Tag Archives: Portland

Artist Profile


A mischievous face peeks around a small, forgotten looking metal door, and offers a cheerful greeting.  Rachel C. Wright welcomes me into the chilly interior of a giant warehouse in Portland’s Industrial area. Wright directs me to her studio space, weaving through a maze of walkways to Wright’s studio door. I open the door wide, only to push aside a handful of trial sculptural fetuses, which scrape across the concrete floor. Interesting introduction, I think to myself.

Rachel is mid-project, completing a utilitarian sculpture made of all recycled materials. It is a one of a kind dress. This is quite different from Wright’s usual figural sculptures that make up the bulk of her three-dimensional art.

Even though utilitarian objects aren’t a typical part of Wright’s practice, she is in line with her usual practice of appropriating traditionally feminine skills in her process. She tacks cardboard onto a bodice shape and later painstakingly hand-stitches, taking few shortcuts.


Later, we reconnect over a coffee, in true Portland style, for an interview. I want to hear from Rachel Wright firsthand, in order to understand Wright’s labor-intensive process, motivations, influences, and general thoughts on art.

What’s your process?

I am a process-based artist, so my process is tedious, on purpose. At times I think the process is almost more important than the end result. I get tunnel vision when I work, and believe the time spent translates in the final art. For example, I spent 280 hours on the recycled dress sculpture I recently finished.

I also often work in soft materials and choose to hand-sew over using a machine.

Why sewing, when this is a traditionally feminine skill?

The female performance artists of the 60s influence me. Some artists reclaimed sewing. I also appropriate sewing, and find the act to be meditative. It is important to mention that I don’t sew to make utilitarian objects, usually. I sew to make sculpture, with feminist undertones. That is different from the traditional sense of sewing.

Why art?

Well, art wasn’t the only thing I was good at, but it was damn near close. [Wright smirks.] Art came easily to me, and I was able to advance in art. I loved my foundational first year in college, to understand color, composition, mediums, and other fundamentals. I was attracted to sculpture in the first year, and have focused on that since.

I chose art because I can ask myself, “What am I going to make next?” After that first year in school, I got past angst filled art. I developed my process, made questionable art, and then began asking that question, “What’s next? “ over and over.

What is questionable art? 

It is art you wouldn’t want to show anyone, but you do anyway. While the questions of whether art is bad, good or questionable is relative, I believe it is about taking risks and seeking feedback with your art. I seek feedback from people I respect, professors and peers.

Even the best artists make questionable art. It happens. They seek feedback from critics, art experts, and the public.

Name your top 3 influences, famous or not. 

My top three are Magdalena Abakanowicz, Louise Bourgeois, and Ledelle Moe.

I identify with female artists that work in sculpture with figural subjects. I also respect women who “make it” in the art world because there are so few in comparison to male artists.

Abakanowicz is known for hand-stitched, burlap figures with the H/holocaust as a main theme. Louise Bourgeois is a giant figure in the feminist art scene of the last century. A main theme in her oeuvre is family matters, like me. Moe is a former professor and works in monumental, concrete sculpture. She is a mentor and supports me in so many ways. She offers direct, honest feedback.

Tell me a favorite art memory.

I lent a hand to a peer and friend, May Wilson, to help cast dead animals. The report of a fresh road kill animal off the Jersey Turnpike was the first experience.

The animal needed to be as fresh as possible, so we drove in the middle of the night, picked up the stinking animal after spraying it with a poly spray, and spent the rest of the night problem solving how to cast it before it decomposed.

It was nasty in the moment, but such a memorable experience.

What else should people know about you and your art?

I am not the stereotypical artist, living a bohemian lifestyle. I am living in a suburban area, working diligently, and raising a family with my husband. I believe in myself and in making art. If I can do this, so can others. I hope people understand that belief in themselves and their capabilities will lead the way to achieving their goals too.

In terms of art, my art is part of a timeline that is evolving. I explore the limits of human strength always. So far, in the timeline I have explored family matters: birthing children, breastfeeding, maintaining relationships, overcoming dysfunction, and breaking the cycle of abuse.

To some, my art’s meaning is mysterious and I have received feedback that it is too mysterious. However, my work is actually hyper-personal and I don’t mind if it comes off as mysterious. Art making is therapeutic for me. Art is empowering. I will consider myself a successful artist if I consistently produce art for the rest of my life, regardless of how popular or visible my art is to the world.

