Sitting on the floor in my home office, looking through hard copies of my 2006 reviews, I'm surprised at how great a year it was for visual arts. On paper, the year looks so much more stellar than it seemed while it was happening. It's so easy for Stumptowners to take their art scene for granted: By definition, we view it farsightedly, we are preoccupied with tempests in teapots, we are hung up on how much better things would be if only our fair city were more like New York, London or Berlin. Fact is, though, this town is teeming with talented artists who routinely surmount anemic collectors, batty gallerists and wrongheaded live-work laws to produce creative statements that in many cases hold their own against any art made by anybody anywhere. For me, it's an ongoing privilege to help chronicle the evolution of this glorious, querulous, incestuous community. In my book, artists are rock stars; the rest of us are just lucky to be at the concert. Here, then, are this concertgoer's picks for the year's greatest hits.
Best Show of 2006: Rob Tyler's Color and Modulation at CenterSpace—an obsessive Gesamtkunstwerk in painting, film, digital video, photography and sound.
Best Painting Show: (tie) Eva Lake's vibratory abstractions at Augen and Omar Chacon's scenery-chewing psychedelia at Motel.
Best Sculpture: Bean Finneran's porcupinelike ceramics at PDX.
Best Mixed Media: Brenden Clenaghen's opulent ghostscapes at Pulliam Deffenbaugh.
Best Installation: Adam Bailey's Lineage of Harmonic Sensation at Portland Art Center.
Best Group Show: (tie) TJ Norris' gray_area at Guestroom and Blood Rainbow Family's Haunted at Disjecta.
Best Museum Show: Oregon Biennial 2006—may the gods bless Jennifer Gately for getting it right!
Best New Gallery: Quality Pictures.
Best Event: The Affair @ Jupiter Hotel—the third time was a charm.
Best Performance-Art Crossover by Visual Artists: Bruce Conkle and Marne Lucas' uproarious absurdist play, The Untold Adventures of Lewis and Clark, staged by Blinglab at PICA's TBA Festival.
Best Arts Website: TJ Norris' now-defunct Is It Art? on oregonlive.com.
Best Art Junket: Two chartered party buses shuttling between Portland and Eugene in late June, taking dozens of local artists, curators and scenesters to see Roy Lichtenstein prints at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. It was like Furthur for art geeks: free-flowing booze, outrageous conversation, romantic intrigue and, oh yeah, some damn fine prints by the late, great pop master.