The highlight of November 2002 happened on Second Wednesday, when Hug Me opened at Pacific Switchboard. PacSwitch is a collective of eleven artsy-folk, as well as the space they call home at 2632 SE 25th St. Hug Me is the inaugural visual art show there, and it featured an opening full of Weezer-spectacled hipsters, a DJ spinning your blip-hop favorites, and a guy dressed in a bear outfit, selling "bear hugs" for fifty cents a pop. Most importantly, though, Hug Me--despite its cornball name--is an excellent homemade show that gets down to the business of presenting good art, rather than waving an enormous banner proclaiming the show 100% DIY-grade effort.
First up, upon entering the gallery (which is a refreshingly clean, well-lit space), is a new series of photographs from art guy-cum-science nerd Amos Latteier. The new photos feature full-body profiles of the artist's pigeons perched against lush, colorful backdrops. They are shot in a manner that is neither typographical nor fashionable, but the subjects are treated with loving respect and dignity.
Artist Zak Margolis weighs in with a series of understated cut-paper illustrations. What at first look like woodblock prints or ink drawings from childhood primers--a sobbing boy, an overcast bucolic landscape--are actually fashioned from intricately cut, black-and-white paper. Some of the puffs of smoke and foliage are astounding; one slip of the X-acto and the piece is history. I can't think of any other artists doing these kinds of illustrations right now (save for Olympia paper-cut artist Nikki McClure), and I hope he keeps it up, as it can lead to all sorts of crazy explorations, not the least of which is shadow puppetry. Cynthia Star, the chief organizer of the show, contributed seven painted pet portraits, six of which were from the "Boys will be Boys" series, which features two Chihuahuas getting it on. The two pooches were of course doing it doggy-style, but there were also some reach-arounds here and there, and I caught what looked like a segue into a rusty trombone. The beauty comes in the paint application, which was gently washed on, allowing the plywood ground to play an inviting and sensuous role in the work.
Lastly, are Natascha Snellman's photo-poems of lonely figures in bare, overcast settings. Snellman combines handwritten phrases such as "I was distraught, but not on purpose" and "I forgot myself and called you my friend" with her desolate but intimate snapshots of friends and strangers, to a very affecting end. Our community would be much richer if we had shows like this pop up every month. CHAS BOWIE
Visage Gallery, 1046 NW Johnson
& p:ear Gallery, 809 SW Alder
There's too much crap in the world. And it manifests itself in art; in Portland, food packaging, used guns, old desks, and scrap metal all find their second homes in assemblage, modern collage, functional art, frigging deconstructionist fashion, etc. It's usually pieced together angrily, dissent and a response to all the waste and excess. Artist treatises on consumerism: important, yet common. That's why Kim Hamblin's mixed media work in two galleries this month is that much more impacting: in a similar fashion to fellow Portland artist Rachel Denny, Hamblin uses found things--old photographs, steel, paint, eyeglasses--to great beauty, communicating the visceral rather than dropping her collage all up in your face.
Her work at p:ear exhibiting a seafaring theme is nice particularly her sideways metal dioramas of sailboats cutting through waves and imposing toy submarines. However, in contrast to her solo show at Visage, the attention to her craft seems a little like it got the short shrift, like the work might be a little older.
The Visage show is detailed, intricate, and thematically solid. A series of antiquated photos loom out from behind heavy wood frames; bisecting them is some sort of spectacle (an eyeglass, opera glasses, a series of old men's glasses cut up and layered together). In "The Inspector," a fancy Victorian lady's eye is magnified by a monocle; it emphasizes the slightly creepy feeling one gets when looking at photos of fancy Victorian ladies. In "Third Eye," a woman is vivisected by the ultimate representation of finery--gilded scissors. In "Strengthening the Eyes," rather than using eyeglasses, a series of photos of a beautiful young woman is illuminated by painted instructions on how to strengthen the eyes by aiming them to the sky. The effect is a triumphant, inherently feminist feeling but, again, Hamblin's work with steel places an emphasis on the visceral rather than the sappy or overt. JULIANNE SHEPHERD