September 1st – October 4th, 2011
Opening reception Tuesday September 6th, 6-8pm
Carefully selected by filmmakers Aaron Katz, Matt McCormick, and Kelly Reichardt and curators May Barruel and Justen Harn, this exhibition features stills from three films shot in Oregon: Cold Weather, Some Days Are Better Than Others, and Meek’s Cutoff. It is supported by Oregon Film and Newspace Center for Photography and benefits the nonprofit Hollywood Theatre. Learn more about this vital community resource at www.hollywoodtheatre.org
A bit more about the filmmakers…
Aaron Katz was born in rainy Portland, OR. He became interested in film and acting while still in high school. After realizing he wasn’t that good of an actor, he decided to go to film school at North Carolina School of the Arts. Immediately after graduating, he and two of his college roommates drove a 1963 Chevy Nova from North Carolina to Portland, OR in order to make Dance Party, USA, his first feature. Quiet City, his second feature, premiered at SXSW in 2007. Subsequently, Quiet City had critically praised theatrical runs in several cites, was nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at Film Independent’s Spirit Awards, and was featured on several year end top ten lists. Katz’ third feature, Cold Weather, was released in 2010 by IFC films and opened to similar critical acclaim. Katz currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Matt McCormick is a filmmaker and artist who lives in Portland Oregon and is a wearer of many hats. His work crosses mediums and defies genre distinctions to fashion witty, abstract observations of contemporary culture and the urban landscape. He is a relentless do-it-yourselfer and an important fixture within the experimental film community.
McCormick has worked and collaborated with many artists and musicians including Broken Bells, The Shins, Miranda July, Sleater-Kinney, The Postal Service, YACHT, Al Burian, Eluvium, Patton Oswalt, and Calvin Johnson,. He has been a pioneer in the field of distribution and exhibition: extensively touring his work, creating the video label Peripheral Produce, and founding the PDX Film Festival. Three of his films have been shown at the Sundance Film Festival, and his work has been screened or exhibited at MoMA, The Serpentine Gallery, The Oslo Museum of Modern Art, the Reykjavik Art Museum, The Seattle Art Museum, the Moscow Biennial, and Art Basil. Awards he’s received include Best Short Film from the San Francisco International Film Fest, Best Experimental from the New York Underground Film Fest, and Best Narrative from the Ann Arbor Film Fest. His film The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal was named in ‘Top 10 / Best of 2002’ lists in both The Village Voice and Art Forum magazine. McCormick has an album of music and soundtrack work titled Very Stereo that was released by Marriage Records. His visual art is represented by the Elizabeth Leach Gallery in Portland, OR.
Kelly Reichardt is an American director, co-writer, editor, and currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Film and Electronic Arts at Bard College. American landscapes and narratives of the road are themes that run throughout Reichardt’s work. Meek’s Cutoff, shot on the dry plains of Oregon’s high desert and featured in this exhibition, offers a vision of the earliest days of American frontier culture. Wendy and Lucy, filmed along the railroad tracks that surround an Oregon suburb, reveals the limits and depths of people’s duty to each other in tough times. Old Joy is an exploration of contemporary liberal masculinity, set in the tamed wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. Reichardt’s first feature, River of Grass, was shot in her hometown of Dade County, Florida. Sun-drenched highways, bus stations, and dilapidated motels were the denatured setting for this lovers-on-the-run story.
Essay by Shawn Levy…
Nobody gets to Oregon by accident. You’re either here because your ancestors walked here from the Midwest 150 years ago, or because you came here to start a new life in a new school or a new city, or because you were drawn by love or work or by the very idea of Oregon. You have to want to be here, to arrive here and cease your travels here and settle down here.
