Eugene Art Talk

Bob Keefer on art and music around Eugene, Oregon

Category: Art (page 3 of 9)

The city’s “conversation” on the Jacobs Gallery: chaotic and clueless

Collette Ramirez, standing, and Tomi Anderson, seated at right, lead a small group discussion Wednesday evening.

Colette Ramirez, standing, and Tomi Anderson, seated at right, lead a small group discussion Wednesday evening.

Let’s put the best possible spin on this: Eugene cultural services staffers are clueless, not evil.

Well more than a hundred people showed up tonight to a meeting called by the city at the Hult Center, hoping to find out what happened to the Jacobs Gallery, which is the closest thing we have here to a municipal art gallery, and what they might do to save it.

Instead they were met by disorganized and defensive staffers who insisted that what they wanted was a “conversation” on what should be done with the room the popular gallery has occupied for the past 18 years. They need a hundred people to tell them what to do with a room?

The Jacobs board announced in November it would shut the gallery down at the end of this month because of mounting financial problems. The city has supported the Jacobs, a private non-profit, in the past with a cash subsidy, but that has recently been cut to zero, or not quite to zero, or…. well, you couldn’t figure any of it out from anything presented this evening. Behind the scenes, though, there have been whispers of a lack of support from city staff for the gallery over the past two years– whispers I kept hearing tonight.

It was, to say the least, a bizarre meeting. Chairs were arranged in a giant circle in the Hult’s downstairs Studio, campfire style, when people arrived at 5:30 p.m. Once people sat down, Cultural Services Division Director Tomi Anderson spoke only from a far corner of the room, as if afraid to step into the limelight.

“There is a lot of misinformation about what happened to the Jacobs Gallery,” she began. That’s when things began to fall apart.

Unhappy arts patrons demanded some kind of clear explanation. None was forthcoming. Anderson and other city staffers tried to keep people from addressing the large meeting, though several did anyway, with and without microphones and usually without identifying themselves.

After a half hour of this chaos, staffers broke the crowd up into a series of small-group sessions with facilitators, each with a felt tip pen and big paper tablet. At that point, perhaps a third of the people who had attended walked out. “I won’t be treated like a child,” a Jacobs board member said on the way out the door. Even the mayor left, or so I’m told, though it’s not clear why.

It was all too bad. No one from either the Jacobs or the city shed much light on the gallery’s closing – a fiasco that reflects badly, no matter how you spin it, on Eugene’s commitment to the arts. And no one from the city offered anything resembling arts leadership.

Writing bullet points on a poster board just isn’t the same as vision.

Mark Clarke, 1935-2016


UPDATE: A public memorial for Mark will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, January 17, at The Shedd, 868 High St.

Painter Mark Clarke, who died yesterday at his home in Eugene, defied most of the conventions of contemporary art. He created representational work – landscapes, figures, the occasional portrait. He was focused on vision and skill, and didn’t give a hang about concept.

Most of all, in this era of self-branding artists, he wasn’t an egotist. The world, even the local art community in which he was highly respected, was never allowed to revolve around him. Instead, he would always gently deflect the conversation back onto the people around him. Deeply shy, he hated attending even his own receptions – but he loved hanging out and having coffee with a group of friends.

That was how I got to know him over the years, drinking coffee together at Perugino. If I wasn’t careful, he would always buy. He taught me straightforward skills, such as how to build wooden frames for my photographs, and offered advice on how to handle acrylic paints – his choice of medium – so that they approach the warmth and charisma of oils. But he also offered deeper knowledge: What he saw in a landscape, and why it resonated with him so.

I was far from the only one who enjoyed such conversations.

“Mark was a dear friend, a mentor, an inspiration, a fellow traveler through life for more than 30 years,” said Eugene art collector Roger Saydack, a friend of Clarke and his family. “Coffee with Mark was like sitting around a campfire. The conversation was sincere and honest. We could talk for hours.”

An untitled landscape from Clarke's most recent show.

An untitled landscape from Clarke’s most recent show.

