Cascade Locks, 2023
John Houck
Oil on Linen
67 x 51 in.
New Studio Altar, 2022
Hayley Barker
Oil on linen
100 x 82 in.,
Serenity (Spiritual Heritage),2011
Myrtle Williams
Hand-built stoneware, glaze, wood,
fabric, wire, seashell, various beads
22.5 x 13 x 10 in.
Cecile Fatiman, 2018
Didier William
Ink, wood carving and collage on panel
48.0 x 36.0 in.
Cántaro Premier, 2023
Julia Isidrez
Ceramic
16.875 x 12.625 x 14.625 in.
Fig. 8, 2019
Erin Shirreff
Archival pigment print
40 x 54 in., 101.6 x 137.2 cm.
Angel Haunt, 2013
Mark Flood
Acrylic on canvas
72.0 x 48.0 x 1.5 in
Longue Table Basse Ginkgo en Bronze, 2011
Claude Lalanne
Bronze
16.875 x 62.25 x 26.75 in.
Lanterne, 2015
Claude Lalanne
Bronze
38.25 x 21.625 x 21.625 in.
Modjeska Monteith, 1990
Myrtle Williams
Hand-built stoneware, glazed, fabric
18 x 14.5 x 6.5 in.
The First Portal, Jack Whitten
2015
Acrylic on canvas
48.0 x 48.0 x 3.0 in

Somewhere in the Middle

Opening May 11th, 2024 5-7PM

Curated by Sima Familant

The Lobby, Ellen Browning Building

2871 SE Division St.

Portland OR

 

Artists habitually want the viewer to decipher what the artwork means to them, often rebuffing
any attempt at an explanation. Jasper Johns, the celebrated American artist, is famously
elusive. He once joked that, of the dozens of books that have been written about his art, his
favorite one was written in Japanese. What he liked is that he could not understand it. (New
Yorker Feb 7, 2018, “ Jasper Johns Still Doesn’t Want to Explain His Art” )  The art works
included in the exhibition, Somewhere in the Middle, allow just that. Instead of simple
explanation, the viewer is thrust into narratives, be it abstraction or representation, without
explanation, placing them squarely in the midst of a story that is currently unfolding.

Or perhaps Somewhere in the Middle is more literal–There is something physically in the middle
of the artwork, such as what we see in the Mark Flood painting with a void vacuous hole in the
middle. Or the Lalanne installation where a beautiful Ginko leaf table sits in between two
Lalanne lanterns. And with the Chris Ofili work–there is literally a flower in the middle of the two
figures. With Julia Isidrez’s sculpture, there is unmistakably a bear stuck in between the mass,
almost as if a bear is stuck in the beehive.

And in Erin Sherriff’s work, her work starts as a sculpture, but transforms into a photograph,
challenging the notion of medium in sculpture. The photograph does not lie flat as we typically
witness in framed photography, instead, Sheriff mimics sculptural ideas, letting the paper soar
and have an arc in the frame. The sculpture depicts two seemingly flat discs joined in the middle
of the photograph, and it is the middle, the seam, that becomes the focus in the work and the
point of harmony.

In contrast, Tsai Yun-Ju’s painting presents a cacophony of intersecting lines, conveying a
sense of disorder and inequity. Despite the chaos, viewers may find serenity by focusing on the
middle, where balance resides amidst the visual turmoil. By concentrating on this central point,
one can discern a sense of calm amidst the apparent "mess" of the artwork.

Hayley Barker’s artwork presents a contrasting experience. Viewers are immersed in a
seemingly mundane scene, standing before a painting that places them in the midst of a room,
caught between a window and a dresser. Despite the familiarity of the setting, locating oneself
within the scenario proves challenging. Unlike the discordant chaos of Tsai Yun-Ju's painting,
Barker’s scene invites viewers to construct their own narrative. Was someone present,
rearranging objects on the shelf, or is it an abandoned space? With no further clues provided,
viewers are left to rely on their imagination.

Didier William’s approach diverges from Barker’s, imbuing his paintings with symbolism and
history.  In Cecile Fatiman’s, Williams pays homage to the historical figure crucial to the Haitian
Revolution, leading Haiti to freedom from colonial rule. William carves a wooden figure
representing Fatiman, inviting viewers to find themselves immersed in Fatiman's narrative,
prompting their own journey into the middle of a turning point in history.

Myrtle Williams’ works has a similar sentiment., Modjeska Monteith, depicts Modjeska Monteith
Simpkins, who was the matriarch or the Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina. She was also

a leader in African American public health and social reform. For her contributions to the
struggle for civil rights, Simkins is an American Hero, and has quite a story to tell.

In his new painting, Cascade Locks, John Houck delves into the psychological nuances of
perception, particularly through his use of shadows as narrative elements. Viewers find
themselves amidst hanging pendants with and without shadows against a lush landscape
waterfall. Houck prompts contemplation: is there a middle within the waterfall, or something
between the shadows? The background mountains frame the waterfall at the center of the
painting, where action unfolds and narrative emerges.  Just as viewers find themselves
metaphorically in the middle of these competing elements, the clash or convergence of focal
points prompts reflection on the intersection of perspective, and the essence of interpretation.