Oregon’s not as remote as, say, Alaska, nor is it a place that you pass through like, say, the Dakotas. But by and large it’s also not a destination in the same way that, oh, San Francisco or New Orleans or Disneyland can be It attracts pioneers, not gold- or fame-seekers. It’s more participatory than touristic. Oh, there’s plenty here to look at and take snapshots of: the coast, Mt. Hood, Multnomah Falls, the forests, the desert. But since the arrival of European-descended traders and settlers in the 19th century, Oregon has been not so much a place to sightsee as a place to experiment with new ways of living and of seeing.
The idea of Oregon is always changing, defined, in large part, by the new arrivals who choose to make it home. The very notion of the place is a living, active, and evolving one. It’s no wonder, then, that the state is so hospitable to independent filmmaking. With the spatial frontiers of the continent conquered, the frontiers of art may, after all, be the only ones left for us to explore anew. And Oregonians are explorers par excellence.
The three feature films represented by these pictures were all released in 2010, and they all pinpointed some aspect of the essential restlessness, daring and horizon-stretching in the Oregon character – a nexus where the landscape and the environment become one with the sensibilities of the people wandering inside of them.
Kelly Reichardt’s “Meek’s Cutoff” takes as its basis a historical episode involving a wagon train that got lost along the Oregon Trail. Reichardt, a New Yorker making her third film in Oregon (that’s three more, by the way, than her producer, Todd Haynes, who actually lives here), casts her characters in starkly beautiful backgrounds that recall paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe or Mark Rothko. The colors and shapes of land and sky seem to press down on the brightly-dressed figures of pioneer women or, less often, to caress and guide them. The land is hostile – it literally threatens to kill them – but it is inviting as well. One thinks of Keats, embracing his tenuous hold on life while at the same time acknowledging the gorgeous temptress of oblivion that beckoned him toward the beyond. Oregon lures the wagoneers of the film, but it will devour them if they’re not steadfast. And there’s beauty – physical and moral – in that.
Matt McCormick’s “Some Days Are Better Than Others” is set in a Portland that is both physical and abstract, a place to live and eat and walk and work, but also a place in the mind that beguiles and frustrates and repels (some of) our ideas and hopes and ambitions. The film is McCormick’s first narrative feature, but it shares with his experimental and documentary works a fascination with the collision of man-made and natural spaces: his characters go out to the coast but stay inside their cars to watch the waves; they wander underneath freeway overpasses as they might giant firs and spruces in a forest; they browse thrift shops the way others might stroll through botanical gardens. The Portland they inhabit is a city – with its commerce and hassles and unseen connections between people – but it isn’t a metropolis. It’s more makeshift than that: a village or nomadic camp peopled by drifters looking for a means to put down roots. These people live not only under a cloud but, it seems, inside one.
“Cold Weather” is the only one of these films written and directed by a native Oregonian, Aaron Katz, and in ways it balances the visions of the other two. It’s a foggy, shaggy story of puzzlement and investigation, a not-mystery about a not-detective pursuing a not-case using his not-skills. Katz is a gifted visualist who can bring flair to tiny moments, but he’s held himself back somewhat in “Cold Weather” and built more of a narrative and allowed the atmosphere – the literal meteorological atmosphere – to pronounce itself as a character in the film. Clouds and waterfalls and oceanscapes are objects of aesthetic pleasure in his eye, but they also make visible the internal confusions and conflicts that haunt his characters. As a Portlander, Katz seems at once proud of our city’s proximity to natural beauty as he is conscious that nature mocks our efforts to impose order on the world. His combination of youthful enthusiasm for novelty and preternaturally wise acceptance of disorder feels true to his Oregon roots.
These films and these images, with their drama and their aesthetic balance and their careful craft, remind us not only that we are fortunate to be inheritors of the Oregon experiment but that this thing we call Oregon can only make sense to us if we see ourselves as part of its soil, its water, its weather, its air. Sometimes we can learn as much from a single image. In the cases of “Meek’s Cutoff,” “Some Days Are Better Than Others” and “Cold Weather,” though, we are blessed with literally millions of images which allow us to absorb that valuable lesson much more clearly.