Portland art blog + news + exhibition reviews + galleries + contemporary northwest art

recent entries

Resist: Inauguration at Una Gallery
Early February links
First Thursday Picks February 2017
Dead tree media & dead horse flogging news
Post Snowpocalypse Weekend Picks
More Disjecta'd
New Year opportunities
Monday Integrity Links
First Thursday Picks January 2017
Jason Berlin + Alanna Risse at Rainmaker
Saying goodby to 2016
Mid December Links

recent comments

categories

 

Book Review
Calls for Artists
Design Review
Essays
Interviews
News
Openings & Events
Photoblogs
Reviews
Video
Links
About PORT

regular contributors

 

Tori Abernathy
Amy Bernstein
Katherine Bovee
Emily Cappa
Patrick Collier
Arcy Douglass
Megan Driscoll
Jesse Hayward
Sarah Henderson
Jeff Jahn
Kelly Kutchko
Drew Lenihan
Victor Maldonado
Christopher Moon
Jascha Owens
Alex Rauch
Gary Wiseman

archives

 

Guest Contributors
Past Contributors
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005

contact us

 

Contact us

search

 


syndicate

 

Atom
RSS

powered by

 

Movable Type 3.16

This site is licensed under a

 

Creative Commons License

Saturday 12.16.06

« check em out | Main | Required Reading »

POW! and Chris Verene's "Self Esteem" at Quality Pictures

HeidiRenFair2.jpg
Detail from Chris Verene's "Heidi in Her Renaissance Fair Dress" 2004



Heidi greets you at the door, resplendent in her full regalia of "Ren" Fair attire, beaming in all of her medieval maiden glory. She seems relaxed and proud amidst suburban fauna and flora, the portrait of someone living as closely as possible to a dream. POW! Pictures of Women confronts you immediately upon entering the door. Enter here, stage left, Quality Pictures, Portland's latest addition to the Pearl, and after experiencing the raw caliber of its first show, quite an addition indeed.

"POW! Pictures of Women" and Chris Verene's "Self-Esteem" are gallerist Erik Schneider's poignant selection for Quality Picture's striking debut. As POW! leads one into QPCA's voluminous space, the air changes a bit. There is an air of earnest, spiritual ambition reminiscent of gothic architecture in not only the walls of the gallery but in the hanging of this show. The subject matter is one of the most difficult to take on as it is one of the most investigated subjects. Portraits, photographs, and general images of women abound and have populated the world for centuries. Such subjects are precarious and often touchy as they are the most hackneyed, surrounded and weighted by definitive stigmas. Ironically, this is the reason that Schneider chose to do this first show of women, deeming that most of us do indeed have and/or are exposed constantly to such images of the feminine form. It is for this reason that these images stand apart so stridently from their hackneyed counterparts. Often raw and intimate, often voided shells of imposed ideas of femininity, these works not only provide us with images of insight into the experiences and ideas of each artist, but they also ask questions of us as eager and respected viewers.

Here are our portraits: Hungry souls pulling up stockings, primping and pushing up breasts. Young girls don Brownie sashes as grown women entertain four inch high bangs. There are masked, whirling Victorian dervishes fueled by an empty female propriety that buttons up to the chin and continues to blossom on the lawns of the grandest colonial homes. Some of these women entertain parasitic looking growths inside of their mouths and earlobes and hang from chains around their throats. The most candid of the photos portray languor, longing, and a tangible unrest. Occasionally, pretty youths patiently await an unseen director's summons for the next scene on the set of a pornographic film as they emote to the still camera's lens with a wisdom beyond years or words. There are shots with legs spread and breasts bared. Rarely do the subjects openly inform the viewer about themselves or personaly thoughts, and when they do, it is in a sinister, almost menacing light, as women rebelling against relentless impositions. Kara Walker's "Emancipation Approximation" depicts lovely feminine silhoutte, bustiered and curlyqueued, languidly pondering seemingly pondering such taxing subjects as the atmosphere of dusk, meanwhile skirting the macabre footing of decapitated heads at her feet. Glenn Brown's untitled print of a Victorianesque woman also lurks on the tiny shore from this edge of the pond. Her magenta gaze seems to know something we do not.

