Art and Empathy

The other day juniper couldn’t sleep. She was distraught and frustrated. I got into bed with her and when she started expressing her frustration I would say “it’s ok, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to worry about sleeping. You don’t have to go to sleep right now. Just enjoy being in my arms right now.” We were both asleep in minutes. When I woke up, I felt like we had somehow repaired a tear in the fabric of the universe. I felt like a little part of me was healing and a little part of juniper was getting something that just might last her a lifetime. All it took was my act of love, patience and understanding, and her acceptance of it and trust in me. 

I was proud of myself right then and I wondered… how did I learn the patience and empathy to see this was the right thing to do? I think this is what art and curiosity has taught me. This ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try to give them what will help them, is not expressed in mainstream media enough. It needs to be injected into our daily lives however we can find a way, so we learn how to be good to others. Public education, art, public access television, offer us plenty solid examples of humanity doing things right in this crazy world. 

Joan Nelson and Joseph Yoakum are Re-visioning Landscapes


The paintings and drawings of Joseph Yokum and Joan Nelson re-vision landscapes through memories collected both from place and feeling. Though the artists are 50 years apart in age, and live in different parts of the country, their work connects through their interests in representing memories of places as they saw them and felt them.

Joan Nelson
Joan Nelson Untitled, 2013 ink, spray enamel, beeswax on panel 11 3/4 x 11 3/4 inches photo courtesy of Adams and Ollman

During a road trip through Oregon, Joan Nelson was inspired by the scenic landscapes of the Gorge and the Three Sisters Mountain Range. The intimate, 12”x12” paintings in this series are depictions of memories and emotions she experienced on her journey. Nelson uses a square format, breaking her painting’s relationship to the male-centric history of landscape painting, as well as establishing the Objectness of her works. The surfaces are rich and varied and although highly illusionistic from afar, their imagery begins to break up on close inspection and the means of their making are revealed. Non-traditional art materials blend with traditional. Her panels are an amalgamation of oil paint, ink, glitter, glass beads, spray enamel and beeswax. This blending of materials heightens the dreamlike quality of the paintings.

Joseph Yoakum Imperial Valley, 1965 colored pencil, ink on paper 12 x 18 inches Photo courtesy of Adams and Ollman

Joseph Yokum creates drawings from his memories of travelling throughout his lifetime with the circus and as a soldier. He believes his drawings to be photorealistic representations of landscapes as he remembers them from his travels. They are imbued with a charismatic power through skewed perspective and stylized line and pattern. This charisma transforms the drawings subject matter from external landscapes into internal memoryscapes.


The paintings and drawings of Joan Nelson and Joseph Yoakum are part of a two person show at Adams and Ollman which will be open through July 11th, 2015.

Adams and Ollman
Works by Joan Nelson and Joseph Yoakum on display through July 11th, 2015
209 SW 9th Avenue, Portland, OR 97205
Gallery Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 11AM–5PM and by appointment


I’m sifting through old writing this morning, thinking about my artist statement for next week’s winter review presentation and my my recent body of work. I stumbled across this and thought it was a great description. It’s a portrait of me around age 17 or 18.

Blinds drawn to keep out the light, I wake up in the early afternoon in the haze of a hangover, after a late night of waitressing. I drive to the bank and deposit my cash tips from the night before. With my leftover cash, I order something off the dollar menu at Taco Bell. I return home, iron my work clothes and head off to work for another night. I work from 3 until midnight, relieving the lunch shift and filling in for another closer. She’s going to a concert, she lives with her parents and doesn’t need the money to pay rent like I do, so I get to pick up a lot of her shifts. I spend the night rushing around serving food to cranky, self-important customers. The kitchen is backed up and my customers are yelling at me. One tells me I’m worthless. The night drags on, I take a dinner break around 9 when things slow down and eat a salad in the back room. I replace the band-aides on my heals and wash the grease off my face. Just three more hours before closing. After midnight, when we are done putting away all the flowers, filling the butter ramekins, and cleaning up, I have some beers with coworkers and stumble home at 2am.

