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The mesmerizing art of the Pearl

First Thursday
Pearl District
Jan. 9
6-9 p.m.

You’ve decided to take the MAX to the Pearl District on Jan. 9 to see what all the hubbub is about with First Thursday, have you? Well, before you go checking out some very exquisite and quite expensive art, there are a few things you absolutely need to know.

As the festivities unofficially begin at 6 p.m. and last until 9 p.m., it would be wise to eat before attending these rather prestigious galleries. The galleries charge no fee for this “art walk,” and most of them serve some kind of snack and/or beverage. Some galleries serve small pastries with champagne, while others serve crackers and cheese with wine. Appearing to be interested in the art as a means of getting to the food is definitely frowned upon by the gallery owners.

The 16-year-old tradition of First Thursday began when a handful of art gallery owners got together and coordinated their openings by choosing the first Thursday of each month. Since then, it has become a Portland tradition to casually stroll through the streets of the Pearl District browsing for that one piece of art that nobody else owns and that you can’t live without.

With more than 10 galleries participating in First Thursday, the variety of art is rather phenomenal. There are oils, photographs, glass sculpture, metal sculptures, watercolors, mosaics, collages, lithographs and a plethora of mixed media to inspire and awe.

The Augen Gallery, for example, occupies a historic property in downtown Portland that was built in 1894. Founded in 1979, the gallery exhibits prints and works on paper by nationally and internationally known artists.

David Levinthal’s color Polaroid photographs, “The Wild West Photographs,” are current on display, as are works from artists Joe Andoe, Sally Cleveland, Tony Fitzpatrick, Carolyn Krieg, Ann McCoy, Royal Nebeker, William Park, Donald Sultan, Tom Thayer and Andy Warhol.

The Blackfish Gallery is one of the most successful cooperative art galleries in the United States. Fully owned and operated by working artists since 1978, Blackfish Gallery is unique, and states its mission as: “(To) seek out and present outstanding visual art within the context of thought-provoking ideas. Provide a forum and venue for artists creating unique work that may exist beyond retail and commercial boundaries. And reach for a broader and more diverse audience by continuing to program exhibitions and events with themes having significance for a wide cross-section of our community.”

Currently on display at The Blackfish Gallery are Robert Gilpins’ acrylic paintings depicting interior scenes, as well as his recognizable versions of cats.

“In my work, I am trying to express the loneliness of the human condition and find my inspiration in the works of J.D. Salinger, Kerouac, Dostoevsky, Jean Dubuffet, my friends and my family,” Gilpin stated.

Also on display at Blackfish is the work of Nathan Marcel. An illuminating and riveting piece of artwork is the “Furtherance of a Mis-education.” This piece is a 60×60 collage and acrylic on paper using brilliant colors with strong black lines.

“This chaotic surface is punctuated by pictorial and figurative imagery as well as words and contemporary references,” Blackfish’s Stephanie Wiarda state.

And if you believe there truly is “no place like home,” then you’ll appreciate Rita de Kelaita’s “Homo – Domesticus,” also on display at Blackfish. De Kelaita’s exhibit consists of wall hangings and sculptures with a house incorporated into the composition. Its materials are recycled wood and found objects, and it features encaustic painting. “With the prevailing insecurity of our homelands, I wanted to pay homage to the home; the importance of home and the idea of being ‘at home,'” de Kelaita stated.

Another engaging gallery is the Butters Gallery Ltd., founded in 1988. It has become an important contemporary art source for both private and corporate collectors nationwide. The exhibits examine art from all directions and include work that is innovative with regard to content and media. Included are paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and sculpture consisting of a range of media from paint to glass to metal to fabric. Butters Gallery Ltd. is recognized by a large portion of the art viewing public of Portland as one of the most substantial and successful galleries in town.

Displayed at Butters currently is H. Lynne Haagensen’s “11th Guide to Montreal.” It is a 72″x44″ beautiful collage of muted colors depicting soft images that are not only engaging but breathtaking. Additionally, WOMENKIND is currently on display. WOMENKIND is a group exhibit that examines work by seven artists throughout the United States. The seven women in this show work with a broad range of methods, materials and concepts. Included in the show are Margaret Evangeline and Pamela Harris, both of New York; Lynne Haagensen of Moscow, Idaho; Edith Hillinger of Berkeley, Calif.; Stephanie Serpick of Chicago; and Carole Silverstein and Susanna Speirs, both of Los Angeles.

It doesn’t matter if you are a starving artist, a well-fed artist or a patron of the arts, First Thursday offers the finest art created by extremely talented artists that will leave you inspired for days.