We have a jury!!!

This is an exciting day for us.  We have a jury!  Every year we look for an artist, a gallerist, and an educator to form our three-person jury.  In this way we are assured that we are giving opportunities to emerging artists while staying on the forefront of the Portland art scene.  We are honored to announce the 2017 Portland Open Studios Jury

Caitlin Moore, the Gallery Manager at PDX Contemporary.

Jiseon Lee Isbara, a local fiber artist and professor at OCAC

Jill McVarish, oil painter with the Riversea Gallery in Astoria.

Thanks to all of you for agreeing to serve on the jury.

Our application deadline is March 3.  Apply here.

Welcome to our 19th year!

Thank You to our visitors, artists, and supporters!

As our year ends we celebrate the 106 artists that invited the public to become immersed in the creative process and learn about the expression of art. I visited studios across the city last October joining hundreds of patrons watching live demonstration of the creative process, Continue reading

POS artist wins First Place Rose Award

More good news from one of our own, Lynne Patton, who won the First Place Rose Award in the Oregon Society of Artists Rose Festival Show for her painting Copper and Roses. The reception and award ceremony was Sunday June 8th. OSA has been part of the Portland Rose Festival since the 1930s. It is an honor to be juried into this show and a big honor to win first place. The show is at Oregon Society of Artists through July 11th. Lynn will be at the gallery on Saturday 6/21 from 1-4 if you would like to stop by. In other news, Lynn was recently commissioned to paint 2 paintings for Edelweiss Dental in Portland. And be sure to stop by Lynn’s studio during Portland Open Studios this fall.

Between Here and There: My Own Starlight Scope Myopia

By Paul X. Rutz

Blessed with great hearing and strong night vision, Army draftee Lance Grebner was often assigned duty on night watch for his company in the Vietnamese central highlands during his tour in 1968-69. His story about how he became a go-to guy on the starlight scope brought up some Naval and academic memories for me before it took a turn way beyond my field of vision—down a path not fit for sensitive readers.

We talk about everything from cooking excellent tamales to predictions on when the first people will land on Mars during our biweekly meetings to work on Lance’s portrait. (My partner in portraiture, Christopher Wagner, mentions some of the topics here: http://paulrutz.com/from-chris-wagner-conversation-as-shortcut-to-art-based-resonation/.) We also chat through a free-association mix of politics, Oregon outdoor adventures, and details about our early adulthood, which for Chris are colored by his early plans to be a preacher. For Lance and me, those stories often have a military hue—mine the color of an aircraft carrier at sea, and his the color of long mountain marches.

Lance’s company spent much of the daylight combing the craggy mountains for signs of a massive tunnel system rumored to house an underground combat hospital for the North Vietnamese Army. At night the NVA and Viet Cong came out of the tunnels, which brought about a stealthy cat-and-mouse game of ambushes and counter-attacks. Much of the American company would spend the night roving around setting up ambushes in the brush. But with his good nighttime reputation, Lance didn’t have to do a lot of that. Instead he was able to enjoy setting aside his bulky M-60 machine gun to take his turn with a smaller rifle and a startlight scope, looking at the rustling nighttime through it: two hours on, two off, until dawn.

I’ve never seen the shadowy world through a 1960s-era startlight scope, but in my Naval aviation role a decade ago I saw through similar military equipment. As Lance spoke about lying in wait on a hill, panning back and forth while looking through that round scope, I remembered Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem “Starlight Scope Myopia.”

A well regarded poet of the Civil Rights era, Komunyakaa received a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam the same year (1969) that Lance earned his. It took Komunyakaa fourteen years to write about the war, finally publishing a book on it in the 1980s called Dien Cai Dau, which is Vietnamese for “crazy.” I know this thanks to background research related to my dissertation on combat art in Iraq. (Brian Turner, a rare breed who did a Master of Fine Arts in poetry before enlisting in the Army and serving in Iraq, has published some poems that make some Komunyak-esque moves.)

I told Lance about the poem with some enthusiasm, extolling what I take to be its effective meditation on the scope’s tendency to pull the shooter-viewer into this round, monochromatic world—a unique kind of near-sightedness. Komunyakaa closes “Starlight Scope Myopia” this way, refining—I said with scholarly authority—the distance between shooter and target:

One of them is laughing.

You want to place a finger

to his lips & say “shhhh.”

You try reading ghost-talk

on their lips. They say

“up-up we go,” lifting as one.

This one, old, bowlegged,

you feel you could reach out

& take him into your arms. You

peer down the sights of your M-16

seeing the full moon

loaded on an oxcart.

The poem ends like that, with this strangely beautiful image of the moon on an ox cart. We pause on the shadowy, quiet, mystical scene available through spotting scopes and explore how the sight of moving mouths can mingle with a viewer’s imagination and other night sounds into the illusion that we can hear the far-off people speaking. And Komunyakaa’s “you” adds an important, menacing layer. With “you,” he leads readers to imagine ourselves in the role of shooter instead of him. The power inherent in a rifle with night scope becomes yours. You think you know the men represented in this monochrome, shadowy text. You feel you can embrace them, and you can kill them.

I made sure to give Lance a copy of the poem in an anthology, hoping for more opportunities to talk about the optical strangeness in those situations. I’m a painter. I think about these things all the time. What I don’t think about much—and here’s an example of my own myopic view of combat scopes and luminance—is the memories someone like Lance must have entwined with those of the full moon apparently loaded onto an oxcart. They aren’t pleasant memories.

