Box, Alex Keyes

It’s been raining and hailing lately, and my soundtrack has been that new song by Regina Spektor called “All the Rowboats.” Experience the brooding theatrics:

It’s quite the techno diversion for an indie pop queen, but the lyrics are classic Regina. She visits an art museum- or “tomb”- and gives it her peculiar, melancholy spin.

“First there’s lights out, then there’s lock up/
Masterpieces serving maximum sentences/
It’s their own fault for being timeless/
There’s a price to pay, and a consequence”

Great, Regina. If kids these days don’t think museums are boring, now they’ll think they’re creepy. Mausoleums indeed!

I can’t get enough of the tune though, and it has colored my perception of the art I’ve seen lately. Like, for example, it was blasting through my headphones for the 87th time when I entered “Sam and the Boys,” the Laverne Krause exhibition by first-year MFA students.

“They will hang there, in their gold frames/ For forever, forever and a day,” screamed Regina as I spun through a claustrophobic cardboard corridor. Go to 1:20 in that video and you’ll see sort of exactly what happened. It was like that Duchamp painting but with less nudity.

Then, at the height of my frenzy, I stumbled straight into all of the MFA students discussing their show.


I pulled out my headphones and stared dumbly at the circle of artists. Alex Keyes was discussing his Box labyrinth, which I’d just nearly trampled.

“I wanted it to be a kind of playground,” he explained. The piece is a grand throwback to childhood, when a giant box could be anything we imagined.

As the group moved on through the corridors, I realized just how blind I’d been. Regina, you are my siren and your pretty weird song is the rocky shore.


I passed through the boxes again, this time much more slowly. Other gallery goers navigating the maze laughed as they hit dead ends and peered through cracks. This was a piece with a sense of humor.

The sides of the enormous boxes are divided into giant grids with masking tape. My freed mind was picking up on cheeky references to abstract expressionism. The boxes are almost like giant sketches or 3-D models of Rothkos or Mondrians. It’s color field painting minus the color… and the painting.


Eight Images/One Photograph, Jonathan Bagby

Keyes’ piece divides his classmates’ art into three little isolation pods. A mixed media monstrosity called “Do’s and Don’ts In Bear Country” was garnering most of the attention, but I was more interested in the other side of the room. Jonathan Bagby, who we last saw in the BROSHOW (FOSHO) SHOW, fleshed out the Box conversation with an abstract composition of his own. Stark white lines divide a mysterious ether that could be anything from wisps of smoke to Jell-O puke.

To the left of Bagby’s photograph sits Keyes’ most triumphant box. In the center of a tiny square, which at first seems to be just another part of the composition, is a hole through which you can see…

Alex Keyes and John Whitten

Can you tell what it is? Go and play, and maybe you’ll find out. But leave your shiny iThings at home.

Confidential to Rosie: I really meant it about that art walk!



David Gibbs and his Jell-O ‘stache

“Well, I use mustache wax every day,” said David Gibbs. All he had to do was add a sprinkle of gelatin powder and- voila!- a magnificent blue caterpillar. It turns out Jell-O has that bedazzling effect on most things. Perhaps somewhere on its list of mysterious ingredients (disodium phosphate? fumaric acid?) is the scientific term for fairy dust.

Need more evidence than a vibrant upper lip? Last night, Gibbs, a horde of local creatives and a giant mass of Jell-O turned the Maude Kerns gallery into a constantly jiggling, entirely edible wonderland.


…Or at least that’s one version of what happened.

“What’s in Jell-O exactly?” I wondered aloud, inspecting a “blackberry fusion”-flavored box of the stuff. Before my lovely companion Melissa could respond, two gruff gents at the end of the bar chimed in.

“I hear it’s got cow hooves!” said one.

“Animal products,” agreed the other.

“All I know is processed fruits are bad for you,” said the bartender, inspecting one of the boxes I’d scavenged from my cupboard.

Melissa and I were doing research of sorts at the Tiny Tavern on Blair Blvd. She’s a local food writer who pens Two Pots of Coffee and a Slice of Pie at Midnight and Dispatch from a Yellow Bicycle when she’s not, you know, writing articles for the Register-Guard and food guides for Eugene Magazine.

I’d thought it was only natural to invite a food blogger to a Jell-O art show, but now I was facing an undeniable truth: Jell-O is hardly natural. In more discerning circles, it may not even be considered food.


“We built this city on Jell-O rolls,” unknown

What, then, to make of the Kerns’ annual competition and its strictly mandated medium? When you’re molding to this year’s themes of “Occupy Jell-O” and “End of the World,” perhaps the more unnatural qualities of the goo actually work with you. What could show the instability of a recession or the meltdown of the apocalypse better than a material that turns into a slimy puddle before your eyes?

I have no doubt that 80’s band Starship, if they’d thought of it, would have included a Jell-O metropolis in their fiercely earnest video for “We Built This City.” “Someone always playing corporation games/Who cares they’re always changing corporation names.” They were like so ahead of their time, man.


16, David Gibbs

16 had wholly crossed the bridge from the snackable to the sculptural, and it wasn’t looking back. Gibbs started with 8 pounds of gelatin and several ponds of food coloring, applied heat and created this Seuss-meets-and-tangles-with-Tim Burton confection.