Raised in Junction City, where his mother ran a ceramics shop, Clarke always loved to do things with his hands. He began to paint on his own, and credited a blue ribbon he won for a youthful work at the Lane County Fair with giving him the nerve to pursue art as a serious career.

He studied art as an undergraduate at Oregon State University, where he worked with painter Nelson Sandgren, who would become a lifelong friend. As a graduate student at the University of Oregon, Clarke painted with David McCosh, another consummate landscapist.

It was at the UO that Clarke met another young painter, Margaret Coe, who would become his wife. And it was there, under McCosh, that he became an adept observer of landscape. He painted moody paintings, almost always acrylics on canvas, that conveyed the gently brooding quality of the Northwest scene.

Always slightly vague – Clarke sometimes called them “myopic” – his paintings had a rough-hewn look, like the painter himself. He was a big, shambling man who could easily have been taken for a carpenter or plumber instead of a highly educated artist.


Clarke hanging paintings at his daughter’s gallery.

“Mark painted the landscape of this part of Oregon personally and intimately, as no one has before,” Saydack said. “It feels like we belong in each scene he painted. He had the great gift of an artist – the ability to find the essence of what he paints. And his paintings allow us to experience what he felt so deeply.”

A line from painter Paul Cezanne reminds Saydack of Clarke and his work: “The landscape thinks itself in me. Let the scene be born, let it germinate in you.”

“He was a painter’s painter,” said Eugene painter Jon Jay Cruson, who met Clarke when they were studying at the UO in the 1960s. Cruson remembers “a quiet, relaxed man with an inner peace when pushing that paint on the surface of the canvas. That never changed when he was working.”

Cruson especially noted Clarke’s love for the land that surrounded him. “He never needed to go further than his back yard for inspiration.”

Clarke and his wife had recently been selected for a large exhibit next year at the UO’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, an institution where he worked years ago as an exhibition preparator.

“Yesterday the art world lost a master painter with the passing of Mark Clarke,” the museum said in a statement released by curator Danielle Knapp.

And another.

And another.

“The JSMA is in the early stages of planning an exhibition of Mark and Margaret Coe’s work for 2017, and while we are saddened that we won’t be working with him directly, we are grateful that he knew this recognition was in the works. We now look forward to celebrating a lifetime of achievements.

“Mark represented the best of what we think of in Northwest art – both artistically, with paintings that not only captured the light of its land and sky, but glowed with it – and personally, with his warm spirit. His landscapes, informed by a lifetime of living and painting here, fully communicated the beauty and depth of Oregon’s natural wonder.”

Clarke and Coe had two children. Tim Clarke is a professional trumpet player in upstate New York and sometimes performs here at The Shedd Institute.

Karin Clarke runs a gallery in downtown Eugene that shows Northwest painting, including the work of both her parents; Mark Clarke’s most recent exhibition there was last fall, showing paintings that used a brighter, more upbeat palette than much of his previous work.

Plans for a public memorial are pending.


Painter Mark Clarke has died in Eugene; he was 80

Mark Clarke in his home studio in 2008.

Mark Clarke in his home studio in 2008.

Word is in that painter Mark Clarke died at his Eugene home this afternoon. He was 80.

One of the pre-eminent landscape painters in the state, Clarke worked in the solid tradition of such mid-20th century masters as David McCosh, with whom he studied at the University of Oregon, and Clarke’s long-time friend and fellow painter Nelson Sandgren. But beyond that, he was an uncommonly sweet human being, truly liked and respected by all who knew him.

He leaves his wife, painter Margaret Coe, and their children, Eugene gallerist Karin Clarke and New York trumpet player Tim Clarke.

I’ll write more about him here Tuesday. Here’s an interview I did with him in 2014.



Closing the Jacobs Gallery will be an “emergency” for Eugene, says physician and sculptor Roger Hall


Roger Hall in his sculpture studio.

Eugene radiologist Roger Hall, about whom I’ve written before, called the announced closing of the non-profit Jacobs Gallery an “emergency” in testimony before the Eugene City Council last week.

