D.E. May 1952-2019
D.E. May drawer at PDX Contemporary (many from his show at LAX Art in 2014)
The art ecosystem in Oregon is mourning the death of D. E. May last night. One of our most accomplished and concentrated artists, Dan was an artist's artist with an immense poetic gift for delicate (often paper) materials that had existed previously for other purposes. Dan took their lines and surfaces, pressing them into something like entropic circuit boards that acted like treasure maps for those with an interest in archival ephemera and arcane order. A veteran of Portland's pioneering Jamison/Thomas Gallery Dan became synonymous with JTG almuni gallery, PDX Contemporary, arguably setting the tone for that gallery now known for quiet contemplative work. Gallerist Jane Beebe (JTG then her own gallery PDX) worked with Dan for 35 years and there was something special and nourishing in that relationship. Dan was PDX's pole star and Jane became Dan's favorite ship to run up the rigging and set art to sail on.
Where May's work is crucial is how it sits in continuum with the hermetic traditions of art and civilization. Where monks in the middle ages might toil to hand copy books, Dan's work preserved to appreciate all the details that support precision activities. As artifacts they became a residue of the immense concentration and intention he put into the work. This puts him in line with other hermetic materials artists like Paul Klee, Joseph Cornell, Yves Klein and Richard Tuttle. What made his work so refreshing is its stark contrast to the dumpster diving effluence of many contemporary artists today and Dan could do more in 3 inches than many artists that fill warehouses. That succinct aspect of his work was the soul of material eloquence... his work doesnt carpet bomb your senses so much invite you to saturate your senses with sustained attention. One doesnt leave May's work feeling shell shocked, instead I've always felt refreshed from the agency his work bathes the eyes and mind in.
His work can be found in some of the world's finest collections
and PORT reviewed his excellent exhibition The Template Files at PDX
back in 2011.
Dan's work is currently on view at PDX Contemporary and on the 4th floor of the Portland Art Museum's Northwest wing.
D.E. May currently on display at the Portland Art Museum
activists protesting to save OCAC
This morning protests to save OCAC were ongoing as the board met after moving to an offsite location. Many, including us at PORT have been critical of the secrecy, assumptions and overall tone the board has operated under since the crisis became public... even voting to cease higher education classes at OCAC 2 weeks ago
. Word on the street is they are mulling over 3 proposals but as the protester's activity indicates anything other than saving the school is not going to be accepted by the community (whereas the board seems spooked, perhaps understandably but a leadership vacuum is worrisome). A group called The Council To Save OCAC
has been formed and the an already existing organization the Friends of OCAC has called for a town hall next week
(you can still sign the letter). Those concerned should sign up for both. This is too important to just give up on and sure the business model can be adapted to something sustainable but it takes some leaps of faith... (more)
Stuart Emmons is going full William Wallace on a community charge to save OCAC in this op ed
. What is hinted at in the op ed is there is a last ditch community effort underway and I agree, a school is not a simple for profit effort, more like a cultural utility and OCAC represents a lot of the true Portland Ethos acting as a repository and training ground for our values. Clearly, the model and vision still needs to change if there is a bailout but still, the community must try. This is a battle, not a simple balance sheet. Simply selling off assets to retire debt isnt the only way and the community knows it. As far as a new vision, I can see many ways to shift the model away from the broken one of pure higher education, degrees are not the only form of education and this moment in history can desperately use what OCAC offers.
Look, high culture doesnt just pander to one's instagram feed
... the higher aims of culture challenges one to grow. It isnt likes that makes the world go round, at the end of the day it is Love... which is more difficult.
Nan Goldin stages a die in at the Guggenheim to protest opioid money and deaths
I Love this story about finding an art experience to resonate with
OCAC student using the then new buildings in 2010
There is some incredibly sad news as the Oregon College of Arts and Craft's board of Trustees has voted to cease academic instruction after the final graduating class of 2019
. This is an incredibly painful outcome after a seemingly short death spiral that began publicly last summer.
Recently, OCAC's board has explored mergers with PNCA and PSU but I never saw those as viable since each school has such a different culture and yet the same underlying weaknesses that all higher education faces today. They needed a new model but could not find one, perhaps simply not being up to that kind of visioning task or perceived risk? Since last Fall OCAC's governing body appeared to be a board that simply wanted another institution to partner in fixing fundamentals at a time when the fundamentals for all higher education are broken. I could liken this situation in higher education to the lifeboats of the Titanic or a hospital patient given a grim prognosis... there are no easy answers but many in the scene still want to fight to save OCAC. In today's statement OCAC's board essentially claim
they have run out options and with an interim president the vision gap here was pronounced. I'm seeing immense anger and sadness from many of the arts community regarding this outcome, as well as frustration with the short timeline. Mostly the anger comes from a sense that the board never gave the community a chance to rally and save the school. Those emotions are to be expected but are also energies that can lead to new options and perhaps a better outcome?