lusi lukova

In the Garden of Beauty and Mystery I Michelle Blade's "Pansy"

A short review by Lusi Lukova

Cocoon Dance , 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 27 x 28 inches

Cocoon Dance, 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 27 x 28 inches

With her debut solo show Pansy at Nationale, painter and installation artist Michelle Blade melds iconic imagery and unruly mediums to demonstrate the unpredictability of painting. Pulling from the biblical narrative of Adam and Eve in the Garden, Blade focuses her artistic energies on Eve, and other feminine mediations of her spirit in these new works. In an attempt to explore the feminine relationship to the land, to knowledge, and to a sense of community, these pieces evoke an almost illustrative and magical quality. Each of these paintings depict large-scale scenes of the garden and the earth in dreamy shades of pinks, blues, and yellows. In the traditional narrative, Eve is scorned for her defiance. However, in Pansy, the expectations are reversed and the unforeseen beauty and strength of the feminine are revered. Just as humans are unpredictable and far from foolproof, in each of these paintings Blade explores a personal coming to terms with how perhaps it was a woman’s doing that set the path forward to everything else but perfection. As a result, Blade navigates our attention to the particular synchronicity humans share in the creation of everything in our immediate and tangible worlds.

Tree of Knowledge , 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 31 x 27.25

Tree of Knowledge, 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 31 x 27.25

The works presented are all painted on satin, a new format of expression both for Blade and for this historical imagery. The artist deems the material “alive” in that it shifts with each stroke of the brush. Unruly and independent, much like Eve herself, the satin allows the paint to bleed in unprecedented ways, the acrylic ink becoming so fluid that it resembles watercolors over anything else. Due to its sheer nature, it also allows for light to leak through in a similar fashion, adding an ethereal, almost divine luminosity to the works. In the bleeding of the ink, there form abstractions which we can liken to a physical representation of the mysteries of the universe. Presented as meditations on beauty and the natural world, works like Pansies, in which a woman is communing with a snake, are overt in their symbolism while coyly presenting a duality of the female. She may give in to speaking with the snake, but she is also fearless for doing so. As a whole, this exhibition questions these historically gendered tropes and ultimately comes to the conclusion that perfection is not to be neither expected, nor exalted.

Moon Twin , 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 42.5 x 27 inches

Moon Twin, 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 42.5 x 27 inches

Michelle Blade’s Pansy is on view through June 4th, with a print release and closing reception on June 2nd, from 12-2pm.


Francesca Capone  Night Fog (As the object grows, it curves around the forms of its surrounding shapes)  2018, Lostine long wool, poly netting line, and cotton on oak board, 24 x 22 inches

Francesca Capone
Night Fog (As the object grows, it curves around the forms of its surrounding shapes)
2018, Lostine long wool, poly netting line, and cotton on oak board, 24 x 22 inches

Nestled in the backroom between an Amy Bernstein painting and an Emily Counts sculpture is Francesca Capone’s Night Fog, part of her solo exhibition at Nationale entitled Think of Seashells.

As a weaver and a poet, Capone approaches her work from a visual as well as a literary mindset. The prose attributed to this particular work by the artist reads as follows: As the object grows, it curves around the forms of its surrounding shapes, and it feels as if this is precisely how Night Fog operates in the context of the show as a whole. Although it may be the final work a visitor may see tucked away as it is, its bold resonance does indeed curve to the viewing experience and serve to form a lasting impression. As a gallery-goer moves through the space, they are gathering growing memories of the body of work in total. Culminating with Night Fog, this particular piece stands somewhat solitary, both due to its location but also to its composition. Mounted on oak board, this is only one of two weavings that is presented in this manner. Yet, this doesn’t detract from its overall relation to the remaining pieces -- the oak nicely completes oceanic visions of seashells and driftwood that Capone brings into the space. The poly netting line similarly compliments other found materials such as the flotsam rope, plastic bags, and beach refuse that are embedded into the fiber of the hangings.

The dark colors of this particular weaving are slightly more drastic than the inviting pastels of the other works, yet they correspond nicely with its placement. If Night Fog were the last work to be seen, it would leave viewers with a cool imagery of things closing, things coming to a rest. Invoking a kind of serenity that can only be found with the setting of the sun on a calm evening, Night Fog creates a comfortable sensory shroud for viewers to come in contact with. The day has come and gone and grown into night, which silently and cooly forms to this nightly ritual. Take a deep breath, let the fog ebb over you, and think of seashells.


