By James Bash
For the Hollywood Star News, July, 2010
With the rampant growth of art galleries on the east side of Portland during the last decade, it was only a matter of time before a number of them coalesced to sponsor an informal gallery guide. Called First Friday, the guide calls attention to galleries and venues that are open every first Friday evening of the month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. You might think of it as a gallery happy hour, since the art exhibits often include receptions and sometimes live entertainment.
Two First Friday galleries located in Northeast Portland are Brian Marki Fine Art (2236 N. E. Broadway) and 23 Sandy Gallery (623 N. E. 23rd Ave.). During the First Friday in June, both galleries were filled with visitors and animated conversation, giving the shows a sense of occasion.
Brian Marki Fine Art
At Brian Marki Fine Art, visitors enjoyed an exhibit of wood-centric artworks by Terry Bostwick, Thomas Hughes, Todd Isaacs, Allen Kinast and Scott Ringsage. The variety of pieces ranged from abstract to literal and most, though not all, were mounted on the walls. Some pieces, like Thomas Hughes’s Cloud Theater, had moveable parts that beckoned visitors to touch and adjust, while other pieces were more static.
“I like to show a wide range of art,” explained gallery owner Brian Marki. “I like to see art that is connected to the past, speaks about today and looks to the future. When I see that quality in art, I know that it will be around for a long time. That allows me to show all genres of work and different kinds of media, including wood, which is part of Oregon’s cultural fabric.”
Marki opened his gallery in 1994, after moving to Portland from San Francisco. For Marki, art has been an obsession of his that included a childhood in which he drew and painted. In his youth, Marki worked for an artist who taught him how to frame artwork. After graduating with a fine-arts degree from the College of Arts in San Francisco, Marki opened a frame shop.
“Framing is a very important aspect to art, because presentation is so important,” Marki said. “Quality is a huge issue for me. I’m looking out for my collectors.”
Gary Simundson, a Northeast Alberta resident, enjoyed Marki’s show.
“This exhibition has a lot of balance,” said Simundson. “Some pieces are kinetic and others are sedate; all of them are whimsical.”
On the sedate side were life-sized replicas of bull horns that were mounted on a wall. They were the creation of Irvington resident Todd Isaacs. Isaacs had a number of works in the show.
23 Sandy Gallery
With a specialty in handmade books and paper arts, 23 Sandy Gallery is one of the most unique art galleries in Portland. It’s the brainchild of artist Laura Russell, who has made handmade books for the past 15 years. Russell opened 23 Sandy Gallery four years ago. Almost every month, Russell presents a book or paper-related show in the gallery.
The First Friday at Russell’s gallery in June presented an international, juried show that attracted a large crowd. One piece was made by 16 artists from Cuba. The show also presented artwork from China and Canada. More than 78 artists submitted 141 books for the show; as curator, Russell narrowed that down to 45 books by 41 artists.
One of the most interesting pieces in the show was a book made from an ammunition box. The creator of this piece was David Kearns, a retired architect, who used old photographs from Life magazine to tell an anti-war story.
For this show, Russell printed a full-color catalog that will be sent to libraries and museums that purchase handmade books.
“First Friday is amazing,” said Russell. “Even though we are off the beaten track, we usually get 75 to 100 people on First Fridays.”
For more information: firstfridayguide.com