I'll never forget a photograph by artist Liz Obert of a man and woman lying on the sands of South Beach yakking away on their respective cell phones. No matter where we are, it would seem, it would be better to be somewhere else. Through phones, texting and tweeting, we flee the here-and-now for ever more abstracted digital versions of the phenomenal world. It is the newest strain of wanderlust, a timeless theme explored this month in two local shows.
For many years, Australian artist Mel George lived in Portland and made art about her homesickness for Australia. After moving back to the Land Down Under, she started making art about her homesickness for Portland. Her show at Bullseye, Reminders, takes an elegiac, rear-view-mirror glance at the city she says she never considered home until she left. Her kiln-formed glass plates, shaped like Polaroids, depict memories that are often poetic, sometimes silly, always fond: the Chapman swifts, color fields of Northwest grays and greens, and swaths of pastel that evoke the seasonal berry milkshakes at Burgerville. In West Bank, an homage to the cherry blossoms at Waterfront Park, a staggering 100 pink-hued Polaroids extend in a sad row across the gallery's east wall. Trying, through sheer prolificacy, to preserve something cherished and lost, George recalls the relic-filled burial chambers of pharaohs. This is a beautiful and heart-wrenching show. If you love Portland, you should see it.
At Blue Sky we see another kind of wanderlust in Austrian photographer Reiner Riedler's Fake Holidays. The artist takes us to tacky, ramshackle theme parks the world over. At the Bispingen Holiday Park in Germany, doughy Teutons lie under sun lamps in a faux-tropical rainforest. At a wedding destination in Shenzhen, China, you can pose in front of replicas of the pyramids of Giza and the Eiffel Tower. Then there is the Frivoli Swinger Club in Vienna, where Riedler shows us a stringy-haired man and his MILF-du-nuit reclining on a tiger-print rug—a horrifically painted beach scene behind them, shell-encrusted papier-mâché rocks standing in for a tropical grotto. Does this alternate reality make their sex better than if they'd just, say, stayed home and screwed on the sofa? Wryly detached, Riedler leaves us to our own conclusions.
Mel George at Bullseye, 300 NW 13th Ave., 227-0222. Closes Jan. 23.
at Blue Sky, 122 NW 8th Ave., 225-0210. Closes Jan. 3.