“It smells like spray paint,” said Melissa, taking a long whiff like the good food critic she is. Okay, so maybe “confection” is the wrong word.


Occupied, Jeff & Leah

But look yonder- a twist served sunny side up! Though eating Jell-O makes her queasy, Melissa was instantly salivating when she saw this hyper realistic and über gelatinous breakfast layout.

“They even made Jell-O coffee!” marveled Melissa.

We deemed Occupied the winner of the night, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Jeff and Leah had successfully closed the gap between art and food using the most unreliable of glues.


We The Peeps (Occupy Jell-O Zone), James Carwile

…Or at least they almost did. If only this marshmallow death pit hadn’t been jiggling nearby. The slimy little Peeps reminded me of the body parts floating in jars from the laboratories of movie mad scientists. Perhaps Melissa was thinking the same thing.

“How much of that Jell-O could you eat?” I asked.

“How much could I eat, or how much could I eat without puking?” she asked.

“Without puking,” I said.

“The blue Peep in the back row,” she answered.

If all this talk is making you a little green, take heart. Jell-O probably doesn’t look much different on the return journey.


So there you have it: the art has been reviewed, and the food pooh-poohed. For safety reasons.

BIG BONUS: Click here for Melissa’s review of the Tiny Tavern, with cameo by yours truly. You should also probably follow her on Twitter.


This is Fred.

Fred spent the hours of 3 to 7 pm yesterday dancing in the drizzle along Coburg Road in a Statue of Liberty costume. The 26-year-old Eugenean is going to “tax school,” but in the meantime he’s stuck on the lowest rung at Liberty Tax.

Some might be discouraged by this, but not Fred. I spotted the enthusiastic gent on a drive, and was so impressed by his dancing and sign twirling that I had to get an interview. I caught him right at the end of his shift but still bubbling with energy.

Here’s Fred on life, liberty and the art of marketing:

Fred is clearly one of those people who puts his heart into everything he does. He’s been complimented by a fire dancer for his sign twirling, and was scouted off the street by Papa John’s for another sign holding job.

“Do you consider your job art?” I asked him.

“Well it depends,” he said. “You get a lot of sign shakers and sign wavers that are just like…” He gave an unenthusiastic smile and thumbs up to a passing car.

I think it’s fair to say that Fred elevates his job to an art. Along with Michael Jackson and MC Hammer, he said that Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges all influence his moves. Something tells me Fred’s on his way to being someone else’s dance idol. Or possibly the president of Liberty Tax. Watch out world!


Promenade, Anne Teigen

“This costs $4,000,” said my little brother. My jaw dropped. I’d been too busy trying to figure out what was on the other end of the Yellow Queen’s leashes (I’m going to say rabbits wearing winter jackets) to glance at the caption.

We had an hour to kill in downtown Eugene, so of course an art rumpus had started. Promenade hangs with several other Teigens on the ground floor of the Hilton. It caught my eye because I’d never seen a graffiti wall depicted in a painting, but the price tag instantly turned me off. The four thousand dollar lady was clearly turning up her little bourgeois nose at the democratic mentality of street art. Promenade indeed!

I decided that we’d have to exit through the gift shop and hit the streets. We would seek tags that weren’t trapped in oil. We would demand our art en plein air.

A couple steps into the shadowy downtown, I started to wonder whether this was the best thing to do with an 11-year-old. Then we took a detour through a parking garage and I realized just how prepared my little hooligan was:

Being a big brother is all about scuffing the line between lazy supervision and mischievous camaraderie, which is how we ended up behind Smith Family trying to climb up the side of a building using balcony railings as a ladder. Don’t worry, we only got a couple feet off the ground.


We discovered the work of an amateur typographer in the same alleyway. Here, my little brother tries to pick a lock with a leaf stem. You might call him a debonair burglar in that he could hardly care whether he gets in. You couldn’t call him a debonaire burglar, though. He aces all his spelling tests.


Next we swung through Park Blocks, site of the original Occupy Eugene camp. It turns out the movement is still organized enough to do angry sidewalk chalk scrawling, which is more than I expected of them. Along with all the usual Occupy slogans was this delightful message. We approved.


Wind-Rain Song, Weltzin Blix <;;;–another fantastic name!

Between the Hult Center and the Hilton is this downed windmill of a sculpture. It’s always been a mystery to me, so I asked my little brother for his interpretation.

“What is it saying to us?” I said.

“It’s a place to sit,” said my bro, plopping himself down.

There you go.


The last stop on our tour was the Hilton again, where we crashed a meeting and sipped (presumably) expensive water from crystal goblets. Mischief managed, I’d say.

BONUS: Click here for Anne Teigen on those mysterious leashes, graffiti and the costs of artmaking!


The Family Group, Dan Geise

The campus was a snowy Venice today, minus the gondoliers to ferry us around. We grudgingly splashed through the great swirling canals that hid the sidewalks. It was raining, of course, and branches were loosening and tipping. They shed their coats in small threads and heavy bolts. The crackling of fireworks signaled earthbound spears that quivered alive on the ground.

