Mike Stengl
Embellishments Studio, 5018 NE 22nd Avenue, July 29 - August 23

Mike Stengl paints women. Luckily, a lot of people like women. His Mexican landscapes kick ass, too, but I'm just saying.

Stengl's women are strong. His works, imaginatively dark, are not dastardly. Temperamental color schemes careen through the faces and bodies of his subjects, pitting universe versus portraiture.

Although he's been accused of being a wolf in feminist clothing (for painting a lot of white women), he says the multicultural diversity of his models is limited to who'll pose for him. Anyone of color should take that as a call to action in the name of all that is arty. I want to see Stengl's version of everybody. Seriously.

Embellishments' curator Aaron Christensen normally pairs artists inside his gallery, while offering companion entertainment to liven his openings outside: peanut spittin' ho-downs, live fire-eaters, and other themed events. This time he's keeping it simple. Stengl's work will hang alone among silk draperies with multi-hued lighting to accentuate the fabrics and the color interactions of Mike's paintings.

(But! For those who still crave over-stimulation, there will be aerialists performing in the courtyard at Stengl's opening on Last Thursday, July 29, between Embellishments and Ciao Vito.)

Original Stengls are appealing. They range from $500-1200 and they sell, though not as often as they should. The Embellishments Studio exhibit will be his first Portland show.

Stengl employs abstract elements in different degrees. "Whether it's just shapes in the background having no form, or specifically distorted anatomy, I strive for non-realistic depictions," he says.

"I choose my points of interest and obliterate other ones when necessary. I have to consciously not paint information that is interesting. And, I specifically stay away from the sexually erotic, because it's less erotic. That's not the lasting image that I want my paintings to have.

"Each painting is a tribute to the model. That level of respect guides each painting. That's the only other person other than myself I think about when I'm painting."

The Embellishments exhibit will include Stengl watercolors and oil paintings done since 1997. JOHN DOOLEY