The annual fundraising gala and auction for the Cascade AIDS Project last Saturday, April 5, may be the Portland art scene's most glamorous event: tuxes and cocktail dresses, hors d'oeuvres and cocktails, and oh yes, art. The theme for this year's CAP auction was "Cirque," and as always it was a circus of preen-and-be-seen festivities in the service of a great cause, raising $600,000 ($50K less than last year's total) for the nonprofit's prevention, support, housing, advocacy and education programs.

The ambience this year was more upscale than last year; the food about the same; and the art, on the whole, not as challenging. Curator Linda Tesner's picks had a predominantly middlebrow feel, an impression reinforced by the lackluster organization and hanging of the pieces in the silent auction. The highest-fetching lot in the live auction was Wedlock, an embarrassingly middling abstract by Lucinda Parker, which sold for $12,500. Second place was Dale Chihuly's Sarnen Drawing, which brought in a cool 10 G's. Recession? What recession? Standouts in the silent auction included Sarah Wolf Newlands' sock-monkey tapestry, Argos; Ted Sawyer's moody, misty Ode; Gordon Marshall's Immortality III, with its Close Encounters-like alien figure; Annette Thurston's Mr. Roboto-meets-Martha-Stewart print, Fish Fork; and Lee Musgrave's tender drawing, Hold on Tight to your Dreams. Christopher Mooney's neo-Impressionistic oil painting of three children was enigmatic and more than a trifle creepy, while Larry Cwik's Striated Iceberg showed the artist nicely finessing the line between fine-art and nature photography.

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