When the forest thaws it screams and sighs back to life, but statues simply sleep through it all. The Family Group had spent the night clasped tight, trying in vain to squeeze heat from stone skin and unaware that only Michelangelo could carve a warm embrace from stone.


The Pioneer Mother, Alexander Phimister Proctor <— what a name!

The Pioneer Mother sat with a plump frost baby in her lap. Her loving look was blind to the truth that her miraculous child would soon seep away. For the moment she gazed down at her elemental changeling, as sure as Giotto’s Madonna.


Flying Ducks, Tom Hardy 

Hardy’s ducks rise with the thermals on summer days, but in the cold they hung motionless like dark stains or strange hieroglyphics tattooing the wall behind them. What do frostbitten wings feel like?



Then there was Sylvester, still waiting for his magic pebble to return.


Just inside the Laverne Krause Gallery stands the ambassador of this week’s show, a hinged white box with two tiny explosions of tangled hair erupting from it. The abstract figure embodies everything that the “BROSHOW(FOSHO) SHOW” is at first glance: playful and a little heavy-handed.

Witness the pile of tire shreds, the video montage of dubbed-over action scenes and the field of ripped and melted dolls, and you’re bound to feel shell-shocked… or maybe just numb, like that hairy box.



I actually had to view the BROSHOW twice before writing this. Manhood is, despite (or because of) the boxy stereotypes, a very complex state of being.

Next to the box art is a long printout of a Google image search for “manly man.” If you click that last link, you’ll see how little wiggle room there is in the definition of an ideal man. The leader of the pack is a retro gent holding a beer. “Being an a**hole is all part of my manly existence” says the accompanying text.

I will never be like the aggressive musclemen who populate this list, and I try to make myself believe that I don’t want to be. But I do but I don’t but I do.


Of course, if you peel back those onion layers, there’s usually a sweet, bromantic center. Two low-key photographs form the heart of the show.

The first, an image of a TV screen showing a tuxedoed man with flowers, reminded me of my parents’ wedding photos. In those pictures, my 20-something dad doesn’t look rugged or mean, but he does look strong and handsome. Could this picture be making a similar comment on a more real, graceful state of manhood?

Something tells me the use of a second frame (the TV screen) is pointing us toward the media or advertising. It’s still a refreshing meditation amid the carnage, though.


The second image is something of a mystery. A blindfolded man gets a shave from his buddy, who is naked but for a pair of Nike short-shorts and spectacles. It’s a vulnerable moment that digs deeper than any other piece in the show. Brotherly love is, by nature, largely undiscussed among men. The brilliantly composed shot shines a touching light on it.

All in all, I’d call the BROSHOW one of the most striking exhibitions I’ve seen at the Krause. If only the show’s multifaceted heft could have been matched by a little more attention to detail. That last photo was hung with paper clips, and none of the pieces were titled. That’s men, I guess.


I found the lumpy ball of wood in my little brother’s room, placed carefully atop a stack of comic books. Jacob’s floor is covered with Bionicle figurines and Lego starships, miniature firefighters and thimble-sized army men, Beyblades and Pokemonsters. They face each other on his floor, locked in a perpetual pop culture war with rules more complex than chess. This strange object sat apart from the fray. I picked it up and turned it over.


Can you see it now? It’s a stout figure curled in a tight ball. Its massive arms and legs show off rippling muscles. Pointy ears and a mane of hair poke out, but its face is obscured. It is scored with what looks like teeth marks. Is it possible to be equally attracted and repulsed? That’s how I felt.

“What is this?” I asked my mom, holding it far away from me as I walked into the kitchen.

“Oh, Jacob found that in the backyard,” she said casually.

“He just found it?” I asked. “But where did it come from?”

No one had an answer, obviously. Meanwhile, my mind was spinning stories about witch doctor neighbors. This was clearly some sort of totem or voodoo doll. Its dark power would consume Jacob, turning him into one of those horror movie children with red-tinted eyes.


This theory was mostly based on the row of spikes emerging from the figure’s head. In my moment of hysteria, they looked like enormous teeth or a medieval visor. Why did no one else realize how EVIL this thing was? I snapped some shots and swore I’d do a post on it, so that people would at least have a hint of an explanation when we all vanished.

A couple days later, I showed the shots to my friend Dori.

“It’s so cuuuuute!!” she said. At this point, I was flabbergasted. Were we looking at the same thing?

That’s when I noticed that there are teen “teeth,” which, from an art-thropological perspective, means they’re probably actually fingers. This little person was hiding its face, not baring its teeth. The revelation hit me right in the heart.

The unknown artist packed this sculpture with intense emotion. It’s Hercules rendered weak, a visual representation of the way muscles flex in fear. Perhaps it stood apart from Jacob’s various strongmen and heroes because it was so crushingly vulnerable. Ambiguous and grotesque, yes, but not evil.

Of course, I’ll still be checking Jacob’s eyes whenever I go home. Until I get to the bottom of this mystery, witch doctors will remain on my list of theories. That’s not too crazy, right? If it is, I’ll just blame it on the doll.