Max Ritvo’s newest, and unfortunately only, body of work Four Reincarnations can and should be taken as the physical embodiment of Ritvo himself. Subdivided into four parts, each section capable of standing on its own—a kind of reincarnation—easily represents the young poet’s mind, spirit, soul, and heart. Emotion spills from these pages, and although Ritvo’s pain is tangible, readers can also find solace in the most unexpected places in his poetry. The same was true of Ritvo, who claimed that the day he was no longer able to write would be the day when it was his time to pass. In Poem To My Litter he writes, “Even my suffering is good, in part,” good because it allowed him to create beauty out of suffering. On August 22nd, 2016, Ritvo’s mother said her son was too weak to write poetry; he passed the next morning on August 23rd in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 25 after an arduous battle with Ewing’s sarcoma.

Not only are these poems a reincarnation of Ritvo, they are also representative of a lifelong struggle that extends far beyond his struggles with cancer. They grapple with what is often at the core of every person, an ongoing search for meaning and sense of belonging. The young poet treads uncertain ground with valor, both in his battle with cancer and in his ambitious writing. Having reached the physical limits of his body, with Four Reincarnations he turns to his mind where his time is not up yet. In the poem Black Bulls he addresses the reader directly and claims, “I am sorry that you have come to this mind of mine,” yet, it is my belief that no one who has ever read his poems is sorry to have been graced with such original and breathtaking compositions.

I think the beauty of his works lies in his own self-awareness—he is unabashedly public and vulnerable, traits that go a long way in managing poetry that has the ability to go from despair to humor in a matter of lines. It is also important that he is unafraid to speak directly to his audience and does not shy away from any topic. In To Randal, Crow-Stealer, Lord of The Greenhouse he even addresses himself. He writes:

I master the technology to make bricks.
I build altars clumped with fire.
I am not afraid to light
A flower and destroy her beauty;
The crispy flower has been taken to a godly feast.
Do you pity my imagination? It will kill you.

His imagery deeply appeals to the senses with scenes of a hungry fire and pure flower in the same stanza, both images coming together in a “godly feast”, much like all of his works. Reading Ritvo, unbeknownst of his personal history, is like an out-of-body experience. Definitely autobiographical, although not necessarily confessional, Ritvo tackles topics anywhere from love to life to loss to Listerine strips. He is unafraid to light a fire in all his readers and build an altar for himself in the world of poetry.

For the young poet, art was an unconditional love, and this collection shouldn’t be read solely as his last words despite the fact that they indisputably are. Shame (and by extension self-pity) is no longer an entity for him, which he makes very clear in this heartbreaking collection. When reading Four Reincarnations, it is my instruction to devour every word meticulously, and perhaps equally important is to make sure to also read the acknowledgments. They are as raw as his prose; a perfect and intensely personal send-off. Being an artist is in itself walking close to death, and of the many contemporary poets, there is none other that treads that line so finely as Max Ritvo. Even in defeat, there is solidarity and perseverance. Despite Ritvo’s death and the recent election results, there is still unwavering hope and strength and solace.


Foreigners  on view at Nationale through November 13, 2016

Foreigners on view at Nationale through November 13, 2016

Issues of ethnicity and foreignness have always sparked contentious debate in our country, and more than likely always will. Nationale's current show Foreigners brings these heated issues to the forefront via the work of four Portland-based immigrant artists. I would call these artists and their pieces nothing short of impassioned and powerful. In our current highly politicized and tense society, it is refreshing to see how artists are choosing to confront these ever-present and foreboding hurdles, hurdles that impose on their selfhood and their artistic agency.

Modou Dieng, born in Saint-Louis, Senegal, is a multidisciplinary artist; he draws on pop culture as a presence in our society to comment on its permeability in culture and its inherent allegorical functions. With After Thoughts he is carefully recalling Muhammad Ali and all of the strength the famous boxer carries with him and subsequently radiating out. With Goodbye Blue Sky… it is easy, yet problematic, to imbue the work with post-colonial fervor, yet this is not Dieng’s primary intention. Simply the mixed media of the European flag with denim on the back, all a soft shade of blue, means to narrate through his own perspective what it means to be a Generation X African. It is also interesting how he plays with the notion of American ideal and the American Dream; blue skies make way for opportunity, but here he’s waving goodbye to all of that... The gold leaf details on both pieces are subtle, but eye-catching touches.

Modou Dieng,  Goodbye Blue Sky...  (detail)

Modou Dieng, Goodbye Blue Sky... (detail)

Victor Maldonado’s work is perhaps the most playful of the works displayed using bright colors and slightly caricature-esque facial shapes. By calling on an iconic and recognizable Mexican symbol, his prints and wooden stencils of luchador masks evoke powerful connotations on the migrant experience. Born in Michoacan, Mexico, but having grown up in the Central San Joaquin Valley, his pieces, such as Lucha Mask II, carefully draw on his heritage to create careful commentary on the political and cultural balance that exists even between such close boundaries as the United States and Mexico. Much like actual luchador fights, these pieces on display are energetic, vibrant, and confronting.

