Oregon picks from Sam Wrigglesworth

Cliff Notes

Each week, our regional Cliff Notes columnists Mariah Green, Vanessa Perez Winder, Jas Keimig, and Sam Wrigglesworth pick the most exciting events and exhibitions on the West Coast.

Taryn Tomasello: All The Homes I’ve Ever Had
Ditch Projects, Springfield, OR
September 30 to Oct 22, 2023

Portland-based conceptual artist Taryn Tomasello sculpts poetic interrogations into the slipperiness of safety, protection, control and self-determination. Tent pole drawings barrenly reveal a fragility of structure. Questions of memory and recall are found in an effort to accurately reconstruct a balcony in the last home Tomasello shared with her mother.

Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway, found herself at an anti-war protest at Kent State after leaving home to escape police threats of jail time for truancy. She became the subject of the most iconic photo from the shootings while kneeling over the dead body of Jeffrey Miller. As a result, she is often mistaken for an adult activist. Stitching together discarded used mattresses, Tomasello constructs Mary Ann Vecchio as a Young Girl. Through materiality, Tomasello echoes questions of displacement and agency within the unwieldiness of collective histories.

As I began to write, a small green bird crashed into my bedroom window and landed, disheveled, on the windowsill. I prepared a cardboard box with breathing holes to house them. Offering safety, I placed my gloved hand on their back. In an instant they flew away.

Reflection: I would like to extend a question Tomasello’s contained in her exhibition statement: “What if we are made up of all the things we come in contact with, all those we touch?”

Rodrigo Valenzuela: Garabatos
Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland, OR
August 24 to October 7, 2023

Drawing in part from his own experience as an immigrant from Chile, photographer Rodrigo Valenzuela works across many mediums to interrogate class, cultural histories, landscape, and constructs that invent the United States.

With Garabatos, Valenzuela exhibits black-and-white photographs of dynamic wood and plastic sculptures painted white. These abstract sculptures are based on bodily gestures found in documentary photographs in Latin American nations in the 1970s and 1980s; a period marked by Operation Condor—the CIA-backed United States repression of socialist agendas, trade unions, and activists in the Southern Cone. This work honors dissent and subcultures that imperialist powers sought to disappear.

In the artist’s own words, “The idea is to subvert the ideology attached to the gallery or museum as a place of canonized beauty and information, and replace it with a more egalitarian and sensitive space for the dissemination of popular knowledge and bodily wisdom.”

Reflection: In what ways does anger move through your body?

We’re here because of you.

By becoming a monthly subscriber or making a one time gift of your choosing, you’re directly helping the Variable West team build a stronger, more resilient and diverse West Coast art world. Your support makes it all possible!

Make a one time gift in any amount