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October 5 - October 12, 2000

[Art Reviews]
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Walkabout

A preview of Portland's new First Friday

By Jenna Russell

"PODS":by Karin Rosenthal, part of "Figures, Flora and Fauna" at Radiant Light Gallery.

You had every intention of gallery-hopping in Portland this summer. But you went out of town every weekend. Or you had guests every weekend. You slept late. Whatever. This Friday, the city's first Artwalk offers the perfect occasion to make up for past transgressions. It starts at 5 p.m., when you're ready to ditch the office, and gives you three hours to explore the arts downtown. It's a time when the galleries would normally be closed, and you would normally be at the bar with your co-workers, complaining about work. Think how virtuous you'll feel Saturday morning, the weekend barely begun, and you with a cultural outing already under your belt. Maybe you even started your holiday shopping. So go ahead -- sleep in.

The First Friday Artwalk runs from 5 to 9 p.m.

Participating venues include:

3 Fish Gallery

Aucocisco

Bella Cucina

Blue Mango

Café Uffa

The Clown

Carricom

Coffee By Design

Danforth/Maine Artist's Space

Delilah Pottery

Drop Me A Line

Eastland Gallery

Enterprise Records

Filament Gallery

Free St. Taverna

Hay Gallery

Jameson Gallery

Java Joe's

June Fitzpatrick Gallery

Katahdin

LL Bean

Local 188

Mainely Frames

Mesa Verde

The Museum of African Art

Davidson Daughters

Portland Museum of Art

Radiant Light Gallery

Sanctuary Tattoo

Scott Potter Designs

The Skinny

Starbucks

The following preview represents only a fraction of the galleries participating in the Artwalk. Some, like The Clown, June Fitzpatrick, and Davidson & Daughters, didn't have Friday's shows up before our deadline. Check the listings for October 6 openings, to see if your favorite gallery is participating.

"Berenice Abbott's U.S. Route 1" at the Portland Museum of Art. When Abbott felt the urge to road trip, she didn't fool around. In 1954, at age 56, the photographer drove Rte. 1 from New York to Key West, turned around and headed north to Fort Kent. Along the way, she took 2400 pictures. This show surveys some of "reality's unparalleled beauties," as Abbott called them, from the nighttime parking meters of Augusta, Georgia, to the stoic potato farmers of Aroostook County. The images from Miami are among the richest and moodiest, their greenish light dense and saturated with heat and humidity.

"Photographs by Todd Webb" at Aucocisco. Todd Webb's pictures of New York are the kind that make you hear the rumble of the city and smell its steam and dust, as if a window to the past had just been thrown open. The New York pictures are mostly from the late 1940s, and their characters are mostly gone now: Maisie, queen of the Bowery, in her fur-tail hat; the peanut man with his cart; the tough boys of Fulton Street. The clarity of the urban light is breathtaking, the city's vertical mass imposing and inspiring. In a quieter, more solitary mood, the show also offers an intimate look at Webb's friend Georgia O'Keefe in New Mexico, sketching a canyon wall in a mud-splattered skirt and relaxing with her two big, fluffy dogs. Webb, who died this year, deserves to rank with the greats.

"Figures, Flora and Fauna" at Radiant Light Gallery. Radiant Light is off the beaten path, on the third floor of the Congress Building, and if Tipper Gore was running the Artwalk, it might be the place to get slapped with a parental warning label. Director Thom Adams specializes in figurative photography, because artists have trouble showing it, he says. That means lots and lots of nudes, especially in the natural landscape, in a tradition that stretches from Michelangelo to Bruce Weber. In the strongest images, including those by Karin Rosenthal and Frank Yamrus, the body is abstracted and mysterious: curving male chest as mountain range; knees, rounded by their reflection in water into alien pods.

"She3: New Work by Carey McDougall, Diane Wiencke and Nancy Kureth" at Local 188. You can fuel up on tapas while you check out this three-woman show, which ranges engagingly from the dark to the delicate. McDougall makes ceramic dresses, and cloth ones dipped in wax and set in plaster, and her titles make whimsical reference to the inner lives of women: "Walking on Water after her Wedding," "Wishing for Tallness." Kureth, too, uses dress imagery to clothe emotions, in "Ghost Dress," where a delicate paper cutout is framed by a sturdy box, and in the poetic, melancholy "Her dress of words #1." The text of the latter is written in white ink inside an old drawer. Then there's the seductive pull of Wiencke's dark, stained-glass paintings, where muddied fruit slices of crimson, yellow, and orange build to bull's eye spirals.

"Mechanical Music by Christopher Keister" at Cafe Uffa. Keister also uses the circle-in-a-circle of the bull's eye, taking such a pared-down approach that the viewer can almost hear the pitch of the art free-falling to silence. The young Portland artist has written of these paintings that their repetition and precision reflect his interest in clock faces. He stresses the importance of restrictions in their composition -- limited forms, a limited palette, and an absence of value changes. These black, olive, red, and cream rings could be mechanical diagrams stripped of all their details, and the circles and dots, matte and impenetrable, keep all their secrets.

"Rachael Eastman: Face, Facade and Portal" at the Hay Gallery. Eastman's soft, luminous paintings are indebted to the old Italian masters, and their patchy surfaces and golden-brown palette make them look as if they could be time-worn Renaissance artifacts. There are dream-portraits of old and young women who might be saints or sibyls, and in visual language poised between the religious and romantic, she records portals -- doors and windows in a spare, pale, and clouded emotional landscape. "Far and Near" is simple but powerful, a study of two doors, one close and the other receding into the distance. "Boy" has the approximated exactness of a Da Vinci drawing. Not everything is romance. "Scream," a blurred face, has the ambiguous angst of the version by Edvard Munch.

Jenna Russell can be reached at russelljenna@hotmail.com.

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