Warm up with art

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Now that the air is frosty and the days are dark, it’s time to go out and see art. Seriously, going out to galleries in the summer is too easy. There are great shows and outdoor displays you won’t want to miss after finals are over.

Downtown, the Portland Art Center is opening “PDX Panels,” a show of 300 local artists who picked up uniform panels in November and were asked to do whatever they wanted with them. So, for the first week of December, gallery directors Kelly Rauer and Gavin Shettler will be dragging the panels around the main gallery and mounting them, which altogether should prove a spectacle and a feat. The First Thursday opening party should include both well-known and not so well-known artists such as Melia Donavan, Jim Neidhart, Mack MacFarland, Sherrie Wolf and even Sam Adams. Two other openings are happening simultaneously in PAC’s expansive multi-level space, notably the installation “Memory Machines” by Alicia Eggert, whose lush and personal installations are generally staggering.

At the Pacific Northwest College of Art, BFA students are taking part in a holiday sale, for which 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit them. The sale should be a great opportunity to see what PNCA students are working on, talk to them about their work, and buy some reasonably priced holiday presents.
On the east side, Office—a design company/office, supply store/gallery—is hosting interesting events even as the Alberta Art Walk slows to a very damp trickle in the winter months. Among the upcoming events is “Let Her Press,” a special exhibit of female letterpress artists including north Portland’s own Lark Press.
Besides galleries, there are amazing things to do outside in the cold and the wet, such as skateboarding and winter bicycle touring to see Portland’s public sculptures, monuments and (frozen) fountains. Winter is the perfect time for skateboarding or anything else that gets you all over city property, because it’s too cold to feel anything if you fall, plus it’s important to exercise in the winter, and no one will stop you because they don’t have enough energy for yelling when the sun sets at 4 p.m.

Two fabulously strange sculpture sites are the bronze visage of former mayor Vera Katz on the Eastbank Esplanade and the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden in Grant Park in Northeast.

Vera Katz’s image is seated on the bank of the pedestrian-bicycle path, leaning close to a small body with legs crossed and hands in, squeezed together in her lap as if she’s cold, too. The teeth are also bared and unusually straight, creating the impression that Katz might snap at passers-by. But overall, the face is open and the hair is particularly lifelike, showing the straightforward, tactile and symmetrical properties of some of artist Bill Bane’s other sculptures, most of which are city or public commissions.

Ramona, Henry and Risby the dog, characters in the novels of Portland children’s author Beverly Cleary, all face each other around a flat concrete fountain in the park. Artist Lee Hunt made their faces dreamy and iconic, almost as if resurrecting them back from the dead in more expressive forms than a real person could be capable of.

At Jamison Park in the Pearl District, which is packed with sunbathing babies, mamas and papas all summer long, are two fascinating sculptures that are polar opposites: Rico Pasado, by Mauricio Saldana, and Alexander Liberman’s Contact II. Russian-American Liberman’s orange-painted steel sculptures are easy to spot in American cities. In Jamison Park the installation is small compared to Liberman’s more well-known work, and actually fits rather tastefully into the surrounding white concrete and pale grasses of the Pearl. Saldana’s 2006 marble bear is especially adorable in the frost, and softens the landscape even with its safety-orange metal.

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