Friday, September 17

Ellen Lesperance

Ellen Lesperance was chosen as this years Betty Bowen Award recipient. Really beautiful work and in-line with well deserved past winners.

But I found out about this via PORT. And I couldn't disagree more with Jeff Jahn's analysis of the pick:
Analysis: an unexpected and very good choice but I sense a backlash is about to manifest itself begging the question, "must every regional art award in the Pacific Northwest genuflect in some way towards overtly craft oriented or hand made work?"

Not to be provocative, just articulating an observable trend that hasn't really kept up with new media. Obviously, craft is a valid and important part of contemporary art but it's not the whole picture, frankly its representation at the awards level is misleading. So I ask, when will video, photography and installation art that isn't fetishing craft outright be given its due at the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards, Betty Bowen (which did award photographer Isaac Layman a few years ago), Bonnie Bronson, Ford Fellowships? ie can any of these awards move beyond a predominantly laborious hand made (looking) world? This is the silicon forest after all, Portland and Seattle's economies are very tech-driven. In short, it's a question of accuracy in recognition since many of our non craft artists are internationally established. 
"A question of accuracy..."? Did he really misunderstand the Pacific Northwest to that extent?  First of all, Portland isn't tech driven. In fact, Portland's economy laments the fact it missed the Tech Boom. Sure, Seattle is. But the Seattle Art Museum's mission has been extremely aware of its surroundings, not just trends or economics.  Just take a look at their permanent collection: a completely non-western centric focus, pieces from all over the world mixed together.

And what about craft? Craft is the Northwest! Installation and modern media isn't everything either. I believe the choices in artists, like Marie Watt and Elle Lesperance are actually more reflective of the Pacific Northwest. Shouldn't an art award named after a supporter of Northwest Native Art seek out and exemplify art that somewhat embodies those traditions in a modern world?

I'm no Northwest scholar, but I'm afraid Double J doesn't understand the deep rooted traditions of the Pacific Northwest. I find his analysis ultimately just self-serving and inaccurate. Just keeping in line with the trends.

UPDATE: Found this old Regina Hackett half-interview with Double J from 2008 (when she was still with the Pi). I'm happy to see her calling him out on his blurry ethics. But it's disappointing that she seems resigned to his clubby curatorial morals.

No comments:

Post a Comment