The Jacobs, which is to close in January, until recently enjoyed a direct city subsidy that had kept it in operation for the past couple decades. The gallery is housed in the city-owned Hult Center for the Performing Arts.

A former Lane Community College board member, Hall is also an accomplished metal sculptor – and had been scheduled for his own Jacobs exhibition in 2016.

Here are his remarks to the city council:

My name is Roger Hall.

I was an elected member of the Lane Community College board of education for twenty years.

I have been in your shoes.

I know what it is like to approve a budget and allocate funds throughout a complex organization. I also know that there are contingency funds to be used in budgetary emergencies.

We have such an emergency now. It’s called the Hult Center and the Jacobs Gallery.

I am not here to sell you on art. I am here to sell you on the integrity of the Hult Center, which served roughly 140,000 people last year and is a cultural hub of Eugene. The Jacobs Gallery is an integral part of that center, the site of the Mayor’s Art Show and an important venue of visual art.

Let me quote our city website: “The city of Eugene is rich in arts and culture… the renowned Jacobs Gallery displays curated visual art exhibits that bring patrons and visitors to the center during the day and prior to performances….”

Last year the gallery had 10,500 visitors and sold thousands of dollars of art. Let me say it again, 10,500 visitors! And we are going to let it close?

For $150,000, a minute percentage of the city’s budget and less than 2 percent of the more than $6 million designated for culture and art, we could fund the Jacobs Gallery.

The gallery, which had minimal (city) support this year, has been administered by a dedicated director, Beverly Soasey, and a volunteer board. Once closed, the gallery will not easily be re-opened. To find a director such as Beverly and a new board with the same talent and dedication would be almost impossible.

I have been on boards that have had the wisdom and courage to modify previous unwise decisions. I am hopeful that you will rethink this issue and have the wisdom and courage to do what is right for the city of Eugene by protecting the integrity of the Hult Center and funding the Jacobs Gallery.



Only the city can save the Jacobs Gallery — and the Mayor’s Art Show

No more Mayor's Art Show?

No more Mayor’s Art Show? Opening night last August.

So now what?

That’s the bitter question that’s floated around the Eugene arts world since the word came down last month that the best non-profit art gallery in town, and the closest thing the city has to a municipal visual art space, would soon be shuttered for lack of money — probably killing off the Mayor’s Art Show in the process.

The exhausted board of the Jacobs Gallery, which has been run for many years as an independent non-profit inside the city-owned Hult Center for the Performing Arts, announced they would be calling it quits January 31. In an email sent out to gallery supporters on November 5, the board and staff cited diminishing support for visual art.

“Sadly there has been a sea change in the ways in which art, purely for art’s sake, is valued.” the email said.

That missing support can be directly measured in dollars and cents from the city of Eugene. The city used to provide a $30,000 annual subsidy to the Jacobs, in addition to free rent. That money has disappeared.

The Jacobs has been the closest thing Eugene has to a municipal art gallery – an institution we sorely lack.

Under the guidance, most recently, of artistic director Beverly Soasey, the Jacobs has mounted a steady series of polished shows by interesting local artists. (Yes, I am among the artists who have shown there: I had an exhibit of my photography there this past spring. But I said kind things in print about the Jacobs long before my show there was even an idea.)

The city, meanwhile, is acting like this is some external disaster, completely out of the city’s control, that just happened to befall the Jacobs. Not our fault, they say.

“We are saddened by the news that the Jacobs Gallery will be closing its doors on January 31,” says a Facebook post from the city’s Cultural Services Division, which oversees the Hult Center. “The Gallery has long been a significant organization showcasing visual arts in our community. While Eugene is losing an important gallery, we are not losing our commitment to investing in the evolution and promotion of visual arts. Cultural Services looks forward to facilitating a community-wide conversation with artists and organizations that may be interested in utilizing this dynamic space.”

It’s a little hard to buy this line about commitment to the visual arts from the people who cut $30,000 from the Jacobs budget.

One question that pops to mind is this: What happens now to the annual Mayor’s Art Show?

