Quick: What do you get when you cross a cigarette butt and an earplug? No, no, not a butt plug—shame on you and your dirty mind! You get J.D. Perkin and Anne Thompson's Second Skin at Portland Art Center, with its totemic figures made from 11,000 cigarettes and 6,000 earplugs. Skin also includes a sculpture called Spirit Tree made out of antlers and 865 PBR and Tecate cans, and a hollowed-out clay tree with pink faux fur inside. Artists through the years have gotten a lot of use out of cigarette butts—see Troy Briggs and Sean Healy for two local examples—but Perkin and Thompson milk the nicotinic medium for all it's worth, recontextualizing these and other prosaic objects into arcane but strangely lovable icons.
Elsewhere within PAC this month is The Other Portland: Art & Ecology in the 5th Quadrant, the quadrant in question being North Portland. Curator Rhoda London chose artists, including North Portlanders, and asked them to create work using materials from North Portland that address environmental issues endemic to the neighborhood: wetlands, illegal dumping, soil and water contamination, and other yawnables. This sounds like a recipe for a heavy-handed dirge of a show, yet the works themselves display sufficient visceral presence to rise above the tedium the theme would seem to presage. Laura Foster has hung from the ceiling a sculptural installation made out of straw and affixed to the piece's underside a bevy of pink wax icicles that dangle mysteriously, casting shadows. For Fragments/Invisible Territories, Susan Harlan coated photographic slides with sundry organic goop, then enlarged those slides, their imagery coiling and crackling in a hymn to nature's jolie laide. Liz Obert and Mike Suri's imposing Harmony consists of six tall concrete pods, accompanied by a video installation, while Abi Spring and TJ Norris' SIM_PK.2 expands the artists' collaboration in last summer's outdoor show, inClover. With its sinuous cut glass, circular photos of NoPo greenery, lime-green containers holding plastic flowers and eerily lit blue fabric sky above, the piece is the creepiest, most elegant work PAC has shown since John Mace's 2005 medical dystopia, The Sending.
32 NW 5th Ave., 236-3322. Closes Jan. 27.