The Greatest Oregon-Made Tradition of 2020

H.How can you choose the best of a year that wasn’t the best for many reasons? It turns out that even in this fresh hell, people made, exhibited, and performed beautiful, delicate, political, insertable adjective art. From a traveling cow to poetry-framed portraits, here are some things you might want to take with you starting in 2020.

BOOKS

Vanessa Veselkas The Great Offshore Grounds and Lee van der Voos As the World Burns

A woman who fishes in Alaska takes part in an offshore drilling protest. A young activist watches a forest disappear underwater in his hometown of Fairbanks. You’re fictional, you’re not. Both were featured in two of the best local books of 2020 by Portland authors. In Vanessa Veselka’s novel The Great Offshore Grounds, three siblings – the reluctant demonstrator among them – travel through America on a hero’s journey through broken landscapes and human experience in search of independence and survival. And Lee van der Voos As the World Burns is a detailed and heartbreaking account of a lawsuit brought by 21 young people against the US government for violating their right to a stable climate. Each plaintiff’s story is a rallying cry for all of us, including that of 19-year-old Nathan from Fairbanks, who lives among climate change deniers despite the trees around them being swallowed up by the water. -FM

TO DANCE

Hearing silence at New Expressive Works

Subashini Ganesan, Portland’s creative award winner (appointed by the late City Commissioner Nick Fish), has been studying silence for decades. In February she synthesized material that she had got to know as a student – verses from the Rig Veda about emptiness, thoughts of the Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti about silence – into an exciting one-hour piece of choreography, which was performed next to the employee in her small studio in southeast Portland Yashaswini Raghuram was performed. It is almost painful to remember now: Do you remember sitting with friends and strangers, marveling at the precision of the human body and the ability of the mind to refine it? – CR

MOVIE

First cow (pictured above)

This one wasn’t even near. Kelly Reichardt’s wafer-thin fable about friendship, industry and America’s emerging brutality, set in Oregon in 1820, is the culmination of an extraordinary career. you and Cowriter Jon Raymond balance tone like Olympians: funny one moment, tense the next, constantly switching between threat and tenderness, while the sleeping power simmers in the background. It’s political, but not preaching, literary without being dense. A small miracle from one of the giants of American cinema who (luckily for us) chose Oregon as their muse. – CR

MUSIC

Best wishes from Maita

Not to pull a “they should be bigger”, but Maita’s crispy, intelligent debut has all the hallmarks of a contemporary indie rock classic: clever structures, a juxtaposition of the soft and aggressive, ironic track titles like “Someone’s” I have hers lost damn wallet. “The noir“ Japanese waitress ”and the epic opener“ A Beast ”are highlights, but all Best Wishes play out like an experienced entry in a legendary catalog. Good news for anyone who loves it: you’ve already released a grungy follow-up single. – CR

THEATRE

Sweat in the profile theater

Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage’s January production of Profile was a testament to the ability to speak clearly. Peter Ksander’s set was perfect: a Pennsylvania bar that you bought to exist. Alex Pletcher’s costumes were just right for Big Aughts. Pepper in a consistently excellent ensemble and you come out with a pretty perfect version of Nottag’s script whose exploration of the 2008 financial crash and racial rifts in an industrial city earned her points for hinting at Trump ... and its sting has only intensified. – CR

VISUAL ART

Intisar Abiotos BabeSis, Aunties Tenn, Miss W, Miss Choomby ... & In our company

The most talked about art in Portland that year was used by the city itself as a gallery. Painted on boarded-up shops, streets, and walls of the city, the protest art, centered on the Black Lives Matter movement, hit audiences where they were. In August, five large black-and-white photographs appeared on a wall at the Southeast Grand and Ash, framed by poems by black women: National Book Award winner Nikki Finney and Portlander Samiya Bashir. Local photographer Intisar Abioto’s images include photographs of her own family members – including their mother, sister, and aunts of activists – that create a rousing visual representation of the lineage and protest that, in the artist’s own words, “fanned out worlds of change.”

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