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By Shu-Ju Wang

“When it comes to me talking about my work, it’s so simple, I just love capturing emotion through an expression or through movement. Evoking the essence through light and shadow, through as little information as possible.”

— Alexandra Becker-Black

Nothing sums up Alexandra Becker-Black’s work and her being as succinctly as that. She is a woman of few words, colors and lines, just enough to say what she needs to say and to give you enough room to interpret and imagine on your own.

From her chosen subject matter to her art-making process, all extraneous materials have been stripped away until there is nothing left but light and shadow. Then very slowly, she retrieves them, one by one, but only as necessary.

Apparition by Alexandra Becker-Black, in graphite.

Becker-Black has been obsessed with the human form since childhood. One of her earliest memories is that of her drawing a woman’s face. From there, she became interested in the figure. But her artistic calling was not revealed to her in quite that straight-forward a manner as that.

At the beginning, her work was more about the fashion figure where subtle movements, emotions and essence were cloaked beneath layers of clothing and accessories. Then, through her study of yoga, she became interested in anatomy, musculature, and their beauty when in motion.

So she stripped away the camouflage, decorations and colors, and started working with the nude figure in motion, in graphite or in neutral watercolors. Using a camera, live models, lights and a blank white background, she captures those movement that come and go in the blink of an eye, that can imply emotions and actions that statically posed models can not.

Once recorded, she works with the still images but continues to purge from the already naked form, choosing only what she needs and adding only what is absolutely necessary. You see muscles tense and strain against gravity; you see figures in serene repose; you see energy suddenly released when a small flock of birds fly out of a woman’s opened hands. All of this is conjured up in front of your eyes even as a torso fades to gray or a leg disappears, creating work that is ethereal and luminously beautiful, haunting, evocative and complex.

Beseech by Alexandra Becker-Black, in watercolor.

Although ‘simple’ appears again and again in Becker-Black’s own description of her work, there is truly nothing simple in her work or her method. As anyone who has tried to simplify their lives can attest, it is a difficult and complex process to come to an understanding of what we truly need. And at only three years out of Rhode Island School of Design where Becker-Black received her BFA, she has achieved a great deal in her understanding of the often repeated but rarely understood phrase ‘Less is More.

Alexandra Becker-Black is one of two recipients of the Kimberly Gales Scholarship for Young Artists this year. She is #42 in the roster of 100 artists on the 2010 Portland Open Studios tour. During the 2nd and 3rd weekends of October, you can watch her create her work in her lovely tree-nestled studio in NW Portland.

In the mean time, you can visit her website at http://www.alexandrabeckerblack.com/, or see a few pieces in person during the month of July at Backspace Cafe:

Backspace Cafe
115 NW 5th
Please check website for hours: http://www.backspace.bz

8 Women Show
July 1 – August 3
Opening reception: July 1, 6-11pm

A worktable, with a painting in progress...

by Careen Stoll

Elisabeth Walden is one of the two recipients of the Kimberly Gales Scholarship for Young Artists this year. She has moved here recently from New York to refine her print technique in preparation for continued studies in the arts at a graduate school. The arc of her brilliance is likely to be long: with a BA Cum Laude from Yale and a naturally confident manner, she brings a consideration to her making process that will easily translate to any expression she may choose.

Elisabeth Walden at the Bite Studio. photo by Aaron Rogosin

Walden describes a feeling of ambiguity when representing the gallery spaces in which she has spent considerable time as an undergraduate and as an intern. In the jewel-like format of an aquatint print with inlaid chine-colle, she deconstructs the spaces that are designed to bring light to the art while maintaining their own spine. Walden’s fascination rests on clarifying the existence of that light caught in the geometry of walls and shadows which she then repeats via the print suite in subtle variations of mood and focus.

"African Art Gallery" from the Yale Art Gallery Suite. Aquatint with Chine Colle, 8 by 10

Take, for example, her suite based on the Yale University Art Gallery designed by Louis Kahn. Pictured above is a print clearly showing the relationship of the ceiling to the walls designed to be portable and floating above the floor. Walden loves the mathematical origins of the ceiling design inspired by the pyramids of Giza. She also loves the light that passes under the wall, and chose to draw the viewer’s focus towards it by zooming in until the prints became abstract theme and variations. Yet within the context of the suite, the viewer is given the necessary meta- awareness: this is a print hanging on a wall, of walls on which are hung prints. Her use of chine-colle heightens the experience even more: by adding a mild slip of colored rice paper, to denote the wall, she is formally adding light behind the darkness of the inks.

Concerning her internship at the Guggenheim, which she enjoyed in the summer after her degree, Walden has some pointed commentary on Frank Lloyd Wright’s use of the spiral. She remarks that Lloyd Wright hated the New York grid, and would have like to tear it all down and rebuild the city with spirals. She says the grid is what New York is all about, and so in her prints, she has shoved the Guggenheim back into the box-shaped buildings. Again she explores the suite, which she is completing: subtle moods, abstract composition, focusing on the light.

"Stiles Courtyard" early 2009. Aquatint with a rollover, 4 by 5in.`

Elisabeth currently works at Bite Studio and her work can be seen there on First Fridays. She loves the sense of community that comes with this studio and the wider art world here in Portland. Just last month, she was awarded an Honorable Mention in the juried show associated with the Cascade AIDS Project. Her participation in Portland Open Studios as a scholarship winner was also a pleasant surprise, and we are pleased to support her.

