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Thursday 08.10.06

« PAM acquires video art from Biennial | Main | Drop in if you are in the neighborhood? »

Weekly Web Roundup


Though it may have seemed that the recent question about those selected for the 8th Northwest Biennial in the comments area was sloughed off, it got me to thinking. Often the question of gender comes up when a list like this comes out. In an effort to allow ourselves to judge the quality of the work rather than the quantity of men vs. women, I thought I’d try to gather some visual information.

Below is the list of artists; each name linked to one of the first sites upon “google”ing their name. It looks as though Oregon’s biennial outdoes Tacoma’s for the battle of the sexes. 17/34 (Oregon) vs 15/41(Tacoma). Though their numbers are smaller will the ladies of the Greater Northwest kick as hard as they do in Oregon?

Victoria Adams

Juan Alonso
Daniel Attoe
Jay Backstrand
Justin Colt Beckman
Nicholas Brown
Cris Bruch
Buddy Bunting
Sally Cleveland
Judy Cooke
Claire Cowie
Mark Danielson
Susan Dory
Joe Fedderson
Ellen Garvens
John Grade
Victoria Haven
Patrick Holderfield
Denzil Hurley
Sarah Jane Lapp
Anya Kivarkis
Mack McFarland
Mark Takamichi Miller
Steven Miller
Jeffry Mitchell
Brian Murphy
Natalie Niblack
Nicholas Nyland
Mary Ann Peters
Jim Riswold
Phil Roach
Alex Schweder
Michael Spafford
Juniper Shuey
Lisa Sweet
Keith Tilford
Marie Watt
Sherrie Wolf
Robert Yoder
Claude Zervas

In other news, Jo Jackson has a review for her show at Kavi Gupta in Chicago on Artkrush.

Gretchen Bennett, one of the stronger participants in the recent inClover show, gets a shoutout from Visual Codec.

Posted by Melia Donovan on August 10, 2006 at 22:08 | Comments (12)


The quality of work is of course a first concern, but it can never be the only concern when art is being made by women and either not seen or not written about. Or sold at a fraction of the price for a similar work made by a male. The statistics are in and they don't look good. Hurrah for Jennifer Gately to get past that, on top of pulling off an engaging show.

Posted by: lsd [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2006 11:52 AM

Ive always felt that female artists dominate Portland's scene both quantitatively and qualitatively. Only very recently have some of the guys really stepped up, Sean Healy, Brendan Clenaghen, Bruce Conkle, David Eckard, Brad Adkins even TJ Norris etc...

But with people like Pat Boas, Chandra Bocci, Jacqueline Ehlis, Ellen George, Linda Hutchins, Dianne Kornberg, Laura Fritz, Judy Cooke, MK Guth and Vanessa Renwick all in top form its tough to argue that women aren't the backbone of the scene.

What I find most annoying is that besides Jacqueline Ehlis none of the women really get the same kind of "major event" or "star" press focus (maybe its because Ehlis decided she had to speak out and she's become a leader because of it). Still, the press loves to print articles about loudmouthed men in Portland and I suppose that is an archetype I helped set up (hopefully my contribution has been qualitative) but I'm annoyed that women are treated as a quieter force in town.... when the truth is MK Guth and many others are very vocal... it just never ends up in print.

I think PORT could do something about this, email me some ideas. If you want to send some statements Ill compile them as a single post.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2006 01:21 PM

The statistics also point to the fact that more MFA's are awarded to women. So, if one were truly going to cater to numbers a strict division down the middle still doesn't cut it. The most disappointing and stupefying inclusions in the biennial are all men. Cut those and the numbers would be closer to the statistics.

Now, what about gallery representation in the city? Who's selling? Who's promoted? What's the gender division in the commercial spaces vs non-profit?

Posted by: melia [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2006 02:08 PM

From where I stand, the most disappointing and stupefying inclusions in the Biennial seem to be equally distributed. I wouldn't make a note to check out the solo shows of 25 or more of the 34 people in the show.

Posted by: jerseyjoe [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2006 02:22 PM

ok, i over-spoke. my apologies. looking back at the catalog, there are 3 women and 6 men i would have cut from the show. regardless, i find this tack of argument to be quite tender. it's easy to get irate and distracted. from my point of view it's better to talk about the work.

which-getting back to the matter at hand-have you taken a look at the sites? some of it is really exciting. some of it, again, stupefying. what motivates the choice?

