First Friday Art Walk Thrives in December

December 5, 2009

First Friday, December 4, 2009 was a lively swarm of artists and art supporters up and down Congress Street on a warm Portland night.  It felt like the wondrous season of giving had actually begun (a horse drawn wagon was spotted jingling its way through the Old Port) and the warm air made everyone move easily in and out of all of the galleries and artist studios.

Three spots were of great cheer.  Our first stop, Whitney Art Works, showed a group exhibition of their members.  It was a first to see Iain Kerr‘s red, black and blue pen diagrams in person.  I had been admiring them on Etsy and now could see with greater detail their moleskin paper looking cut out of his journal with a razor blade.  Along with this nonchalant quality was their Tetris shaped display re-iterating the puzzling structural elements one sees as they stand there trying to figure out how he fit all of the words and marks together in such perfect sense and harmony.  An impossible task with the masses surrounding and wanting to get a look, but i attemepted for a few moments.

The pencil drawings of Clint Fulkerson and small pin buttons of Patrick O’Rorke also got my attention.  Simple statements in black on white backgrounds like “Ain’t No Shame in My Game” and “Don’t Thank Me, Pay Me”  were being sold for “a dollar or best offer” at the gallery desk.  From there, if you turned to the left you would see the entrance to the back room, then a collection of Stephen Benenson‘s small oil painted heads, and then Clint Fulkerson‘s drawings of sinew like cell structures perfectly rendered with the indent of hard pencil slightly outlined with a softer darker pencil.  They had the markings of a metalsmith, someone with keen attention to detail.  However, the ones I enjoyed the most were the ones with abnormalities, the pauses, a slight change in overall pattern showing that there really was a human hand at work.

We came across Stephen Beneson’s work again as many of the artists represented by the Whitney work from studio’s above SPACE Gallery and were opening their studio doors to the Art Walker’s as well.  It seemed like endless floors rising above SPACE as you wove your way in and out of a very many painting, photography, and printmaking studios while trying to say “hi” to friends and make space for fellow Art Walkers trying to see it all as well.  Being abel to see the work in The Artist Studios and standing in a small space with the artists themselves made returning back to the gallery scene on the streets below less attractive.  How often do you get to stand in someone else’s studio, look at what they’re working on, not being pressed to say anything, but having a comfortable opportunity to do so if you wish!? We withstood the mad house and made our way into as many studios as we could, ending up spending the most time with the beautiful space and drawings of Beneson, and with the intriguing paintings of Annie Godfrey Larmon who shows with Aucosisco and writes for the Portland Phoenix.

Last but not least were the street vendors sitting and standing with their wears on the fringe of the passage between Whitney and SPACE gallery.  I asked some MECA students I recognized selling drawings, copper rings, and pottery if the school promoted them doing this and they said: no one says anything, we just do it.  SMCC student, Infini-tees designer, and screen printer, Tim Othy Goldkin, stood and helped people find sizes of his designs which are printed on reclaimed shirts and laid right on the sidewalk to peruse.  One design displays a non descript figure grounded, but almost floating, traversing a city at night with PORTLAND in a whimsical bold font below.  I love that this part of the Art Walk is growing.  It gives the event a real traveling artisan feel and re-vivifies the original intent of the founders of the walk to allow the space between 5-8p on every First Friday to be one filled to the brim with what the artists of this city can offer and show us all how they make it diverse and beautiful.

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