Dear NW Drizzle,
Hi there. I just read this
article (Critical i; Dec. '02) and it frustrated me because
you talk about "Hug Me" being hip. Are you referring
to the people or the work? It would be refreshing if you could
talk about the work and not be wasting time talking about the
FYI a very diverse group of people showed up to Pacific Switchboard,
which is way more interesting than going to "Maritime"
where there are mods and unfriendly cool kids.
Critiques can be helpful if they address the work being shown,
otherwise they don't do anyone any good.
Art Editor Jeff Jahn Replies:
Both shows, "Hug Me" and "Maritime,"
were worthwhile ... and this is not a popularity contest. Everyone
in Portland comes off as friendly (except me), and I don't make
a lot of breakfast-club social distinctions between the Mods
and the Hug Mes. Renting "West Side Story" or "Romeo
+ Juliet" should clear that up, depending on if you are
a Hug Me or a Mod.
by Carson Ellis, a "Maritime" standout.
My opinion of "hip" is by no means a slam; it's
a compliment about the hip sense of ennui in the work I saw
at "Hug Me." Baudelaire's concept of ennui was the
catalyst for the great works of Degas, Picasso and, more recently,
If I had been talking about people, I would have mentioned
their clothes, demeanor, etc. I did not. Not that there was
nothing to report: "Maritime" did have a young woman
dressed as a waitress on rollerskates.
Overall, "Maritime" better sustained its theme
and was more coherent; it felt like it was actually in the hold
of a ship. Thus, it got a review. In fact, I fit it in even
though the article was already running long. Still, it was a
flawed show, as there was no essay or attempt to make a statement
around the theme.
statements usually signal to the critic that the show or
work embodies more conviction and therefore deserves
Also, since only one or two works represented each artist,
only the strongest stuff (Dalbow and Ellis) received more than
short mention. Stronger statements usually signal to the critic
that the show or work embodies more conviction and therefore
deserves more attention. In the case of December's Critical
i, both Matthew Picton and Michael Knutson's work got the spotlight
because their efforts warranted the attention. They have a program.
Reviews are incredibly rare and I know many accomplished
artists who have only had one or two short ones, none of which
approached their work with any kind of critical stance. Because
most of the Maritimers fit into a mid- to high-mid-level of
competence and settled into a respectable vibe, I treated them
accordingly. Hopefully it spurs them on to make stronger work.
Stronger statements = more in-depth reviews. It's that simple:
Art isn't fair. Actually, it's pretty Darwinian.
Everyone could have been naked and I still would have focused
on the work.