That’s an institution that’s even older than the Jacobs, but that has been housed there for as long as the gallery has existed.

In its heyday, the Mayor’s Art Show – a juried exhibit open to all artists, 18 and over, in the county – exemplified the best of Eugene. Anyone could enter, and did. The show’s packed opening reception was on opening night of the (also now-defunct) Eugene Celebration. And, to add to the fun, the Salon des Refuses opened on the same night and showed all the works rejected by the official show. With more artists exhibiting there, the Salon reception was an even bigger party.

Then reality set in. The Salon worked because jurying for the Mayor’s Show was done with the actual art works brought in and arranged on tables . On judgment day, the rejected artists would pick up their works and then be encouraged to walk them over to the Salon. Reality meant saving money by jurying from digital images instead of in person. Without easy access to the works, the Salon was canceled. Soon after, the Eugene Celebration went under, and the Mayor’s Show became an isolated event.

So how to save the Jacobs and the Mayor’s Art Show? I’m on the board of director of the Lane Arts Council, which seems like the appropriate organization to take on running the Jacobs and the show. But as I’ve talked about the idea with fellow board members, with board members of the Jacobs, and even with the mayor herself, I’ve begun to doubt that Lane Arts could do anything to save the gallery that its board hasn’t already tried.

The problem is that city subsidy. With it, the gallery worked; without it, the gallery is gone.

Meanwhile, the city wants your ideas on what to do with the space the gallery now occupies. Cultural Services will be holding a meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, January 13, in the Atrium Building lobby, 99 West 10th Avenue, “to learn more about the Jacobs Gallery space and share ideas for its transformation.”

Or you can just email them:

Love, suffering, death and redemption at ’10th and Yamhill’ at Lane Community College

Painting No. 19: 'The spiritual crises of unanswered prayers.'

Painting No. 19: ‘The spiritual crises of unanswered prayers.’

Eugene painter Margaret Coe spent much of the fall and winter of 2011 in Portland, where her young grandson, Marcus, was dying of brain cancer. As moms will do, she pitched in and helped support her daughter and Marcus’ mother, gallerist Karin Clarke, as the little boy slid inexorably toward death.

During occasional breaks, Coe would slip out of the hospital for fresh air and respite. She found herself drawn to a spot on a nearby parking garage at the corner of 10th and Yamhill, with a view of Portland street life and the public library across the street. Soon she began to sketch and photograph and paint what she saw from there: the traffic, the library facade, a street preacher.

In the end, Coe produced a series of 20 paintings that form an unusual narrative about Marcus’ death that December and the effects it had on those around him. Intensely personal, even uncomfortably so, they’ve never been shown in Eugene until now, although they were exhibited in 2012 at the Mary Lou Zeek Gallery in Salem.

You can see them through December 9 at the Art Department Gallery at Lane Community College.

Coe is one of my favorite painters, and favorite people, as well. She learned her craft from Oregon painters like David McCosh, and her shows clear influences of an older generation of Northwest artists like Charles Heaney and C.S. Price.  Her work is usually of landscape, and often grows out of her frequent painting trips to Europe.

In “10th and Yamhill,” though, she’s stepped well beyond the idea of a painting as  a stand-alone experience. Instead, she has created this series as a narrative, and even — and, I think, aptly — has compared it, without pretense, to an opera. Her artist’s statement in the gallery lists the characters in the story. She tackles the death of a child here with an oblique approach, not dwelling on the obvious imagery of hospital beds and parental agony.

Even so, such dark, emotionally wrenching material poses deep challenges for exhibition. I skipped seeing the show at Mary Lou Zeek in part because I was still so saddened by Marcus’ death, though I later visited Coe’s studio and saw the work there.

Paintings like this are hardly commercial enough to be shown at most galleries, and no doubt Karin Clarke would be very uncomfortable exhibiting them at her gallery, where she would have to confront them day and and day out.

Showing them at LCC is a perfect solution, and I found, on seeing them there a couple times in the past week, that time enough has passed for me to view them more objectively as art, with at least a touch of distance.

