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Patterns of Change

by Meredith Areskoug

by Michael Turner

Blackfish Gallery, Portland

We are social beings accustomed to patterns, the best of which we call rituals. Those who regularly pick up Preview appreciate and, by extension, participate in a cultural ecology that, besides gallery happenings, includes rituals of work, play, sleep, raising children and burying parents. This past year brought with it a pattern of change that many of us have struggled with and continue to struggle with. Yet through this struggle we have arrived at conclusions that enrich us, provide additional meaning and bring new purpose to our lives.

 

During the pandemic closure, the Portland Art Museum
and its Northwest Film Center present Resist COVID / Take 6!
a public art project led by artist Carrie Mae Weems

As someone who writes about art, my patterns are predictable and equally vulnerable to what we call the pandemic. Until March 15, 2020 (yes, the Ides of March), I would spend at least three days a week visiting galleries, museums and artist-run centres (ARCs), taking in their exhibitions, but also speaking with directors, curators, engagement and development officers, artists, ticket takers, security guards – those whose work allows us environments both affirmative and difficult, soothing and challenging, indisputable and ambiguous. The pandemic has rewritten my pattern, but it hasn’t stopped me from writing about art.

At some point last spring, when all the museums, galleries and ARCs were closed, I set out on my exhibition trapline to simply enjoy those patterned walks, standing beside those shuttered spaces as one might stand beside an ailing friend. And a funny thing happened. Once into my walks, I began to pay more attention to the way the city where I live is put together – the placement of its traffic signs, its parking regulations, the width of its sidewalks – instruments that regulate our bodies in time and space. This is the art of city planners, those social sculptors who work not to unsettle us, as Joseph Beuys does with his social sculptures, but to allow us safe passage to places that often do.

Our appreciation of art enhances our eyes and ears, senses designed to recognize where we are, but also to reach beyond the Where and What toward the more di cult questions of Who, How and Why. We have our galleries, museums and ARCs to thank for spaces our bodies can enter and, with all of our senses, experience a range of sensations. The interweb provides an approximation for those of us “trapped” at home, but it is no match for leaving it – if not to experience the full potential of art, then to move toward it, ever curious, ever hopeful.