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So Close to the Glass and Shivering & If We Lived Here

February 22 - April 9, 2010
Closed Easter Weekend: Friday – Sunday, April 2-4

So Close to the Glass and Shivering
Melody Owen

Gallery 2: If We Lived Here
Paula Rebsom

So Close to the Glass and Shivering
Melody Owen

So Close to the Glass and Shivering is a major exhibition for Portland-based Melody Owen. In this new show, the artist uses drawing, video and sculpture as "quiet ruminations on whales and exploration." Some of her travels have been in North America, others in Europe. Owen is interested in the records that explorers keep and in making her own. In this exhibition, she also builds on the concept of the whale as a record keeper and traveling library. She has made a eleven-foot-long white wire sculpture of a beluga whale – a drawing in space or a trace of a whale – that lies on the gallery floor. She also carved and sanded a vine from Borneo to resemble a narwhale tusk – something explorers might bring back from the journey – adding a message in Morse code. In response to a recent residency in Switzerland, the artist took some old glass slides of European mountain landscapes found years ago in Beacon, New York, and added collage elements; the altered slides will be shown in a light box.

Many of Owen's significant experiences have been with animals, often through the glass of an aquarium or zoo enclosure. The title So Close to the Glass and Shivering comes from a video Owen made of white wolves in the Berlin Tiergarten. The exhibition includes video recorded through a telescope at the Cornell University ornithology lab and bird sanctuary in upstate New York, and videos of a Beluga whale filmed at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and of a leopard recorded at the Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes in Paris.

About Melody Owen

Melody Owen lives and works in Portland, Oregon, where she is represented by the Elizabeth Leach Gallery. Letters from Switzerland, a solo exhibition for Owen, opens at the Leach Gallery in March. Owen's work has been included in exhibitions organized by the London Metropolitan University, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), Portland Art Museum and Bellevue Art Museum. The artist has an MFA from The New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University.

Portland2010: A Biennial of Contemporary Art

Melody Owen's exhibition in The Art Gym is also part of Portland2010: A Biennial of Contemporary Art. Disjecta Interdisciplinary Art Center is producing Portland2010 and presenting it at multiple locations March 13 through May 30. (The Art Gym exhibition runs February 21 -­­ April 9.) Curated by Linfield College gallery director Cris Moss, the biennial includes the work of 16 artists, many of whom have had important exhibitions at Marylhurst, including Pat Boas, Bruce Conkle and Marne Lucas, David Eckard, Sean Healy, Jenene Nagy and Stephen Slappe.


We are publishing a catalogue to accompany Melody Owen's So Close to the Glass and Shivering, containing an essay by noted Portland author Jon Raymond. The catalogue will be available in the gallery mid-way through the exhibition to allow time to include photographs of the completed installation.

Gallery 2: Paula Rebsom
If We Lived Here

In If We Lived Here, Paula Rebsom continues her exploration of habitat and complex relationships among animals and people. During a 2007 residency at the Ucross Foundation in northeastern Wyoming, the artist placed numerous small house facades on a hillside filled with prairie dogs and their burrows. She then observed and photographed. The results were both intriguing and humorous.

For If We Lived Here, Rebsom, who lives in Portland, Oregon, but who was raised in western North Dakota, has devised a project that uses technology to tie one place to another. This time the project is as much about the migration of humans, loss of home and its reclamation, as it is about animal habitat. In 1978, the Rebsom family moved from their farm during a brutal winter to nearby Dickinson. Over time, the original house, barns and outbuildings on the 1,300-acre property decayed, were vandalized and became home to birds, mice and various critters. The family destroyed the structures for liability reasons in February 2009.

Late last summer, the artist returned to North Dakota to begin work on her first permanent outdoor installation. She built a 16-foot high and 40-foot long "billboard-like replica" of her grandparents' original homestead. In December, she went back to film and outfit the site with recording equipment. Those recordings will be used for presentation and projection in The Art Gym's Gallery 2.

Once weather permits, two wireless web cameras will be installed on the property and provide live feed to the gallery. The video will also be available for viewing 24/7 on the artist's Web site Visitors to The Art Gym and to the Web site will have an opportunity to observe both constancy and change in a landscape very different from western Oregon – changes in weather as the seasons move from winter to spring; the occasional arrival and departure of birds, deer and cougar; the visits of family to check on equipment, walk the land and look for wildlife.

The artist writes:

In its simplest form If We Lived Here was built in an attempt to provide shelter for the birds that were displaced when their home was destroyed. In its most complex form it is a quiet and haunting, ghostlike reminder of what was, what is no longer, and what may never be. It holds memories far beyond my years and comprehension while at the same time providing a new presence of hope and possibilities for this rural landscape – the landscape my mom was born and raised on, the land where she and my father tried to make a living, a place that I dreamed as a child to call home, the land my sister and I will someday inherit.

About Paula Rebsom

Paula Rebsom received an MFA in Sculpture from the University of Oregon in 2006. She did her undergraduate work at Dickinson State University and post-baccalaureate in studio at the University of Minnesota. She has exhibited at Portland State University, Tilt Gallery, Portland Community College and the Portland Building installation space. Rebsom is a member of the Marylhurst University Department of Art & Interior Design faculty.


The artists and The Art Gym thank the Regional Arts and Culture Council for support for Melody Owen's exhibition and publication through an Artist Project Grant. In addition, we acknowledge the Oregon Arts Commission's Career Opportunity and Marylhurst University's Faculty Development Grant programs for support for Paula Rebsom's If We Lived Here. Both projects are also supported in part by the Oregon Cultural Trust and the National Endowment for the Arts.


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