And, as art, they’re both intriguing and moving. They work very well as a narrative series, and Coe’s captions for them offer an engaging mix of observation and comment, without being sentimental or mawkish. The hardest painting to view is, of course, the last one. I’ll leave it to you to see why.

Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday thorough Friday.








Adam Grosowsky’s new show opened tonight at Karin Clarke Gallery


A few dozen people turned out earlier this evening for the opening of the annual show of popular painter Adam Grosowsky’s work at Karin Clarke Gallery downtown. Grosowsky, who teaches painting at Lane Community College, has developed a steady following over the years for his large nudes, portraits and occasional landscapes, which are almost always done with large areas of dramatic black background.

He was on hand to greet his fans and to talk about one of his other favorite pastimes, slacklining — a sport he’s credited with inventing. A video looping in the gallery tonight showed Grosowsky walking across (and sometimes falling into) a local river on a slackline running across it as he worked on becoming the first person to swing the line so far from side to side that it swings over the top without his falling off — kind of like swinging a bucket of water over your head without losing a drop. Grosowsky hasn’t yet managed the feat but still believes it’s possible.

His work will be on exhibit at Karin Clarke Gallery through December 19.



The Jacobs Gallery is closing


The Jacobs Gallery, the city’s premiere non-profit art gallery, will close its doors for good in January, say news reports tonight.

“Today, I called scheduled artists that go into 2017 and (told) them that they can’t have their shows there. Now that’s depressing,” radio station KLCC quoted Alex Brokaw, president of the gallery board of directors, as saying.

The Jacobs opened in 1987 in the lower level of the Hult Center, five years after the performance venue opened its doors.

Though a private non-profit, it operated with a city subsidy for many years. But that subsidy was cut, gradually, to nothing, and the board was apparently unable to replace the money in its operating budget.

The ‘Flying People’ have flown from Eugene Airport

Susan Detroy will install Davd Joyce's 'Flight Patterns' in a gallery named for Joyce at LCC in the coming week.

Susan Detroy will install David Joyce’s ‘Flight Patterns’ in a gallery named for Joyce at LCC in the coming week.

The “Flying People” have flown.

The popular mural by the late David Joyce, which consists of photos of various community members posed as through they were flying, has graced the passenger terminal at Eugene Airport since 1989.

On Thursday they were taken down to make way for construction at the terminal, and delivered to the David Joyce Gallery at Lane Community College. There they will be installed along a hallway — the entire gallery is hung in hallways on the second floor at the Center for Meeting and Learning — for an indeterminate period of time.

The mural remains owned by the airport, explained Susan Detroy, a Eugene artist and David Joyce Gallery director. She is planning to rehang the work in the same order it appeared at the airport, starting Friday.

Airport officials are still  deciding whether to move the work permanently to the gallery.


Karin Clarke’s gallery is once again Karin Clarke Gallery

Karin Clarke, at left, greets evening visitors on First Friday.

Karin Clarke, at left, greets evening visitors on First Friday.

The downtown art gallery formerly known as Karin Clarke Gallery is changing its name again — back to Karin Clarke Gallery.

The gallery, at 760 Willamette Street, has been called the Schrager and Clarke Gallery for the last three years. Clarke, the owner, brought in Schrager, an artist who also previously worked at Maude Kerns Art Center, to help out after Clarke’s young son died of cancer.

An email sent by the gallery today says Schrager is going back to work as an artist.

With the help of her parents, painters Mark Clarke and Peg Coe, Karin Clarke opened the gallery in 2002 and soon expanded it to include an annex across Willamette Street. It specializes in contemporary and 20th century Northwest painting but shows sculpture and other work as well.

After the recession hit in 2009, Clarke closed the main gallery — which was by the called Clarke Studio and Gallery — and set up shop in the smaller annex.

The gallery is currently showing an exhibit of new paintings by Mark Clarke. On November 11, it will open a show of work by Eugene painter Adam Grosowsky.

Gallery hours are noon to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

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