Quality is Contagious Article in Untitled

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 10.41.49 PM

My article about “Quality is Contagious” at the Museum of Contemporary Craft is up on PNCA’s Untitled Magazine website.

You probably won’t find John Economaki’s precision woodworking tools in your parent’s rusty tool shed. These beauties are works of art in and of themselves. But it’s odd to think that such creations might exist only through a bizarre twist of fate. In the 1970s and 80s, John Economaki was a skilled woodworker who’d thought he’d found his calling in fine furniture design and production, but who then had the rug pulled out from under him. After developing a severe allergy to wood dust, Economaki had to give up his medium of choice. After much soul searching, he went back to the drawing board and began rethinking the very tools he’d been using. Bridge City Tool Works was born. Economaki now applies the same intuitive design process to toolmaking that he learned through woodworking.

Soundforge at Museum of Contemporary Craft

My first article for PNCA’s online Untitled Magazine is available! Happy birthday to me!

It’s about a great audio installation at Portland Museum of Contemporary Craft. Click the screenshot below to read the article.

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 8.27.10 PM


Gabriel Craig has a deep interest in spreading the “gospel of craft.” Several of his projects have centered around sharing the empowering feeling of working with your hands. He’s held workshops on copper bowl making and taken to the streets to share the craft of jewelry making as a means of encapsulating memory. He wants to break the craft object out of its fetishized, consumerist box and unleash its full potential as a bartering tool, community strengthener, and confidence builder. In his eyes, anyone can become a master craftsperson and everyone should.

Ready to Rock

Another Red Tricycle article is up! This one features some great places in Portland for music lessons, with an emphasis on rock’n’roll.

After examining the evidence it’s not surprising Portland takes it’s music scene so seriously. With a long lineage of great musicians from the Decemberists to M. Ward, Viva Voce, and The Dandy Warhols, there’s no shortage of inspiration. Let’s not forget, nearly every home in town holds the potential for a totally awesome basement practice space. So this is a call to all Portland future musical maestros, grab your sticks and your picks, and let’s get rockin’.

Read More

Studio Visit: Jeff Mandel’s ExIT Shoes

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Jeff Mandel’s Custom shoe shop in Portland with some friends. Jeff’s shoes are completely and lovingly handmade to fit your feet like no shoes has ever before. The tools of his trade are almost as beautiful as his shoes.

Shoe lasts and women’s shoes

Cabinet full of gorgeous examples of Jeff’s fine craftsmanship.

I call this the grinder pounder machine.

Wall of Awls

bunyons explained
Bunyons explained

ExIT Shoes

bike shoes
Discussing bike shoes

The tool wall

Slicer dicer aligator

ExIT Shoes
wall of lasts

Jeff Mandel
ExIT Shoes

Example of Jeff’s handmade shoes from his website

Jenna Robertson Studio Visit

I ran across Jenna Robertson’s collage art made from recycled sweaters at Albina Press SE and had to get my hands on one of her squid collages. I took the opportunity to talk to her a bit about her work as I was picking up my new piece from her beautiful, charming Portland bungalow.

Jenna was suffering from teacher burn-out and was itching to do something with her hands when her friend Cathy Pitters (of Crafty Wonderland) introduced her into the world of craft fairs. Her Woollie Originals stuffed creatures, made from recycled sweaters were a big success and she hasn’t looked back since. She’s moved onto apparel, accessories and art.

Jenna’s collages are made from 100% recycled sweaters. Her menagerie of animals; marine life, deer, birds, and rabbits, are machine stitched together into whimsical, fuzzy paintings, stretched around frames or panels like a canvas. Her love of thrift shopping and bargain hunting always keeps her on the lookout for new sources of sweaters. She can often be found braving the Goodwill Outlet in Milkwaukie, where unwanted thrift goods from all over Portland are given one last chance at a new life. We discussed her strategies for coping with odors, the necessity of gloves, and why NOT to bring your baby there.