Rachel C. Wright is an artist. She continues to make art after college and plans to do so for life. She is a parent of two children, married, and makes time in the studio to steadily evolve her art. She is determined to keep up her art practice.

Check out Rachel C. Wright online to follow her artistic evolution. See updates, new art, and learn of upcoming shows.


Visual Wednesday: First Thursday in September


Fortunately, First Thursday this past week fell on another pleasantly mild weather day in Portland. Next month I anticipate excessive amounts of overflowing puddles and zippered waterproof raincoats to be worn in true Oregon form. No umbrellas allowed. We shall see once the tumultuous fall weather arrives.

Weather aside, First Thursday was refreshing for other reasons. My highlight was the exclusive show at the Daily in the Pearl District featuring George Perrou. A prolific artist in Portland and the larger area, Perrou’s paintings are featured in the Daily as part of a collaboration with Amy Caplan of Caplan Art Designs based in Portland, Oregon. In the space, Caplan displays various Perrou paintings in his unique style that lends a vibrant mood to the Daily space.

Each canvas boasts flatly painted backgrounds, and compositions of high-contrast lines and shapes. Subjects range from purely abstract, while other paintings are abstractions of otherworldly landscapes. Watch this video for an in-depth look at the artist’s process.

Perrou refers to his “Retro Modern” style as derived from a range of influences such as mid-century industrial design palettes (think green ovens and pink toasters) and productions by Hanna-Barbera cartoons, as well as artists like Joan Miro, Wassily Kandinsky, and Alexander Calder. While he doesn’t operate on the same theoretical basis as the aforementioned artists, it is refreshing to view paintings that echo the lighthearted approach of the painter George Perrou.

The following images are a side by side comparison of Four Flowers by George Perrou (left image source) and Catalan Landscape (The Hunter) by Joan Miro (right image source). George Perrou’s paintings will be on view for the next few weeks of September at the Daily located here. Give the paintings a look and brave the puddles if the weather is soggy because it is worth it.


On another note, I plan to review a different event in the Portland area next month in an effort to switch it up a little. Presently, it’s a question to review the ever-quirky, and mostly low-brow art event Last Thursday off Alberta Avenue, or the east side’s First Friday event.

Any recommendations for another art event in the area?

Visual Day: Scale and Review of August’s First Thursday

On the subject of my experience at First Thursday this August I have a confession. I didn’t go! Don’t fret, I did visit a number of galleries that participate in the event, just not on First Thursday.

Yes, yes, but Elya how could you write a proper review when I didn’t attend the event? Well, a few things are certain. The event still happened without my attendance, and I also had a different viewing experience by going on another day.

In terms of the First Thursday event, I can guarantee that many galleries were open later than normal, that some offered wine, snacks, or hosted musicians to play live music. Also,the open market on 13th street was filled with the booths of jewelry makers, wood crafters, painters, photographers, and so on. Lastly, there were a lot of people.

Sometimes viewing art shows in this environment is helpful to my viewing experience. I may notice certain art more than I may have when people congregate around it, or I glean an interesting perspective through a nearby conversation for example. This isn’t always the case.

Other times, I am swept up by the movement and general mood of other viewers. I find myself lingering for less time, than if I were in a room filled with fewer people and a more serene environment. Or hunger pangs make the snacks and drinks very appealing. I am distracted.

My two highlights for shows this month are from galleries that live on the same block together. The two spaces are PDX Contemporary Art and the Elizabeth Leach Gallery.

Through August 31st, the work of Kristen Miller, in the show Passing Through, will be on view at PDX contemporary art. Each composition stands alone with an intricate and balanced design. Yet together each piece serves as part of the whole in Kristen Miller larger oeuvre (or the works of a painter, composer, or author regarded collectively, as in, “the complete oeuvre of Mozart”, from dictionary.com). There are framed pieces as well as a paper and beadwork installation mounted on the ceiling.

