When an artist plunks a rotting deer carcass in the middle of a small gallery, people will inevitably be turned off, and for some artists, this reaction is reward enough. If the audience doesn't like the installation for whatever number of plausible reasons, the artist responds "fuck 'em," and convinces himself that he is too "raw" for the public. My problem is that in this situation, the artwork judges the audience, rather than allowing the opposite to happen. If you don't like the carcass, you must be the art-world equivalent of a Matlock-watching granny.

Well, Nicholas "Dead Deer" Walker is back with a new painting show at Fleck Gallery, and the press release offers another reason why his art is "underestimated in the Portland arena." His work is usually shown in bars and cafes, and these settings "don't allow viewers to discover their depth." His rotting elk may not offend me enough to keep me away from his new show, but his hubris tests me.

The seven new paintings draw on noir imagery such as sinister clown gatherings, mysterious matchbook covers, and tuxedoed blackbirds with bejeweled ladies on either arm. Four of the paintings are impressively executed with only dirty, raw plywood and varnish. Walker developed a technique of ripping the image out of the first layer of the boards, and filling in the negative space with varnish, which drips and spills outside of the grooves. It is an unsettling approach that renders the images hacked away and gargling. This works best in his painting of a hobo clown bearing the name "Otto Griebling," indicating that this is quite a specific clown. The block letters look morbidly childish; John Wayne Gacy springs to mind; I focus on the varnish dripping from the clown's eyes; and all of a sudden we have a helluva good painting here. (It turns out that Griebling was a famous tramp clown who had his larynx removed, making pantomime an inescapable part of his life, which is an even better story than the tired Gacy one). Half of the paintings worked on this level; just as many fell flat. A portrait of Björk at the microphone, for instance, was entirely out of place and detracted from the strength of the more sinister pieces.

I hope Nic hangs up the pretense and continues in this direction of image making. If carefully edited, and perhaps combined with an installation or soundtrack, these pieces could creep the hell out of me. Far more than a dead deer ever could. CHAS BOWIE

Marissa Kaiser paris france, 222 NW Davis, Suite 309

Portland photographer Marissa Kaiser's first solo show, entitled Keeping It All Together: hiphop + fatherhood + family, depicts intimate, candid shots of local hiphop artists--Myg, Quincy, and Sleep--with their children.

What initially made you want to document hiphop artists with their kids?

I began to get to know all these guys in [local hiphop collective] Oldominion; the more time I spent with them, the more I thought they really kind-hearted, good people. There was this baby boom at the time, where it seemed like they were all having kids. I kind of felt their excitement--to have kids come into their lives, but still be like, "Oh my god, I have to go on this tour."

I was thinking that, from an outsider's point of view and through people like Eminem, [hiphop artists] have gotten this bad rap. I just wanted to show the masses that this image is not true at all. I don't wanna generalize for all of them, but just say to take a step back. And yeah, the way it's marketed, in order to be cool you have to be rollin' with the money, and hard, but I wanted to show people who aren't like that. To show their inside lives, what makes them happy is being around their families.

Why did you choose these artists?

For the initial three, I wanted to know them a little bit so they would be more comfortable with me. I also wanted to get a broad range of races, cause I thought it was important to show just kind of a cross section of people, and I wanted a range of ages.

I don't wanna like change the world or anything. I think documenting them with their kids just lies in the whole "new generation" idea. They're all under 30 and struggling to keep their careers going but also be there for their children.

So it also counteracts the idea of the absent dad.

Yeah; the idea of the absent dad is really big in hiphop. Also, these guys are definitely not rich, they're struggling to do their career and be supportive and also have their children be part of their career. I just thought it was interesting and unique. JULIANNE SHEPHERD