Jenna’s work is a family affair. Her husband builds the frames, her mother-in-law Lana Robertson sews the hats before Jenna adds her signature collage elements and her friend Sara Bergman sews her designs and material finds into perfectly tailored garments. Jenna attends various craft fairs around the U.S. and takes part in annual fund-raising craft fairs for her kid’s schools.

You can find Jenna’s collage art at: Pearl Gallery, Flora, Crafty Wonderland, Noun.
Her Apparel hats and arm warmers at: Mabel and Zora, Crafty Wonderland, MagBig, Frock.
and her Hats and arm warmers: New Seasons.

The new home of Jenna’s Squid and Ship collage:
Jenna Robertson collage

Visit Jenna’s website, for more info.

December First Thursday in Portland

Here are my favorites from last night’s First Thursday. It was cold outside and traffic was slow early on, though it looked like it was picking up as I was leaving. Maybe I smelled bad. There is some amazing art this month in Portland. Make sure you get out there.

Kristen Miller at PDX Contemporary
Works in organdy, tissue paper, nylon thread and tiny beads.
I loved this show. very delicate, fine details in almost entirely all white. The hanging curtain, made from thin nylon thread and randomly placed beads was so beautiful and you could just imagine the work it must have taken to make it and keep it from tangling up on itself. The piece stretched from ceiling to floor. So fragile and vulnerable, so beautiful.

Kristin Miller

Kristin Miller

Kristin Miller

Rachel Davis at Chambers Gallery
Rachel Davis

Rachel Davis

Also at Chambers was a very inspiring video by Fang Er & Meng Jin. The sounds used in the video were collected by Meng Ji or various common household or industrial machinery. It gave me much inspiration for my audio sketch project in 2010. Read more about it on the Chambers Gallery website.

Kristyn Weaver
Blackfish Gallery
What is there not to love about Steve McQueen and kittens? I loved, loved, loved these.
Kristyn Weaver

Kristyn Weaver

Wendy Kahle
Tribute Gallery
Wendy Kahle

Shawn Demarest
Shawn Demarest

Evan B. Harris at Together Gallery

I’m editing an interview I did with Evan as we speak, but his show at the Together Gallery comes down September 20th so I wanted to post some pics of the show and encourage you to head down there before the end of the show.

Evan B. Harris

Evan B. Harris

Evan B. Harris

Evan B. Harris

Evan B. Harris

Evan B. Harris
Fables and the Flourish
Together Gallery
2916 NE Alberta St Suite A
Portland, Or 97211
Gallery Hours
Tue-Sun / 12-7 pm
August 27th – Sept. 20th 2009
See more of Evan’s work on his website.

Hayley Barker at Charles A. Hartman Fine Art

Hayley Barker

Hayley Barker’s solo exhibition at Charles A. Hartman Fine Art is comprised of 10 to 15 watercolor paintings on paper. The paintings are layered with detailed markings and tonal washes, and include imagery from plant life, animal fur and scales, and ambiguously sensual organic forms. The show is on display from September 2nd, 2009 through October 10th, 2009.

Hayley Barker

Barker takes ink and watercolor blobs and transforms them into Chimeras of part cartoonish mythical monster, part sensuous organic form, part abstract painting. Using bright washes of watercolor as base, Barker manifests her own Rorschach tests into monsters and whimsical lifeforms. Barker interweaves elements of the delicate with the grotesque, plays along the borders between formlessness and hard edge, and transforms elements of her paintings into imagery that is sometimes sexual, sometimes comical.

Hayley Barker

In her artist statement for the show, Barker talks about the vilification of mutated life forms and how we as humans, tend to placed judgment upon these mutations as “bad” when evolution itself depends on mutations to further and ensure life on earth. Barker’s Chimeras pay reverence of those mutations, not as unnatural villains, but as manifestations of the purity, beauty, and humor that is life.