In an expansive white-walled space, Miller’s relatively small-scale art acts as well placed punctuation in a sparse poem.  The compositions are balanced using a zen-like pallet of black, white, and grey.  The titles of the art seem to recall the physics of our world with names such as “Gravity”, and “Rising and Settling”. The materials include glassine paper, tiny glass beads, thread, and found objects such as fruit wrappers. More information on the show and extra images from the show are here

On view, until September 21st, is Funeral: Photographic Constructions by Isaac Layman at Elizabeth Leach Gallery. These photographic constructions are a combination of large-scale, hyper real images as well as Layman’s selections of everyday materials. The subject matter is everyday objects such as an empty cabinet or empty sink, and the curated pieces are foam board in a white-framed support. Each curated piece or photographic construction is empty and in a state of disuse.

With Funeral as a show title, I consider the content and meaning to be part of a contemplation on the end of life, although the subjects also remind me of the tongue in cheek ready-made art by artists like Marcel Duchamp, causing me to wonder whether there is any intentional humor in this otherwise somber theme. If you visit or have visited this show, what were your thoughts? There are extra images and more information here also.


IMG_1817Greetings readers!

I will post my monthly review of First Thursday for August later tonight or tomorrow. Posting later than usual is good, trust me, because I am fine tuning the content to be top-notch! I am excited to share my experience with you soon.

Did you go to First Thursday last week? Please don’t hesitate to share your review and thoughts too. Let’s have a conversation.

For now, enjoy this provoking quote by Pablo Picasso. “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Another post coming soon!


Visual Wednesday: A Wooden Mallet


Photo Source: Mittlerbros.com

July’s First Thursday Review & a Wooden Mallet

First Thursday fell on a holiday this month, so I didn’t attend the event. I did, however take advantage of an early free admittance on Wednesday at the Museum of Contemporary Craft (MoCC). Last month I wrote about the bowl at the MoCC, so this month I will share another highlight of an exhibit that I viewed more intentionally.

On this first Wednesday, I interacted with Soundforge by metalsmith Gabriel Craig, in partnership with composer Michael Remson. Soundforge was first realized in Houston, Texas and now Portland, Oregon at the MoCC through September 21, 2013.

The piece includes 16 wooden hand-carved mallets in a variety of shapes and sizes. The mallets are arranged vertically along an invisible horizontal line, with a white outline of each mallet’s uniques shape and a grey painted wall for a background. Each mallet is supported at the intersection of the head and handle by two nails. The rest of the piece includes hundreds of vertically strung hand-forged metal pieces that Craig refers to as keys. Three stands generously spread throughout the room organize the hundreds of hand-forged metal keys. The stands and keys are similar to vertically oriented xylophones. Further, there are a number of important interactive components that include multimedia, performance by musicians, and an invitation for all viewers to play the instrument as well.

To promote a complementary viewer interaction, Craig explains that all notes are in the same key of F minor pentatonic scale. This way the sounds work together, but are arranged in no particular order.

Personally, I truly enjoyed the opportunity to be involved in the work. I found myself curiously experimenting with the various mallets and the percussion sounds of the keys individually and together. Often I held two mallets, randomly striking and tapping keys. I noted the keys sound different depending on where you strike the metal, the middle, edge, top or bottom. A few other people were viewing and engaging with Soundforge while I was there, and I found our playing to be surprisingly cohesive.

Soundforge, according to Craig, highlights a specific moment in the metal forging process, when metal making is accompanied by percussion. His expressed intention to highlight the process, and act of object making is not only an interesting concept, but the intended meaning was well received by myself and other viewers I observed.

Visual Wednesday: What About the Bowl?

Urban bowl.

A post shared by Elya Simukka (@elya365) on

In a previous post reviewing June’s First Thursday event, I promised to personally interact with a bowl from a special project at the Museum of Contemporary Craft (MOCC). The current exhibit, Object Focus: The Bowl is curated by Namita Gupta Wiggers, and lasts until September 21, 2013. This special engagement with a bowl is made possible thanks to the Engage+Use side of the project which, “features contemporary project-based work that investigates the processes of making, using, and living with bowls” according to the exhibit site page. Special thanks to Ayumi Horie and Michael Strand whose organization extends the bowl lending process to both the MOCC and the Multnomah County Library. More information here.

Now, for the details on the 3 levels of involvement in the project, a brief formal description of the borrowed bowl, and lastly how I used the bowl.


Level 1 involvement includes visiting the museum and the ability to view, touch, and handle a variety of bowls on display.

Level 2 involvement in this project is simple too. You may borrow any available bowl for up to one week from the Multnomah County Library or the MOCC. Borrowers assume the cost of the bowl, should the bowl shatter to smithereens or never return to the museum, but it is otherwise free. (There are fines for returning a bowl late or damaging it slightly also.)

