The sun is setting earlier, you're back to taking a vitamin D supplement, and the Portland Oregon White Stag Sign is donning its festive red nose. The clean slate of the New Year is around the corner. This season, many noteworthy visual art exhibitions and memorable creative maker events spotlight our dynamic art community before we embrace the end of 2021. Art is happening all across the city in multiple sites, including galleries, museums, and alternative venues that touch our daily lives, like coffee shops, retailers, and personal dwellings. It's inspiring to see emerging and early-career artists championed across spaces, and work examining concepts incredibly relevant to our lives today; racial injustice, land and water rights, science, civilization, and technology.
Here are ten arts events you won’t want to miss this winter in Portland.
Mesh showcases the work of four Native artists working across several different mediums focusing on critical social issues, from Indigenous land rights to the ongoing fight against racial injustice. There is overlap regarding some of the themes they explore, but each artist’s work is distinctively their own while co-existing harmoniously. Curator of Native American Art, Kathleen Ash-Milby, decided to show the apprentices participating in the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation Mentor Artist Fellowship program. The Portland and Vancouver-based non-profit has been pairing established Indigenous artists with emerging ones for several years.
Kaila Farell-Smith, a mixed media artist and member of the Klamath Modoc Tribes, uses her Land Back series to confront themes associated with land reclamation and protest. These works communicate urgent resistance and warning messages, using a mixture of imagery and text. The series of vivid paintings are figuratively and literally influenced by the surrounding earth, as Farrell-Smith uses chalk and charcoals from wildfires, and found debris like metal and shell casings are used as stencils found around her studio at Modoc point, historically Klamath land in southern Oregon.
Lehuauakea, a Kanaka Maoli mixed visual media artist, also uses natural pigments sourced from their surroundings in their work. They use natural dyes and Native Hawaiian ʻohe kāpala (carved bamboo printing tools) and Kapa (bark cloth) to create intricate pieces that deal with themes relating to the restoration of culture, language, and protest. Drawing inspiration from traditional processes and century-old patterns, they create new designs with this formal process that are personal to their present-day experiences.
Leah Rose Kolakowski is a Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Tribe member, now living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her luminescent photographs depict beauty and strength in the face of both cultural and existential threats through portraiture. Kolakowski believes her sitters should choose how to be represented in a way that feels true to themselves, captured on vivid color film.
Finally, Lynnette Haozous is a Chiricahua Apache artist and member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe with Diné and Taos Pueblo ancestry. Her site-specific, vibrant 20-foot mural, a portrait of a young Indigenous woman, is the gallery wall's focal point. While working as a muralist, Haozous researched the importance and power of community involvement in public spaces juxtaposed in the museums' exhibition space compared to the stark history of museums and institutions that have seized cultural objects from Indigenous peoples.
Nov 6-May 8, Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park
Michelle Segre, Transmitters & Receivers
Michelle Segre is a Tel Aviv-born artist currently based in New York who has been working for several decades in sculpture that embraces explorations in mycology, physics, and the science of fermentation. Serge's work consists of otherworldly sculptures made with a combination of yarn, metal, paper mache, plastic-coated wire, canvas, and paint. Unique materials like beeswax, canvas, mushrooms, lotus root, bread, wood, carrots, star anise, clay, rocks, and pebbles also are present in the works. Segre's sculptures exist within art and science simultaneously, cohesively, and intrinsically; photos beg viewers to experience these more significant-than-life sculptural pieces and the intricacies of small-scale mixed-media statuettes in person.
Oct 16-Jan 16, lumber room, 419 NW 9th
The Portland Baazar is back! Last year the annual holiday event pivoted to a completely virtual experience. This year the festivity-focused shopping event returns with several opportunities to check out and support some of Bridgetown's most talented artists and compelling small businesses. These back-to-back events will feature over 150 makers, and there will be custom gift wrapping on-site and a raffle benefiting regional non-profits. The Portland Bazaar has provided a space to highlight the many creatives and entrepreneurs for the past decade. It's always in season to shop small and invest in our local artists, small businesses, and community.
Dec 11-12 and 18-19, 11 am-4 pm, Premier Gear & Machine Works Building, 1715 NW 17th
The Longest Leg: Emmanuela Soria Ruiz
The artist-run gallery, directed by E.M. Fuller and BriAnna Rosen, continues to show work by some of today's most ambitious emerging and early-career artists in their steady three years of programming. The Longest Leg: Emmanuela Soria Ruiz is guest-curated by Laurel V. McLaughlin and confronts voyeurism, power dynamics, and trauma. The act of looking is contextualized and emphasized by the motions and positions viewers must take to engage with the video-installation-based work. Complexities and layers remind viewers of their inescapable entanglements within the patriarchal system. There's a content warning cited, as this exhibition references sexual assault, animal cruelty, abuse, sexism, and misogyny.
Nov 11-Jan 9, Fuller Rosen Gallery, 1928 NW Lovejoy
Fawn Krieger, Rebus Principle
One of the city’s newest gallery spaces is at the house of artist Derek Franklin, and the second show features work by New York-based artist and educator Fawn Krieger. Krieger's work in this series explores the construct of written language and experiments with how language can be built, expressed, and created—not from the more traditional aspects of alphabetic systems and written word but through sound, pictures, etc. The series of ten sculptures utilize ceramics and concrete, explores and challenges the concepts of "civilization," and allows the opportunity to re-imagine or, as Krieger put it, "wanting to restore language or sentences to image/pattern/form."