Posted by: melia [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2006 03:36 PM

What motivates your decision to cut 3 women and 6 men? Your answer is likely the same or close to what the jurors for the Tacoma Biennial would give.

Posted by: jerseyjoe [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2006 05:26 PM

good point. aesthetics, i suppose, for myself. the jurors, however, have to have additional motivators-commerce, social particpation, politics, etc.

the question i'm interested in at the moment concerns the function of the biennial. what purpose does it serve?

Posted by: melia [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2006 06:36 PM

In the case of the Tacoma Biennial, artists were encouraged to include press packets. But if certain artists are not written about, that could definitely play into the element of choice. The committee looked at all kinds of things, not just images and work.

Posted by: lsd [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2006 06:39 PM

Historically, the Biennial is the most well-attended, most publicized, and most debated art show in the state. For some, being included in the Biennial acts as a gateway to finding local or regional gallery representation and a greater audience for their work.

On the flipside, it's kind of goodwill gesture by the museum towards the regional art-world. Patrons of local galleries might begin to support the museum if they see that the work they support is also supported by the museum, and vice versa.

Posted by: jerseyjoe [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 12, 2006 11:24 AM

Really, quality is what matters here, any omnibus regional art biennial should be able to cover all of the demographics and still be provocative. In theory, biennials are also just a sample of the best that is available. Also, they aren't necessary in order to get gallery representation. In fact the area is littered with unrepresented artists who have been in Oregon and Northwest biennials. Frankly, the gallery system only works for some types of artists.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 13, 2006 11:58 AM

First off, I donít think the contents of biennials are the best thatís on offer, Jennifer Gately says as much in her catalog essay. When the selection is by jury it is not the best--just whatís on offer.

To be sure a regional biennial certainly holds the goal to catalyze as well as to capitalize. Bolstering a local arts economy might be a part of the goal as well. Certainly, the biennial catalog acts as a research tool for inter/national institutions like the Whitney. Looking through the Whitneyís library catalog ( http://library.whitney.org/ ) and doing a broad search for biennial I found listing after listing of regional and sub-genre biennial catalogs.

The first biennial was the Venice Biennale, started in 1895, according to the Oxford English Dictionary of Art, for I could find no other comprehensive text on the subject of the history of biennials as a contemporary event. Sao Paulo then Paris soon followed with some regional American biennials beginning in the postwar era. Actually the Venice Biennale lost steam and revitalized after the war as well. So, the biennial, by and large, is a postwar phenomenon with a blossoming of regional and sub-genre biennials within the last two to three decades-mostly juried, with an entry fee. Concurrent to that you have a rise in the number of institutions that house contemporary art collections and a rise in the number of MFA programs.

If 900+ people, from four states are vying for 41 spots and 700+ from one state are applying for 34 spots it seems that something is out of balance. Institutions can only collect so much. Galleries can only show so much. Supply is up-demand is down? I havenít been keeping up with Dave Hickey lately but 6 years ago in a lecture he gave at Hunter he predicted a collapse of the contemporary art institution beginning with the MCA in Chicago. With the proliferation of new non-profits and arts oriented organizations sprouting locally, coupled with the influx of artists-neglecting the education of a consumer culture seems like energy misplaced.

Posted by: melia [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 13, 2006 08:04 PM

I don't always agree with what Hickey says (his general dismissal of nearly all institutions being one example ...but damn can the man write) but I think he was speaking more to the idea of institutionalized mediocrity.

He and I are both from the Weimar school of thought, that it takes close knit groups of highly astute individuals with strong personal associations to get anything worth while accomplished. Great things dont happen by chance.

Hickey's essay "my Weimar" is probably the best when it comes to understanding where he is coming from.

That said there was a prolifration of non-descript "art centers" nationally during the 90's. Many of them have failed, most recently Con-Works in Seattle. Part of there problem was (to paraphrase Disraeli) they were so comprehensive that nobody could comprehend them.

Wheras, small, and genunely innovative "communities of desire" (Hickey's term) can accomplish great things... it's still a stuggle. Later on once there is a track record an institution can expand.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2006 10:13 AM

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