jess mcfadden

Le Book Club!


Hoping to encourage community conversations across disciplines, Nationale now has a book club. Once a month, we will meet to chat about a selected book that relates thematically to our exhibition. User Not Found, an essay in tiny book form by Felicity Fenton, is the selection for our June group show, Assembly, which addresses the necessity of community and real life interactions for art spaces to survive.

First of all, this book is only six dollars. Second of all, it’s a quick and easy read. Third of all, it’s REALLY GOOD. And it is published locally by Future Tense Books!

Does anyone really enjoy Instagram at this point? Is Twitter something positive and constructive that adds to our lives? What percentage of people using social media do it for reasons other than addictive dependence and/or necessity? How many of us need periodic breaks in order to maintain our sanity? And, if we decide we want to loosen the grip of social media on our lives someday, what will the alternative be?

In User Not Found, Felicity Fenton opens up the discussion for us by describing her attempt to step away from “The Walls” of social media. The result is simultaneously comforting, challenging, heartbreaking, and funny. It’s a natural conversation starter. So please, pick up a copy of this little treasure and join us for book club on Tuesday, June 25 at 6:30pm. Fenton herself will lead our meeting.
—Jess Mcfadden

Michelle Blade X Le Oui

Michelle X Le Oui , 2019, limited edition 3 color silkscreen print, 20 x 16”, $50

Michelle X Le Oui, 2019, limited edition 3 color silkscreen print, 20 x 16”, $50

Today is the last day of Michelle Blade's exhibition, Pansy. Fortunately, Blade collaborated with Le Oui on a new silkscreen print, which we will continue to have on view at Nationale.

The 20 x 16” print was adapted from a rainbow colored pencil drawing in which five androgynous figures explore a watery oasis. Something about it is magical, perhaps the unconventional use of color, or the way a floral border adds to the atmosphere of the scene.

Taken from the pages of Blade’s sketchbook, LEOUI—011 features a drawing inspired by the tide pools of the Solana Beach, CA, an area Blade endlessly explored throughout her childhood. Within the drawing Blade encapsulates her love for the natural world through the unexpected color trajectory of a rainbow pencil. The figures and burgeoning landscape are joined through undulating and psychedelic lines, ultimately highlighting the spirit of their oneness. 

Throughout the year, Le Oui (an offshoot of Nationale) commissions work by artists to produce limited edition silkscreen prints. Each participating artists chooses an organization to receive 10% of proceeds. Michelle Blade chose Planned Parenthood to benefit from the sales of her print. And if $50 isn’t enough of a bargain for this gem, know that your purchase will give a little support to one of our community's vital health providers.
—Jess Mcfadden

Michelle Blade | "Pansy"

A short review by Jess Mcfadden

I'm just going to say it: Michelle Blade's current show at Nationale is the most mystifying thing ever. How did she do it? Every painting in Pansy is endlessly fascinating, endlessly beautiful. For every two square inches of satin, there are twenty times I ask myself what process -- spiritually, mentally, and physically-- took place in the formation of this work. As if the paintings weren't enough, Blade includes four stellar drawings which translate the allegorical nature of Pansy into a more straightforward, graphic medium.

Touching Balance , 2019, rainbow pencil on paper, 11 x 9 inches

Touching Balance, 2019, rainbow pencil on paper, 11 x 9 inches

The title of the show, Pansy, appropriately describes many aspects of the work. It is proudly feminine, both visually and conceptually. Ripply, floral textures of acrylic ink bleed into satin, resembling 'wet into wet' watercolor painting, or calling back to Helen Frankenthaler's legendary soak-stain technique. Flowers, fruit trees, full moons, and other symbolic images work their way into dreamlike scenes where naked women dance and ponder peacefully. The speckled presence of nighttime alludes to a willful exploration of the unknown. Nothing is concrete except the paintings' beautiful maple frames.

Pansies , 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 30.5 x 27 inches

Pansies, 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 30.5 x 27 inches

Throughout the work is a feeling of protection. Blade's characters appear in search of something magical (which always involves a bit of risk), but they have the support of each other and of their nonhuman friends. In Springtime Devotional, two people walk together with a dog and owl watching over them, under the light of a full moon. One of Blade's influences for this work is the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, which depicts women as divisive and basically evil. Blade, however, depicts women as collaborative and strong in their pursuit of knowledge. Her work is like an affirmation to viewers, saying "Don't be ashamed. You're on the right path."

Springtime Devotional , 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 32 x 27.5 inches

Springtime Devotional, 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 32 x 27.5 inches

Pansy will be on display through June 4, 2019

Springtime at Nationale

The flowers are blooming! The sun is out! Dogs and babies are all over the place, making us smile whether we want to or not. SPRING IS HERE! 