Victor Maldonado,  Lucha Mask II , 2016, acrylic on wood10.5 x 11.5”

Victor Maldonado, Lucha Mask II, 2016, acrylic on wood10.5 x 11.5”

Espinas V, Espinas VI and Espinas II by Angelica Millán are commanding and demand attention from the room separate from the fact that they employ bright, eye-catching designs. The size of Espinas II itself is impressive, especially when seen next to the other two works, yet what is most understated about these works is the delicate manner in which they are riddled with thorns. The fabric Millán uses in Espinas II she herself buried and then unearthed, evokes nuances of “home-grown”, “roots” and “rebirth”. The smaller pieces are torn and burned, and finally, each of her canvases are delicately and arduously littered with thorns in what I can only imagine was a painstaking act of love. Further, themes of femininity and home-making are not lost with these works, bringing their vigor full circle.

Angelica Millán,  Espinas VI , 2016, thorns on burnt fabric and wood, 10 x 10"

Angelica Millán, Espinas VI, 2016, thorns on burnt fabric and wood, 10 x 10"

The final artist on show is Bukola Koiki, Nigeria born but resident of the US since her youth. Her work narrates what it means to identify as multi-cultural. However, on the opposite spectrum, Koiki is fully aware of the cultural dislocation that often goes alongside such identification. As a result, her work is often toeing that boundary by employing themes of tradition and ritual. An Aggregate of Power, a huge sculptural piece with handmade and hand-dyed and paper beads recalling traditional Nigerian necklaces, is a testament to her heritage and the role it occupies in her personal, inter-cultural discourse. The fact that it is so large-scale and in the context of a gallery space, as opposed to an actual necklace to be worn in Nigeria, changes its reception. Similarly, Tyvek Gele 1 (along with the video: I Claim That Which Was Never Mine) toys with what it means to translate something so personal to one’s identity in terms that are accessible to another background -- the “gele” is a traditional Nigerian headpiece worn by women, but Koiki here has made it out of dyed Tyvek, a highly commercialized Western industrial material dyed with indigo in an attempt to bridge, or at least highlight, that gap.

Bukola Koiki from the series  I Claim That Which Was Never Mine,   Tyvek Gele 1 , 2014, Tyvek, natural indigo, and thread, 10.5 x 9.75 x 9” & MP4 video

Bukola Koiki from the series I Claim That Which Was Never Mine, Tyvek Gele 1, 2014, Tyvek, natural indigo, and thread, 10.5 x 9.75 x 9” & MP4 video

As an immigrant myself, I was instantly drawn to these works. The notion of "in-betweenness" that all of these artists explore is something that I have always felt. Born in Bulgaria, but having divided my time equally between living there, Spain, and the States, being "grounded" and achieving a state of stability is not something that I can say I've ever achieved. Perhaps for brief moments in time, but much like thriving in one's cultural roots, those moments are fleeting. As a result, I can easily visualize the need these artists must have felt in expounding on a sense/space that is both transitional and simultaneously homely. What they have achieved both individually and collectively here with Foreigners is not to be overlooked and certainly will not be forgotten.

Shown here, works by Victor Maldonado, Bukola Koiki, and Angelica Millán

Shown here, works by Victor Maldonado, Bukola Koiki, and Angelica Millán



Our intern Lusi, who is currently studying Art History at Lewis & Clark, is back at it. Today she reviews Ben Lerner's The Hatred of Poetry (currently available in the shop).

    "Ben Lerner’s most recent publication, The Hatred of Poetry, couldn’t have arrived at a more apt time. Language is intrinsic to everything -- our way of living, the way we communicate, how we express ourselves -- and the most fascinating thing language can provide us is growth. Language is never stagnant and often highly adaptable; the way we choose to interact with it is what determines its impact and whether or not its growth will continue. That is to say, language will always be changing; the question is, are we ready to change with it?

    Something I have been grappling with recently is the accessibility of language, particularly within the art world, and Lerner hits on this tension in his book at length. It’s easy to ask what makes a good poem or what makes a bad poem, but the subjectivity of the answer can often skew that perception. In an interview with The Paris Review, Lerner is quoted, “I think some people I know hate what I consider really good poetry because they are really anxious about intelligibility.” It’s the same with most Modern art or Expressionist art and thinking -- “Well I could have done that/my kid could have done that!” Yet art, in all of its forms, has no definitive beginning or end, and “what does not change is the will to change.”