Oct 30-Dec 5, SE Cooper Contemporary (by appointment only)
Noah Matteucci, random 
Matteucci transports viewers into a world all his own, completely transforming the gallery walls at a small gallery, Agenda, in Southeast. The use of computer algorithms and coding functions helps generate images of noise resembling a pixelated grid. This tech-driven pattern delves into algorithmic manipulation via a random assignment of numbers with colors and pixel correspondence. These technology-driven images are then used as the basis to create woodblock prints, becoming a performative extension of the code and juxtaposing the computational with analog techniques. These prints are painstakingly adhered to the walls, filling the room with CMYK and secondary colors, making this an immersive installation that attempts to emphasize to the viewer that there’s an overabundance of data that inundates and surrounds modern humanity.
Nov 13-Dec 12, Agenda, 4505 SE Belmont, Suite A
Jeffry Mitchell, I Have a Winter Friend
This exhibition pays homage to the artists' loved ones, and collaborators, and friendships in this recent body of sculptural work from the Pacific Northwest based artist. The simplified color palette utilized different clay bodies, pearly white of the porcelain, and earthen terracottas. Mitchell brings whimsy, charm, and playfulness to his work which features flowers and animals—tigers, rabbits, bears—and Mitchell's signature elefants (he prefers ‘f’ to ‘ph’) and letters of the alphabet. Alongside his familiar themes and motifs this recent work revolves around overflowing creatures on plum blossom trees that the artist made while in residency in Dehua, China, in 2019. Crafted with "blanc de chine"—a stark white localized clay body—the work serves as a meditation and reminder that friendship is so vital to our well-being. Alongside ceramics are prints and wooden furniture, all displayed in the gallery's new location in Slabtown.
Nov 17-Dec 24, PDX CONTEMPORARY ART, 1825 NW Vaughn St
Art-Mecanica, Chris Chandler
Chris Chandler's Bauhaus-inspired graphic prints in brooding neutrals and moody primary colors fill the expansive walls at the flagship Stumptown Coffee Roasters downtown. The sizable prints are made using a Vandercook 232P letterpress machine, one of the most widely used presses in the 20th Century. Chandler uses Alpha-Blox, a system created in 1944 by the American Type Founders, composed of solid and linear shapes to create a vast range of typefaces, ornamentation, and patterns printed in one or two colors. Alongside the Alpha-Blox system, Chandler re-imagines the Futura Schmuck font created by typeface designer Paul Renner in a large woodblock format. He plays with the endless combinations of geometric forms, often associated with the New Typography and Modernist movements, which brought graphics to the forefront of art and printed materials. Inspired by Renner and Jan Tschichold, Chandler deconstructs words and phrases, creating endless combinations of configurations and shapes, resulting in a fresh approach to manipulating text-based work. There are additional layers in the letterpress prints, evidence of the mechanics from the analog printing process, and further interference from wheat pasting, showing a relationship and dialogue between an artist and their tools.
Oct 15-Jan 2, Stumptown Coffee Roasters Downtown, 128 SW 3rd
WATER: NFS, Natalie Ball with collaborator Annelia Hillman pue‑leek‑la'
Replacing the Portland Biennial this year is WATER: NFS, which looks to deeply examine land rights, water wars, and droughts in Oregon and California. Natalie Ball is an Indigenous woman who is Black and Native from the Modoc and Klamath Tribes. Ball collaborates with Annelia Hillman pue-leek-la' (Yurok) in an exhibition focused on water issues related to their shared water source, starting at the Head of the Wood River in Ball's Territory to the Mouth of the Klamath River, Hillman's Tribal Territory. Hillman pue leek la' is an activist and leader in her community and the Klamath River justice campaigns. The series of works call out contemporary land interventions, like dams that have impacted the water's health, stability, and sustainability and Indigenous communities around it. Additionally, the development of Ball's Klamath Land Back Tours PSA asserts to acknowledge and celebrate the Indigenous People of the Land and those of the Klamath Tribes: the Modoc, the Klamath, and Paiute People.
Nov 5-Jan 2, Oregon Center for Contemporary Art, 8371 N Interstate
Katarina Zdjelar: Proximities, a rehearsal, an archive
How are transformation and change held in the body?
Katarina Zdjelar, a video-based artist working in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, originally from Belgrade, Serbia, explores this in her first solo exhibition in the US and is in conjunction with the final show in "Turnstones," Lucy Cotter's program as Curator in Residence 2020-21. The video and installation-based work are a recent iteration of an ongoing project by Zdjelar. She has taken archival documentation from post-war Dresden choreographer and expressionist dancer Dore Hoyer. Consisting of multi-channel video and sculptural installations, the performances explore how the "archived bodies" in the remnants of Hoyer's choreography might engage with the present, living bodies in this filmic portrait.
Oct 29, 2021-Jan 2, Oregon Center for Contemporary Art
Ashley Gifford is an art historian and writer based in Portland. She is the founder and director of Art & About, a publication and resource for art in Portland and the greater Pacific Northwest. This extensive documentation has created an archive of observed art ecology since 2014. She has worked with contemporary and nonprofit arts organizations, creative agencies, and technology-based companies for the past decade. Her writing has been featured in the Portland Mercury, Oregon ArtsWatch, Art Practical, Ceramics Now, Journal, and other publications.