For the past few months our blog has been in hibernation mode, watching documentaries and brewing plans for the future like everybody else. We've been having a good time here at the gallery, though.

In February, Lilian Martinez brought her beautiful pastel portraits up from L.A. Her show Soft Shades portrayed women of color, relaxed yet powerful, in comfortable domestic settings.

Lilian Martinez,  Woman Reclined,  2018, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24 inches.

Lilian Martinez, Woman Reclined, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24 inches.

From March 15 to April 23, Shohei Taksaki shared with us a collection of colorful, bold, abstracted domestic scenes in his show Where did you sleep last night? He installed an 11 ft. tall painting diagonally, leaning from the floor to the ceiling. It completely changed the shape of the gallery, and provided a comparison to think about: loved ones are kind of like huge, amazing, complex paintings that we can only see from a slanted angle. Living with a partner, even sleeping beside them each night, we can never fully understand their experience because we are limited by our own perspectives. In addition to the large painting, Shohei delighted us with a variety of smaller works, including one piece that was half sculpture, half painting.

Shoehei Takasaki’s exhibition,  Where did you sleep last night?  First installation.

Shoehei Takasaki’s exhibition, Where did you sleep last night? First installation.

For the last week of Takasaki's show, we reinstalled his work in a more "traditional" manner. The giant painting hung straight on the wall, and some of the smaller paintings changed positions in the gallery. 

Shoehei Takasaki’s exhibition,  Where did you sleep last night?  Second installation.

Shoehei Takasaki’s exhibition, Where did you sleep last night? Second installation.

This past week, we've enjoyed a pop-up by local artist John Petrucelli: A kid from Chicago. John has been a warm presence in the Portland art scene for decades. He's worked as a teacher, explored wonders of the world, and worked in an art warehouse where he began experimenting with unusual materials. We wanted to honor his lifelong practice of experimentation, as well as his love for storytelling. For every day of the pop-up, John has come to co-host happy hour and visit with the community. 

John Petrucelli with the largest piece in his pop-up,  A kid from Chicago.

John Petrucelli with the largest piece in his pop-up, A kid from Chicago.

Coming up next: Michelle Blade! This artist works in painting, illustration, sculpture and installation, with a dreamy style. (If you'd like a preview of her work, click here!) We're excited to share her work with you all, May 3 through June 4. Please join us for her opening reception Sunday, May 5 (3–5pm).

Michelle Blade,  Springtime Devotional,  2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 32.75 x 28.25 inches

Michelle Blade, Springtime Devotional, 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 32.75 x 28.25 inches

If it's been awhile since you stopped in Nationale, we hope to see you soon. We've got new books, a new issue of Apartamento, and smiles infused with the finest Vitamin D. 


Nationale for ALL the senses! by Jess Mcfadden

When you’re looking at art, is the experience all in your head? Thoughts, memories, questions and analysis are often associated with the mind rather than the body. However, the experience of standing in front of a painting has a unique way of reminding us that the body and mind are not separate.

Nationale may be a small place, but it has something for all the senses. When you first walk in, Marseille soaps and Olo fragrances offer a gentle scented welcome. Most people navigate the gallery counterclockwise, and the first thing they want to do in Nationale is flip through some of our books. The activity of flipping through books is a sensory treat for the hands, allowing us to touch and physically play with information as we read it. Plus, books make really nice sounds if you’ll listen. Even if you bring a friend to Nationale who doesn’t like socially relevant poetry, fiction and essays, they can enjoy the sound of paper’s friction.

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This month, we’ve been exhibiting Soft Shades by Lilian Martinez. In addition to the show’s ideological and formal strengths, it is a visceral delight. The paintings’ sunny pastel colors are delicious, transporting us like a weekend getaway to LA, where Martinez resides. Something about her style of painting sends ASMR-style tingles down my back. The soft, luxurious texture of her acrylic on linen is amplified by large, blocky color fields and harmonious compositions. Delicately painted lines and the intimate, reverent depiction of strong women at rest induce a physical sensation of ease. In a weird way, the experience of looking at these paintings feels like having my hair brushed by my mother or friend. Did you have this type of experience with Soft Shades, too? If you haven’t been able to see the exhibition it will be up one more day: through March 11.

Lilian Martinez,  Woman Reclined , 2018, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24 inches

Lilian Martinez, Woman Reclined, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24 inches

In the hallway near Martinez’s paintings, there are stacks of woven blankets and pillows from her line of everyday objects, BFGF.  Due to the variety of blankets, we get to unfold them one at a time to see what’s inside, then refold. They bring out the softness in her paintings and transform it into something you can snuggle.

