We are now in a time when making art, showing art, seeing art and buying art are all acts of resistance.
In addition to waging a war on science, the environment, women's rights, Muslims, health care, refugees, decorum, propriety and facts, Donald Trump has made clear his intention to defund the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
This means that Trump's war now threatens museums, libraries, archives, arts education and radio, not to mention the creation of new works of dance, literature, music, theater and visual arts. Essentially, the NEA and NEH protect and support culture, which, from any perspective informed by history, is fundamental to a thriving society.
Arts and culture provide us with refuge, hope, encouragement and—when we need it—a stern talking to. They are the mirrors that reflect back to us our proudest achievements and our gravest failures. This is why totalitarian dictatorships go after artists and intellectuals first: It helps to suppress opposition.
The shows we're most excited to see this month are resisting hard.
Artists of color are notoriously underrepresented in museums, despite immense contributions to the arts. So Portland Art Museum's decision to mount an exhibition of 2-D works by contemporary African-American artists is a meaningful step forward. From Kara Walker to Portland's Arvie Smith, the artists in the show use nuanced self-representation to explore identity in what can certainly not be considered a post-racial society. Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Ave., 503-226-2811. Through June 18.
Photographer Magda Biernat documents the realities of climate change by pairing images of melting ice caps in Antarctica with images of abandoned hunting lodges in the Arctic. None of her photographs contain people, but rather the sobering possibility of a time when people pay the price for their own destruction. Blue Sky Gallery, 122 NW 8th Ave., 503-225-0210. Feb. 2-26.
Eutectic, a ceramics gallery, is doing something different this month. It has put together a group show of nasty-women artists (a couple of whom are men), working in all types of media, to protest the new administration's position on women's rights. A percentage of each sale will go to benefit Planned Parenthood, giving us another example of how art can help us look after each other. (Disclosure: I have been asked to contribute pieces to this show.) Eutectic Gallery, 1930 NE Oregon St., 503-974-6518. Feb. 3-24.
One of the ways we can strengthen the resistance is by giving a megaphone to underrepresented voices and offering encouragement to artists who are just starting out. This month, Gallery 114 is hosting an exhibition of four emerging artists of color, all PNCA students, whose works deal with issues of colonization, migration, displacement, identity, belonging and self. That said, being familiar with the work of two of the featured artists, I can tell you the reason to see this show is not the artists' backgrounds but their immense talent. Gallery 114, 1100 NW Glisan St., 503-243-3356. Feb. 5-28.
Art as Resistance
I've never been to UNA Gallery before, and I received no press release about the upcoming show. But I came across a Facebook post that described it as a celebration of "local POC, Femme, and Queer artists employing personal identity as a means of opposition." The group exhibition includes installations, video and 3-D work by four artists (and possibly a fifth, resisting digitally from Havana) who understand the power of art as a form of revolution. UNA Gallery, 328 NW Broadway, No. 117, 858-610-4269. Feb. 2-24.