Level 3 involvement is simply to share the ways you used a borrowed bowl through words, pictures, or any other preferred expression in the form of a public blog moderated by the museum.

While there are many options in the bowl library, this is the bowl I chose to borrow!


Artist: Kyla Toomey

Title & Date: Button Bowl, 2013

Media: Porcelain, 3″ x 5.5″

Location: Portland, Oregon, USA at the Museum of Contemporary Craft

Formal Description

As a tabletop scale sculpture, this porcelain bowl measures 3″ by 5 1/2″. It is symmetrical when divided by a vertical axis. The interior and exterior share the same creamy, off white glaze.

The exterior is evenly punctuated by small, “nail head” scale circles that recess into the overall volume of the bowl’s exterior. From each small circle, are four lines incised at ninety degrees from one another, in a horizontal and vertical orientation. The lines echo the outward bow of the bowl into the viewer’s space.  The combined circle and line techniques lend a texture similar to upholstery buttons on tufted furniture. It is my guess that this effect is the inspiration for the title, Button Bowl.

Button Bowl‘s interior is quite close to a reverse version of the exterior’s indents and swells, although it is smoother, with no incised lines. This bumpy, but relatively smooth interior serves as a reminder of the use of this sculpture as a utilitarian object as well.

Finally, Button Bowl is glazed over the entire surface, except for the thin line where the ring of porcelain at the base meets the surface it rests upon.

Use of Button Bowl: as vase, human food bowl, and animal watering dish

A friend challenged me to use the bowl every day and use it for everything. I didn’t quite achieve this, but Button Bowl was a happy addition to many of my daily routines. I found it easy to clean, and the shape to be very agreeable to grip and eat from. Ultimately, I used it for eating some delicious homemade salads and soups, a vase for a flower arrangement, and feeding a friend’s kitty cat.

All activities included a thorough washing between each use, of course! I want to give special credit to the two clever kids who came up with the idea to feed Cocoa the cat also, as I would have never thought to do so. For the full food recipes please visit here as well. Today I returned the bowl, in one piece and paid nothing to participate in this amazing art project.

What do you think about this interactive art? Do you plan to borrow a bowl?

Visual Wednesday: In Situ versus Virtual Art Viewing


All humans, we are art viewers, whether we are aware of this reality or not. Presently, there are a multitude of methods to view art. Viewers may choose an “in person” viewings using their sight, visually impaired individuals view through touch, or still some may tour virtually online amongst other options. With so many available ways to look, is their a best method when looking at art?

In the past the original art viewing method was in Situ, Latin for “in position”, referring to a viewer’s physical presence in front of art in its intended site. For example, some of the very oldest art in known existence is found in caves, and a contemporary viewer (aka another cave dweller from the artist’s time) could only view the art’s abstract designs of human figures and animals drawn directly onto the rock wall by visiting the cave itself. There were no printed reproductions, photographs, or Google Image results online. In Situ viewers have the privilege of a first-hand, primary experience of art in its proper context.

Thanks to the primary experience and context, in situ is regarded as the ideal way to view art by art professionals. In my experience, countless art curators, lecturers, and historians have passionately exclaimed, “If at all possible, go see it for yourself!” regarding art. While I agree and parrot this recommendation often, I also see great value in exploring the expansive viewing possibilities because in situ is not always possible or feasible.

One of my preferred viewing methods is virtually online. Sure, it’s fine to view images of art using slide projections, textbook reproductions and so on. I happen to have a special taste for online viewing for two reasons. First, the zoom features are fantastic tools for exploration, and secondly the rich content that accompany some websites is extraordinary. Often, one is able to explore finite details using zoom that would set off alarms or illicit an uncomfortable look from a museum guard if it were an in situ viewing. Other sites specialize in offering content on the micro and macro level about the art and its context.

Here are three excellent, albeit mainstream, sources for virtual viewing:

  1. Smarthistory
  2. Google Art Project
  3. Your nearby art institution site may have zoomable images of art from their collection. I like the Portland Art Museum site!

If you are like me, you may find yourself lost in virtual art land for the next few hours.

I hope you enjoy and are compelled to view art in the manner you feel suits you best. You are the viewer, so you have the power!