’s been sublimated into complex and satisfying forms of expression.

Halpern, 45, has been an artist all her life. “I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon,” she says. She grew up around Redding, California, in a household with artistic parents and grandparents. “My dad was an artist,” she says. “His dad was an artist. And his grandmother was an artist.”

She studied drawing and painting at a series of community colleges in California before coming here with her husband in 2004. Since then, she’s also studied painting with Adam Grosowsky and printmaking with Susan Lowdermilk, Tallmadge Doyle and Margaret Prentice.

Printmaking came late in her career. “Through all these years of art education, that was one area I hadn’t explored,” she says.

As she got into printmaking in recent years, she needed a studio to work in. Her husband had commandeered the garage at their Eugene home for his woodworking equipment, so she couldn’t work there. And as she was looking around for space to rent, it occurred to her that a lot of other printmakers in town also needed a place to work.

Why not do it together?

When Halpern found a space to rent near the corner of Second Avenue and Polk Street, Whiteaker Printmakers was born.

Now a private business (though she has plans to create a non-profit), WhitPrint, as the studio is commonly called, has a dozen members who pay dues of $90 a month (the price is $80 if you commit to six months) for the right to work in the 2,400-square-foot immaculately clean and tidy studio that opened on April 15.

Whitprint offers classes and workshops as well as equipment and space for such processes as etching, woodcut, monotype, collagraph, screenprint and even letterpress. The studio even has an enormous press capable of printing woodcuts from 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood, and will be hosting a Big Ink event on June 4-5.

For more information about the studio, check out

Mark Clarke’s last painting


I photographed this landscape on the easel in painter Mark Clarke’s basement studio at his Eugene home Friday. He died on Monday.

The memorial service begins at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Jaqua Concert Hall at The Shedd, 868 High St.

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