Art show spotlights Oregon
It’s an Oregon-only exhibit at New York’s CANADA gallery
Nine Oregon artists got a delicious bite of the Big Apple recently, with an Oregon-only exhibition of their work at New York’s CANADA gallery. It is the first time an exhibition consisting solely of Oregon artists’ work has been brought to the epicenter of the New York art world.
Last summer’s exhibition was curated by Stephanie Snyder, director of Reed College’s Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, and Wallace Whitney, a painter and one of the founders of the CANADA gallery.
The invitation to exhibit in New York grew out of a relationship fostered by The Ford Family Foundation’s Visual Arts program.
The Cooley, along with several other Oregon art institutions, is an official partner of the Foundation’s Visiting Curator and Critics program, which provides funding for national curators and critics to consult with Oregon visual artists.
In 2016, Snyder invited Whitney, with whom she has worked before, to travel to Oregon to conduct 18 studio visits and meet with curatorial peers and other arts administrators.
“Wallace developed a genuine respect and appreciation for our community and the quality and the breadth of the work created here,” she says.
His visit was timed to coincide with the Portland-based Converge 45 visual arts convening, where he served on a panel of contemporary arts leaders. The gathering included works by some of the Foundation’s Hallie Ford Visual Arts Fellows.
“I asked him what he thought about curating a show in his space in New York City,” Snyder says. “I really wanted to give that opportunity to the great artists in our region who haven’t had the chance to show in New York yet.”
The exhibition budget included plane tickets for each artist, giving them the opportunity to make career connections as well as time to visit other galleries in the New York area. The Foundation also supported some of the costs to prepare and ship some of the works to the city.
The exhibition, titled “Tomorrow Tomorrow” (from a song by Portland musician Elliot Smith), opened in June. The nine artists showed very large work and very small work in mediums ranging from painting to sculpture to photography to textiles.
Three Hallie Ford Fellows in the Visual Arts were included in the exhibition: MK Guth, Michelle Ross and Storm Tharp.
More than 300 people, several of them representing major art museums, crowded the space on opening night. “The opening was joyous,” says Portland artist Heather Watkins, who showed her large-scale fiber sculptures. “There was a moment when I walked into the back gallery, and it was jam-packed with people — you could hardly move.”
“The response was so beautiful and so positive — it was amazing,” Snyder says. “I was told that it was the finest, most interesting group show they’d seen in New York in a long time.”
The show was a commercial success, with four of the artists posting immediate sales. Others have new opportunities resulting from the exposure. For example, a curator from the Whitney Museum of American Art collected textile work from Demian DinéYazhi’ and is including him in an upcoming New York show. Several other artists have pending shows as well.
“Things are starting to percolate for the artists, several of whom are working with New York institutions,” Snyder says. “Wallace and I remain in touch and we’ll continue to work together.”
For Watkins, who makes large-scale fiber sculpture, the show offered an opportunity to stretch her artistic muscles. “For this exhibition, I worked at a much larger scale than I had before,” she explains. “CANADA’s gallery space invited a massive, physical presence. This opportunity allowed me to push my materials to inhabit space in exciting new ways.”
The exhibition benefited the artists in intangible ways as well. “Working on this exhibition together in New York allowed us to see our community and our work from a new vantage point, individually and collectively,” Watkins says.
The official exhibit description:
CANADA is pleased to announce “Tomorrow Tomorrow,” a group exhibition featuring Demian DinéYazhi’ and Noelle Sosaya, MK Guth, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Kristan Kennedy, Evan La Londe, Charlie Perez-Tlatenchi, Michelle Ross, Storm Tharp, and Heather Watkins. These nine artists are preoccupied with physical abstraction, changeability, and working with materials to shape space with emotional purpose. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, the artists are part of a highly collaborative artistic community with a history of migration, mysticism, indigenous strength, and literary soul-searching.