For more information and images of Elisabeth’s work, go to elisabethwalden.com
Information about bite studio is available at bitestudio.org

photo by Claudia Howell

by Careen Stoll

photo by Claudia Howell

The Gala opening of the 10×10 Show was a wonderful success.  About four hundred people enjoyed a great celebration of Portland Open Studios’  Ten Year Anniversary.   Located in the lofty atrium at City Hall, each diminutive art piece looked  like it had drifted down from the sky.    With 80 of the artists represented from the 2009 tour, it remains a rare opportunity to see the wide variety of work created by members of Portland Open Studios all in one place.

photo by Claudia Howell

Eloise Damrosch, Dan Saltzman and Kelly Neidig. photo by Claudia Howell

The executive director of the Regional Arts and Culture Council Eloise Damrosch placed Portland Open Studios in the wider context of how important the arts is to cultural growth.  Dan Saltzman, City Commissioner, introduced Portland Open Studios and accepted our gift to the city.  Sadly, Mayor Sam Adams, who has championed the arts, was sick and unable to attend.

Kelly Neidig and Scott Conary next to Conary's painting "The Dock". photo by Claudia Howell

Commissioner  Saltzman read the Proclamation, officially designating the second and third weekends of October Portland Open Studios weekends.  Kelly Neidig, President of Portland Open Studios,  accepted the honor on behalf of Portland Open Studios, said a few words of celebration and thanks, explained the Purchase Prize, and introduced Scott Conary who had painted the work to be gifted to the City.   Entitled “The Dock”, Scott’s work was revealed to the gathering amidst another cheer.

Kelly Neidig and Bonnie Meltzer. photo by Claudia Howell

The founder of Portland Open Studios, Kitty Wallis, said a few words about watching the organization grow.  Also gifted was a special honor to Bonnie Meltzer for the ten years in which she tended to countless large projects and small details in service to the organization as director of communications and “right-hand person”.

In the words of Kelly Neidig, “The reception at city hall was a great example of how Portland Open Studios unites the community with artist.  It was a fun reception, I loved talking to all of our artists and meeting new artists.”   She speaks to the heart of why Portland Open Studios was honored by the city, as does Kindra Crick who helped organize the show: “It was wonderful to celebrate ten years of an organization that shows people the behind the scenes of how art is made.“  Portland Open Studios is a truly unique opportunity in experiential education.

photo by Claudia Howell

We would like to give a special thank-you to the excellent music provided by Jim Boydston, Daryl Davis, and Steve Remington of Manzanita. Many thanks also to our generous sponsors: Storyteller Wine Co, Full Sail Brewing Co, and Artemis Foods, Inc

Thanks to all the artists, past, present, and future, who attended the opening, and those who purchased art!  Twenty percent of the proceeds from the show go directly to the Kimberly Gales Scholarship for young artists.  Please consider supporting the 2010 Portland Open Studios tour by becoming a sponsor and receive ten Tour Guides to the two weekend event in October!

Artist Barbara Pannakker photo by Claudia Howell

This unusual show could not have been possible without Pollyanne Birge from the Mayor’s Office and the dedication of  Kindra Crick and Shawn Demarest, board members who went above and beyond to create a memorable show.  Careen Stoll provided some last-minute assistance with the press.  There were also numerous volunteers before, during, and after the show. Many thanks to all!  The show will remain up in City Hall until March 31st.

photo by Claudia Howell

Celebrate local art on First Thursday, March 4th when Mayor Sam Adams will honor Portland Open Studios with a Proclamation and unveil the organization’s 10th Anniversary Purchase Prize gift to the City of Portland. The 10 x 10 Show (all art 10 inches or less, in all media) features artworks by over 80 artists in the 2009 Portland Open Studios tour.

Click on the thumbnail to see the official document!

The event is free and open to the public. Artwork is for sale with 20% going to the Kimberly Gales Scholarship fund for young artists. Enjoy music, refreshments, and this rare opportunity to see an array of art by Portland Open Studios’ artists.

For a decade, local artists have created opportunities in experiential education by opening their doors to the curious public and sharing their working methods. Portland Open Studios is a unique and mutually beneficial exchange of excitement and learning about art.

Portland Open Studios is being recognized and honored by the City of Portland because of its commitment to provide art education to all members of our community, adults and children alike, and for its dedicated support of local working artists.

Visitors on the tour constantly encounter treasured and unique educational opportunities. For example in 2007, Justine Avera visited the studio of that year’s scholarship winner Jennifer Mercede with her family. Justine wrote later that Anne was so moved by the experience that when the family got home, she and her daughter painted together for hours, and that those paintings in turn became the basis of Justine’s new artwork.

Portland Open Studios has been a springboard for many of its artist’s careers.  It seeks to incorporate a wide variety of voices and media, thereby representing a cross-section of the visual arts in Portland.  It fosters growth of all participating artists through workshops and encourages emerging artists to participate by offering the Kimberly Gales Scholarship.  This scholarship is available to applicants between the ages of twenty and thirty, waives the tour’s membership fee, and pays a $100 stipend.  Recipients’ work is highlighted in the Tour Guide, providing exposure for the young artists.

In 2009, for the tenth year anniversary, an exciting mentorship program was introduced, connecting art students in the public high schools with participating artists. Over twenty artists on the tour mentored forty-five students, giving them an inside view of their studio and business practice.  These young apprentices may become the future creative capital of Portland.

Many thanks to our generous sponsors: Storyteller Wine Co, Full Sail Brewing Co, and Artemis Foods, Inc

Join us to celebrate a decade of accomplishments in the local Portland arts community on March 4th at a Portland City Hall ceremony and exhibition. Refreshments generously provided by Storyteller Wine, Full Sail Brewing Co, and Artemis Foods.  Music entertainment includes Jim Boydston, Daryl Davis, and Steve Remington of Manzanita.
All past, present and future Portland Open Studios‘ artists and supporters are encouraged to attend.

If you wish to RSVP or invite others, you can do so via Facebook