What do they tell us about their subjects? Whom do I see? What defines femininity that is both not tangible and cannot also describe the physical properties of silk or milk or blood? Where do women exist when it is not in terms of flesh? In a time within which feminism often too has such a definitive stigma, portraying a strong female voice visually is often too easily dismissed. Suddenly that voice becomes part of a genre due to gender and much else is lost. Yet these images are riveting. We search for the people behind the stockings and bustiers that the photos are intending to roughly outline. They hint without a dogma, intending to imitate more life than creation.

Jenny Saville's work uses the notion of flesh-obsession to the extreme, gutting it up the middle, turning it inside out, documenting, and then painting the portrait of what we forget is our dripping form. Her photograph, "Closed Contact A" portrays a subject almost strangled by the girth of its own skin, conquered by the demise of that which is inescapable: one's self. Yet, she looks at you, directly, and suddenly the suffocating girth has spirit; it has life and suffering. This is one of the last images one sees before heading into the second section of the gallery, and suddenly the new portrait of woman becomes clear; it is stripped bare and raw, pared down to its essential form amidst obstacles of inescapable weight and undeniable form. There is a last visual imprint on the memory of magenta flowers and phallus from Naomi Fisher before heading into the next section of the gallery.

FISHerN.JPG
Naomi Fisher, "Untitled (Bougainvillaea)" 2001


A sultry extension of the portraits commences once again, only this time there is a completely different aura surrounding this new portrait. We are greeted quite confrontationally by a figure in fuchsia one-piece bathing suit, sensuously sucking on a Jumbo Jet Star, complete with manicured nails and five o'clock shadow. Schneider has thoughtfully juxtaposed this beginning of the "Self-Esteem" show with a portrait of what at first glance might be a woman, yet this portrait is immediately different. It is not imposed upon or manipulated at all. The figure acts of its own volition, confrontationally, more predator than prey. This is an expertly orchestrated transition between both shows as well as a perfect introduction to Verene's body of work. Many of the photographs in this collection derive from what Verene calls a "Self-Esteem Salon" wherein he invites volunteers to participate in a group meeting in which their fantasies and dreams will try (with the assistance of his staff) to become at least a little more of reality. Verene then documents this experience. From one photograph to the next, one would never guess this exact process has occurred. The overall impression is one of indulgence and fantasy, from the extravagant degree of nuance of props and characters to the eccentric yet poignat cameos of Verene's alter ego, Cheri Nevers. This delightful, if slightly confusing, indulgence extends down to the formalities of these photographs, their juicyfruit colors and occasional painty or circular edges contributing to the beauty of these hopeful enactments. There are obvious references to art history in the subject matter and compositions of these photographs, yet the overall impression is of an exultant freedom of form and expression. Verene seems to want to give the world the freedom he has to be completely and wholly themselves, to act upon dreams and impulses, and then documents it all as a reminder.

OlympicFantasyVerene.JPG
Chris Verene's "Olympics Fantasy (from the Orphanages Series of the Self Esteem Salon)" 2004

The juxtaposition of the two bodies of work seems a kaleidoscopic foil as POW! moves into "Self-Esteem" and vice versa. Schneider has hung this first two bodies of work with finesse and a high esteem for his viewers, and the experience is thus extremely engaging and thought provoking. It is a mouth watering appetizer for what is hopefully to come as this elegant new space nestles itself coquettishly in the heart of the vibrant Pearl.


Posted by Amy Bernstein on December 16, 2006 at 10:58 | Comments (0)


Comments

Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)


Remember me?


s p o n s o r s
Site Design: Jennifer Armbrust   •   Site Development: Philippe Blanc & Katherine Bovee