FIRST THURSDAY is a different world from First Friday. And Last Thursday, when it happens, is a whole different... dimension? But even within the Pearly blocks of my First Thursday walks, I find two main scenes: the gallery galleries, where MFA stands for Minimum Fides Accepted, and the store galleries, who don't shy away from street skillz with a z, or all-ages appeal. With all due respect, I breezed (broze?) through the former this time, and spent more energy on the latter.
Gallery grandeur, you first: Ellen Lesperance has utterly transformed Upfor with what looks like marble or alabaster paneling, but upon closer inspection it's floor-to-ceiling textiles infused with natural pigments ("urine. rust. hollyhock..."), buried, then exhumed. But they're just the backdrop for her main labor of love: reproductions of sweater patterns from female protesters, rendered on brown paper in meticulous, colorful grids. At Augen, Morgan Walker's dauby oils blend Gauguin's native girls and Tretchikoff's Green Lady, Jane Goodall and Jane/Tarzan dynamics. At J. Pepin, Evan Orlando's oils on carved masonite are as tropically splashy as aloha shirt prints. At Blue Sky, F&D Cartier's Wait & See exposes (ha) the different characteristics of antique black-and-white photo papers.
Now let's regress! Guitar, tiger, sasquatch, apple, mushroom, rainbow. All smiling. To the kiddos playing tag between adults' knees at Upper Playground, Tripper Dungan's world feels friendly. To crusty mistrustful adults, it's equally demented. Are we allowed to eat a smiling hamburger? The artist is dressed like the foodstuff, in mustard yellow and ketchup red, his beard a burger brown. On one wall, a big orange cat tangles string into a "cat's cradle." Of course it does. Donning 3D glasses makes pink-and-white outlines dance and glow around the happy creatures in the paintings. "Tripper" and "Playground" were never truer to form.
Next door, Compound is hopping with the stop-mo set supporting two LAIKA affiliates, Ben Adams and Kim Slate. Adams' doe-eyed, symmetrical cartoons feature character costumes à la Rainbow Brite. Slate's Sculpey figurines are particularly winsome: "Keith and Dave," a unicorn and a lion, share a table of tea and cherry pie, laughing together with sharp little Sendak-like teeth. (At under 300 bucks... fuck a Hummel.) Gallery regular Jennifer Parks' pen-and-ink goddesses complement Adams' work, and Arax Sargsyan's gaping monsters, replete with larvae, fangs, and horns, toughen up Slate's sweet creatures.
At Fleeting States Gallery in Everett Station Lofts, a dad quizzes his toddler daughter on the comic book characters of Matthew Clark's Pending Approval. Even in their sparse sketch form, she's all over 'em. "There Doom!" she exclaims, pointing at Doctor Doom. Outside on the corner, Jay Lieber (profiled in the Mercury last week) kicks up a clamor with the LoveBomb Go-Go marching band. Silver helmets, white hot-pants, a tuba bell twinkling with LEDs. Tripper Dungan's dancing bear with lightbulb paws would be so pleased. When will Portland grow up? Never. Must be something in the water.