    The tradition of poetry or poetic ambition is tricky, mostly out of fear of rejection (internal or external) and poetry is undoubtedly an experiment -- always has been and will always continue to be such. But poetry also contradicts itself; poets confront limits and explore dualities intrinsic to human nature. Ideally that should create an open dialogue between the author and the audience but it is most often that those cases are the least accessible because deriving understanding and catching implication is based on the experience of the individual. Whether garnering meaning and inclusivity is to be done through a matter of defeating language or propounding a new measure of value, where I come to question Lerner’s argument is that I fundamentally disagree that it can’t be done through poetry. In my experiences, It is too immersive of a craft to be so pigeonholed as constantly disappointing. 

    As powerful a medium as it is, Lerner maneuvers the intricate dualities of the poetic form with surprising ease and efficiency. The Hatred of Poetry is at once one of the strongest denunciations of poetry I have ever encountered, but also one of the greatest defenses capable of rivaling Sir Philip Sidney’s The Defense of Poesy. A highly recommended and insightful read, for those who have never read a page of poetry and for those who have devoted their lives to it alike.'
Lusi Lukova


We were all having such a hard time saying goodbye to Christian Rogers' Read It and Weep, that Lusi, our intern from Lewis & Clark, wrote a short review of it. Thank you, Lusi!

"Shock factor can be presented in a multitude of ways, in terms of color, form, style, and text, and in his most recent work Read It and Weep, Christian Rogers uses those qualities to fully encapsulate that feeling. It is easy to find oneself treading the fine line between identity and visibility, both within the self and the other, particularly as an artist. That notion comes to the foreground when a work becomes inherently grounded with a personal mark, a gesture, or your identity as an individual and an artist. Rogers harnesses this in-between ground to create jarring and evocative pieces that challenge not only his own convictions, but those of his audience as well.

Considering the current societal and artistic state of hyper mediation and disinterest with personalization, Rogers’ choice to paint his works on ephemera, the fleeting, rosy pages of The Financial Times is astute. The choice of medium grounds the work with a specificity of time and place, making it easily accessible, much like the accessibility and abundance of newspapers everywhere. With his shift from a more formalist and abstract style, to this current figurative and narrative style, Rogers also creates deeply meaningful and intimate works.

Tabletop Offering,  2016, monotype, silkscreen, and acrylic on newsprint, 26 x 22.5”

Tabletop Offering, 2016, monotype, silkscreen, and acrylic on newsprint, 26 x 22.5”

The perspective in these pieces is rich, both in a literal sense—such as in Avocado Offering where the foreground is drastically shifted in relation to the background—but also in a more symbolic manner. It is the responsibility of the artist to create the art, and the responsibility of the audience to take it in, and it all boils down to a matter of how a piece is approached. It is interesting to relate something so metaphorical as perspective (think: your lens as an audience/artist/human being) to something so visceral as sight. Yet, it would be difficult to function without either, and Rogers, aware of this dichotomy, creates images that pack a punch: attractive, memorable, and connected with universal sentiments.  

His work is more personal than universal in this particular series, yet it is still capable to subtly address little tid-bits of pop culture and current news, particularly considering the queer medium (read: the unconventional material and the non-heteronormative subject matter.) Even his smaller black and white collages offer a tasteful yet scandalous romp through the inner workings of Rogers’ creative process. And despite their absence of color and more apparent use of a mixed media technique, the pieces are equally bold.

Untitled II , 2016, Xerox and ink on paper, 9 x 12”

Untitled II, 2016, Xerox and ink on paper, 9 x 12”

Much like the offerings of fruit and other objects in some of Rogers’ pieces, this series is an eager offering to his audience—Read It and Weep is sexy, it’s unconventional, and it’s a hit."
—Lusi Lukova

Kyle,  2016, monotype, silkscreen, and acrylic on newsprint, 26 x 22.5”

Kyle, 2016, monotype, silkscreen, and acrylic on newsprint, 26 x 22.5”


DELANEY ALLEN,   2.1 (Documentation of Landscape)   , 2016, archival pigment print, 30 x 20" 

DELANEY ALLEN, 2.1 (Documentation of Landscape), 2016, archival pigment print, 30 x 20" 

This is one of my favorite pieces of Delaney's because it is simultaneously so simple and so complex; I love the bright light in the foreground contrasted with the deep blues and shadows of the back. It is calm while maintaing the eerie and fantastical nature of Delaney's work. 

Tote bag by MODERNWOMEN LA, modeled by Emma 

Tote bag by MODERNWOMEN LA, modeled by Emma 

My go-to carry all tote that packs a punch. A perfect statement piece with some pretty empowering text on the front. We are nothing without feminist art! 

Maggie Nelson,  Bluets , Wave Books, 2009

Maggie Nelson, Bluets, Wave Books, 2009

"I have enjoyed telling people that I am writing a book about blue without actually doing it." 

I'm on a roll here with blues and gender and Maggie Nelson's Bluets combines the best of both worlds. For me, this is one of those books that I picked up once and will carry with me for the rest of my life and am so happy we carry it in our shop. A must read.