Lance earned his reputation for good starlight scoping this way: One night, on watch with his platoon sergeant, Lance whispered that he saw a figure appear in the scope, and then he started counting… 2, 3, 4, 5. “When I got to 8,” he told me, “I said, holy sh** there’s a company of NVA down there. I saw a mortar tube. It was very scary.” He said it turned out there were 200 troops on their way to take out another American company that the North Vietnamese had located earlier.

So Lance and his sergeant immediately sent word to their company to wake everyone up. He said, within a minute they lit up those ghostly shapes with everything they had. Lance set aside the M-16 with the starlight scope and picked up his usual M-60 machine gun. The barrel got so hot he worried it might melt.

In the morning they found no bodies and no weapons among the helmets and other equipment left behind. The North Vietnamese rarely left any men or weapons behind. “And there were a lot of blood trails,” he said. But later, following those blood trails, the company found several shallow graves. The NVA often would put maps or other sensitive intelligence material under a rotting body to keep anyone from discovering it, guessing that pure revulsion would keep people away from valuable intel. “But we had orders,” Lance said. They turned over those bodies—careful to avoid any booby traps—and searched the whole scene thoroughly.

One grave appeared unusual. The man’s body was buried with some formality, in a wooden box instead of a simple hole in the ground. The Americans suspected the man must have been some kind of high ranking official. Opening the box revealed something big, yet not quite what they expected. It was obvious the man had still been alive when he was buried, Lance said. The tips of the fingers had rubbed away from scratching at the coffin’s insides, and the man’s face was still twisted in what looked like a ghastly scream.

Conversations like this one give me some glimpse at the narrow scope I’m looking through almost all the time. I hope talking about it 45 years later helps Mr. Grebner, too.

“Between Here and There” is a two-media portrait project that I and Christopher Wagner will be brushing and carving into until we show the series in November at Good Gallery in Portland, Oregon. The series is funded through a generous grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council.

Fellowship and Project Grants for Portland Open Studios Artists

Portland Open Studios would like to congratulate long time PDXOS artist Sabina Haque on receiving an Oregon Arts Commission fellowship. 2011 PDXOS Juror Modou Dieng also received a fellowship. Find out about all the receipients here.
The Oregon Arts Commission’s Individual Artist Fellowship Program honors Oregon’s professional artists and their artistic achievements and supports their efforts to advance their careers.

Portland Open Studios would like to congratulate board member and Education Chair Paul Rutz on being a 2014 Regional Arts and Culture Council project grant receipient. We will post additional details about his project next year.

We would also like to congratulate the other grant receipients, including previous PDXOS artists Anna Magruder, Christopher Mooney, Shu-Ju Wang, and Kelly Williams. Summaries about all the funded projects can be found here.
The Regional Arts and Culture Council supports the region’s vital arts and culture community through a variety of grant programs.

Liv Rainey-Smith: Revealing Woodcuts

by Morgan Madison

Liv unveils a fresh print in her studio.

Liv Rainey-Smith is a Portland, OR based printmaker.  She was first introduced to the medium while earning her BFA from Oregon College of Arts and Crafts.  I meet Liv Rainey-Smith at Atelier Meridian, the print making studio and arts community in North Portland where she creates her wonderfully imaginative woodcut prints.  It is quickly striking how articulate and well considered she is in our conversation.  It shows a thoughtfulness that comes from a life spent immersed in books and stories.  Indeed, Liv’s interest in these forms of communication and what they can reveal about humanity comes from a very personal place.

As a child Liv faced serious challenges.  She was born with only one ear and a serious heart defect.  At the age of 4 she went through open heart surgery and was in and out of hospitals for her ear up until her early teens.  Liv says; “These experiences helped create a love of reading and creating as well as a fascination with anatomy and mythology.”  These influences are readily apparent in her prints, which are populated with distinctive patterns and fantastical creatures rendered in a crisp graphic style.

Capybara, Woodcut Print, Edition of 30, 8” x 10”, 2010

Capybara is a wonderful example.  Its half rodent/half fish subject sits in regal repose, like some mythological creature.  Liv explains; “The story behind the capybara is that it is the world’s largest rodent, and because it is semi-aquatic it is supposedly considered a fish for purposes of consumption on Fridays and during Lent.  So the print is my ‘early explorer’ illustration of the wondrous rodent-fish of the new world.”  The story and image together reveal enough to set the stage for the viewer’s imagination to take over.  The same can be said for a piece like Egress, whose spirit-like subject swirls in the ether while breathing a plume of fire.  It is a part of her ongoing series Iunges, which depicts otherworldly messengers, angels of communication.  They seem like visitors from some vivid dream.  In fact, Liv cites her own dreams as another source of inspiration for her work.

Egress, Woodcut Print, Edition of 7, 14” x 20”, 2010

This combination of personal experiences with the symbolism of myths and storytelling gives Liv’s work an enigmatic and compelling character.  It inspires a search for meaning that mirrors beautifully the process by which she creates it.  In woodcut printing, ink is applied to paper by a block of wood that has been carved to create a design in relief.  Liv begins most of her pieces with drawings.  However, as she chooses a block and begins to carve Liv pays careful attention to the unique character of each piece of wood.  Its personality and quirks help guide her decisions, and as she reveals the story within the wood block it helps shape the story she shares with us.

To see her process in person and to hear Liv speak about her work and inspiration be sure to make her studio (#62) a stop on your 2010 tour of Portland Open Studios.

Liv’s work will be featured with another Portland Open Studios artist in; Liminal: Paintings by Chris Haberman and Woodcut Prints by Liv Rainey-Smith at Pearl Gallery and Framing, October 7th – November 2nd, with an artists’ reception on opening night.

Her work can also be seen at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, October 1-3 and as part of the Portland Tarot Project show at Splendorporium, November 15 – January 2.

Visit www.livraineysmith.com to see her work online.