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June 27th, 2007 RICHARD SPEER | Visual Arts
 

Alter Egos

Online gamers have dual identities at Portland Art Center.

     
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As part of the Platform Animation Festival, Portland Art Center has mounted an intriguing show called Alter Ego: Avatars and their Creators. Curated by Shawn Bowman, the show features split-screen portraits by London-based photographer Robbie Cooper: one side showing real people, the other side the online-gaming characters, or "avatars," the gamers have created to represent themselves. The connections or disparities between the players' actual identities and their online personae form the show's central conceit. For an average of 55 hours per week, 22-year-old Lucas Shaw plays EverQuest as his avatar, "Gaenank," a studly barbarian who "protects the weaker classes and kills monsters," according to Shaw's self-description, which accompanies the photos. Shaw likes the fact that you can order pizzas to your house through the EverQuest interface, so you don't have to stop playing to eat. Morbidly obese, he admits that his obsession with the game has led to health problems. Striking a more poignant chord, Jason Rowe, who has multiple sclerosis, can move one of his arms just enough to use his computer to play Star Wars Galaxies, which he does to the tune of 80 hours per week. His character, "Rurouni Kenshin," is a powerful and skilled marksman who dispatches enemies with a rifle. "I have a lot of physical disabilities in real life," Rowe says, "but in Star Wars Galaxies I can ride an Imperial speeder bike, fight monsters or just hang out with friends. Online it doesn't matter what you look like." 32 NW 5th Ave., 236-3322. Closes June 29.

At Motel, Austin, Texas-based artist Matthew Rodriguez paints smiley and frowny faces on found objects. One of his assemblages features a crushed water bottle, a Styrofoam cup, a Tootsie Roll wrapper and a leaf, all with faces painted on them, stuck unceremoniously on the gallery wall. If you want to see the laziest, most pathetic excuse for an art show likely to hit Portland this year, be sure to check out Rodriguez's work before it comes down. 19 NW 5th Ave., Suite C, 222-6699. Closes June 30.

At Tilt, Alison Owen displays large sheets of paper that are blank except for the tiniest of colored slivers along their bottoms. This is poor-man's warmed-over minimalism, done a billion times before and a gajillion times better. If this review were an IM conversation, I would end it by typing ROFSBTIKOSTGIGN, which stands for: Rolling On the Floor Sobbing Because This Is the Kind of Shit that Gets Into Galleries Nowadays. 635 NW Everett St., #106, 908-616-5477. Closes June 30.

 
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