May 4th, 2010 4:00 pm | by RICHARD SPEER Arts & Books | Posted In: Visual Arts

Almost Live: Cascade AIDS Project Art Auction's New Digs a Hit

Lovebirds by Grace Weston

What a difference a venue makes. After a multi-year run in the oppressively cheesy Oregon Convention Center, the Cascade AIDS Project's annual fundraising extravaganza benefited immensely this past weekend from a move to the Bison Building at 419 NE 10th Ave.

The 21st Annual Art Evening and Auction, held Saturday, May 1, felt like a whole new event thanks to the spaciousness of the environs of the new venue and a network of pavilions set up around and within it. Unlike the wall-to-wall-carpeted Convention Center, which felt suffocating, closed-off, and corporate, the Bison Building fostered an ambiance of openness and optimism that carried over into fundraising. According to development director Roma Peyser, the event more than respectably surpassed last year's total of $420,000, although exact figures will not be tallied until remaining donations and memberships are accounted for. Performances by Cirque du Soleil's Kooza troupe and the Linda Hornbuckle Band added to the festivities' buoyancy.

This was one of CAP's most tightly curated live and silent auctions, thanks to the discerning eye of Roger Hull of Willamette University and the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. The live auction featured works including Gail Tremblay's celluloid sculptures, Anna Skibska's glass filigree, Tom Cramer's suave pyrographic painting, Andrea Schwartz-Feit's six-foot-high encaustic panel, Hayley Barker's surreal work on paper, and many others.

The item that fetched the highest bid ($9,500) was an untitled semi-abstract landscape by the late Michele Russo, uncle of recently deceased gallery owner Laura Russo. Highlights of the silent auction included Rio Wrenn's silk-and-rust etude; Lawrence Morrell's twin rectangles of engraved raspberry-hued glass; Peter Miller's spooky and well-composed Day of the Dead, 2009; Karen Silve's multi-layered abstraction; Pat Barrett's Nationalism II, with its grotesque abomination of the Stars and Stripes as mucked-up cake icing; and Tamara English's Islamic calligraphy-meets-English garden superimposition. Photographer Grace Weston's Lovebirds was a particularly witty entry, with its immaculately staged vignette of a family of birds looking in on a birdcage populated by a human couple.

While the Portland gallery crowd was not as well represented as in years past (Charles Froelick, for example, was said to be sojourning in Palm Springs; Jeffrey Butters, a fixture during past years, was in Portland but did not attend), attendance was nevertheless strong. With the strength of the evening's art offerings, entertainment, and above all the inspired choice of venue, this CAP Auction signaled what we can only hope is a resurgence in Portland's art economy and art-scene esprit de corps.

For more information about the Cascade AIDS Project, visit For a selection of photographs of auction events and local celebs who attended at local gadfly Byron Beck's site.

Photo: Lovebirds by Grace Weston at CAP Auction, Portland, Oregon.
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