Hayley Barker

Hayley Barker: Chimeras
September 2 – October 10, 2009
Charles A. Hartman Fine Art
134 NW 8th Ave
Portland OR 97209

Visit Hayley Barker’s website for more examples of her work.

Jamie Vasta at Patricia Sweetow

I was fist introduced to Jamie Vasta’s work last year at her solo show at Patricia Sweetow entitled: Mustn’t. I was completely blown away then and was so excited to see the new work. The latest show “kills” is also at the Patricia Sweetow Gallery from January 8th through February 14th, 2009. Initial responses – stunning, humorous, curious, a little frightening. Standing in front of all these images of young girls, proudly displaying their kills of deer and geese, I couldn’t help but try to imagine my own 8 year old self in their shoes. I was (am) such an animal lover. I would have recoiled in disgust. I would have seen these girls as my mortal enemies. I wondered what their lives were like. I judged them, I imagined and judged there parents. I thought about the book I’m reading right now – The Song of the Dodo, which is about island speciation and how animals isolated to small areas, like what is happening in over-developed areas around the globe, are doomed to extinction. With our ever expanding population, we are dooming the natural world and with it, ourselves. I imagined each one of these kills as the last of their species. The animals in Jamie’s paintings are so very dead, and the little girls seem so alive. I wondered, are they aware of their own inevitable extinction? Do they grasp their own mortality? Do they see these animals as trophies? objects?

The glitter work in this series is stunning. Jamie really knows how to push glitter around. At first I questioned the raw wood, or stained wood parts of the paintings in this series. They seemed less refined than her last series, as if they were rushed or not finished. I think the areas of rest in her paintings are just as important as the glitter parts, your eyes need a break from all that glitter, without the spaces, her work would seem more like objects instead of paintings. The story would be lost without a little breathing room. But these spaces, they puzzled me. The glitter parts of the pieces are so meticulously applied, why rush on the other parts. But then I thought about disintegration, and they do feel like they are disintegrating a bit. Like the world around the girl and the kill are dissolving before our eyes. Like the act of hunting and killing the animals, and a loss of innocence is the cause of the disintegration. The more I considered this idea, the more solid the paintings looked to me, the more they made sense. The images are of a type of disintegration. They need parts that don’t quite make sense. In the end I thought all of her choices in execution made sense for the imagery. I think you can especially see that in this piece:

Jamie has managed to blow me away again. I wish I wasn’t paying off student loans, I would love to take one of these home.

Scott Greene and Al Farrow at Catherine Clark

scott greene
Scott Greene’s enormous paintings of body parts are dutifully rendered and shined to a full gloss. There are plenty of nods to Phillip Guston’s famous boots but the cartoonish, flat look of Guston has been replaced with a triumphant attempt at achieving renaissance style rendering and varnish. Judging from the sprawled legs and arms, it appears Scott created headless monster sculptures out of doll parts, removing the articulated arms and legs of superheros, knights and horses. I think he then creates very large paintings from these sculptures. The end result is a decadent image of war, chaos, and brutality.

al farrow
Al Farrow architects cathedrals, mosques and other religious buildings using parts from guns and lots of bullets. The buildings are all large model sized and cold. The detailed metalwork is impressive and ominous. Many of the pieces had the bones of a finger encased in a glass enclosure. This impressive body of work must be seen in person. You can feel the weight of the metal when you stand in the room with these things. People are so transfixed by the pieces, it makes you feel anxious waiting your turn to see.

Scott Greene and Al Farrow will be showing at
Catherine Clark Gallery
From November 29th 2007 – January 12th 2008

See older work of Scott’s at
More of Al Farrow’s work can be seen at

View more photos on the Bay Area Art Quake Flickr Photo Group.

Also posted on the Bay Area Art Quake Group Blog.