Double Figure  throw, courtesy of BFGF

Double Figure throw, courtesy of BFGF

To conclude a sensory tour of Nationale, you can find two kinds of French lozenge candies at the desk. “Sève de Pin” and “Anise” may be unfamiliar flavors, but don’t worry. They are both delicious!

If you work in an environment that requires a lot of brain power, it can be easy to forget about the five senses. Especially during winter, it sometimes feels like the mind and body are two separate entities. As our clocks turn forward and the sun comes out, now is a great time to bring them back together. So come see us at Nationale! We even have floor-to-ceiling windows, for maximum sunshine and minimum pre-spring chills.


HOT TAKE ON HOOPS by Jess Mcfadden

Curiosity lives in the artist, who walks through life asking questions. The artist cultivates sensitivity and patience, turning curiosity into projects. A gallery presents the projects of artists, for anyone who is willing to come spend some time with the art. What happens next? The art lives in those who have considered it, and enriches their curiosity as they walk through life.

Kate Towers brings curiosity full circle in her current show Hoops, a pop-up at Nationale. What used to be basketball hoops are now explosive woven sculptures. Wild combinations of fabric, cords, synthetic plants, yarn, and natural materials transform a commonly overlooked public fixture into something new.

Glucose , 2018, mixed media, 23.5 (h) x 12 x 1 15 inches

Glucose, 2018, mixed media, 23.5 (h) x 12 x 1 15 inches

Each hoop puts a unique spin on Towers' concept and materials. Glucose, with its fluorescent yellow and pink knit body, entices viewers' playful inner child. It appears next to Paleo, whose aesthetic is more somber: a single black cord tangled up in itself. Both are deliberate yet expressive. Glucose has a looser body, while Paleo's stiffness resists gravity.

Paleo , 2018, mixed media, 26 (h) x 9 x 12 inches

Paleo, 2018, mixed media, 26 (h) x 9 x 12 inches

Collagen Peptide, with a refined color palette and seductive textural details, speaks to Towers' background as a fashion designer. Her clothing sometimes incorporates elements of sportswear into modern, flowy garments. In her fashion design as well as hoop design, traditionally feminine aesthetics play with rougher athletic vibes. She seems to question the expectations of three worlds: fashion, sport and art.

Collagen Peptide , 2018, mixed media, 25 (h) x 12 x 15 inches

Collagen Peptide, 2018, mixed media, 25 (h) x 12 x 15 inches

Two hoops, Plant Based and Gluten Free weave plant shapes for a more organic vibe. Speaking of organic, did Towers use food and diet-related titles to fortify the corporeal connection between art, sport and fashion? Either way, this body of work is inspiring. It feeds our imagination and invites us to see new possibilities in everyday fixtures. Towers reconsiders something we may normally pass without seeing: the iconic metal rim. She honors creativity in its purest form. She explores a wide variety of materials, abstractly and conceptually, while carefully honoring the desires of each material.

Plant Based , 2018, mixed media, 22 (h) x 17 x 19 inches

Plant Based, 2018, mixed media, 22 (h) x 17 x 19 inches

Hoops has been extended to January 29, so if you haven't made it in yet, now's your chance! The work photographs well, but it's a slam dunk IRL.

In Celebration of the Magazine

By Jess Mcfadden

mcfadden apartamento.jpg

Remember when smartphones were invented? We feared the death of print.
Some people believe that reading from a screen is best, because it is efficient. 
For the rest of us, magazines are a magical treasure. They are not curated by an algorithm, but by people who poured their time into a periodical-- something that will not live forever. Each page is like a love letter, hoping to inspire us. It defies the logic of urban culture, instead encouraging us to linger awhile. To explore with curiosity, instead of rushing from point A to point B.

The soft pages of a magazine like Apartamento combine art and enriching interviews with the unintimidating welcome of a phonebook. $20 to $26, depending on the issue, permits you a rainy afternoon or few to share space with creatives across the world, and hear their stories. Watercolor, photography, drawing and interior design are neighbors in Apartamento, living beside each other with varied degrees of comfort. Their conversations are always worthwhile.

If a magazine inspires you enough, might you break out scissors and cut it up, transforming the work into something else? Collages from an art magazine will naturally turn out better than from those with retouched bodies and flashy advertisements.

If you're shopping for holiday gifts, magazines are good for any budget. Use one magazine to make stacks of greeting cards, or give stacks of magazines to one beloved!