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Archive for March, 2011

A small bustling art gallery, with everyone talking, but all are keeping a somewhat quiet composure like they would in a museum. Then, the volume starts to pick up as everyone realizes that they are in an alternative art gallery in the Whiteaker neighborhood, during the Last Friday Artwalk. Also, everyone may wonder why in one of the paintings a person with a television for a head, and why the hell he/it is sniffing a flower. The head is an old-school style TV even having knobs to change the channel. The artist who painted it smokes a cigarette outside and looks in as people wander about the gallery pondering his art. He is easy to spot, as several of his paintings are self-portraits and he wears distinctive glasses–a fact he does not shy away from in his self-portraits.

The TV in the painting is outside smelling a lone flower, or watching it, as the TV does not have a nose or the antenna’s are sniffing. The painting is a comment on the viewing habits of the American public and how we see the world. The acrylic painting exhibits a vast range of natural colors in the foreground, yet the colors are washed out in the background. Certainly, not the most aesthetically pleasing picture, but works well for what it is trying to do because it makes you think about what the content is and what that content means past the literal interpretation.

The TV head is a painting of Drew Bardana’s, whose show during the Artwalk in January  occurred on his 21st birthday.. It was one of the few galleries to feel like a gallery during an art show–I thought this would happen way more, which made the stop at The Voyeur clearly the best exhibit of the night. His show also did not have much to compete with because the lack of strong work on the Artwalk and the venues did not hang that much art–or any at all for that matter. It appeared that many of the stops on the Artwalk just want the publicity of being a stop on the Artwalk and don’t care about art. Clearly, Mo Bowen, the curator and owner of The Voyeur, put the most time and effort into hanging and displaying the show. I hope that her care for her gallery will attract other prominent artists. While Bardana’s art raises such questions as why would a TV sniff a flower? Why are those children on a leash and why the hell is that bug drilling into your head? (this is referring to a charcoal self-portrait of the artist).

Click here for a brief review of galleries on the Artwalk.

Bardana’s success with art could also be due to his constant process of creating:

My art is a practice, a constant work always in flux. I’ll finish one painting and be onto the next, trying to learn from the mistakes I may have made in the   previous paintings. For me, it is an outlet to put my thoughts and emotions into visual context, Documentation is how I think of it. I am documenting my life and progress through my drawings and paintings.

That documentation starts with his sketchbook; his sketchbook is constantly updated with writing and drawings. He takes ideas from his sketchbook and starts a composition from those ideas. His paintings take multiple days to complete and he relies on spontaneity.  Once he has moved on from his sketchbook to canvas he will use “splattered gestural marks with paint” to see where it takes him. He says this process slows him down a bit, forcing him to think about his paintings.

Another painting of Bardana’s at The Voyeur are postmodern paintings that include children being walked on a leash and another canvas with people whose heads are replaced with telephones. The children in the painting have collars on their neck, not harnesses like the ones kids wear when parents actually walk their children. On Bardana’s Facebook page (where I conducted this interview) he proudly displays a charcoal self-portrait with a coned bug drilling into his forehead drawing blood. He got the idea for the portrait while staying in a run-down house in the Jefferson Westside neighborhood and was getting bitten on all over his body at the time and was convinced it was bed bugs. It turned out to be scabies, but Bardana found the experience more traumatic than just the itchiness. Traumatic enough to create a charcoal drawing about it.

For his show at the voyeur, Bardana says his materials consisted of acrylic paint, charcoal, chalk pastel, and watercolor. He added that he uses any material that he can get his hands on. He also used the back of skateboard decks for canvases, which is not the first time I have seen skateboards used for art, but the first time I have ever seen them hung in a gallery.  Also, he found the skateboards while dumpster diving. All off of the canvases he used were stretched from a roll of outdoor canvass instead of bought artist canvas.

Another of Bardaana’s paintings is a canvas painting with two people in conversation but their heads are replaced with wired telephones human heads and the telephone cords stand in for their arms. Bardana’s art often comments on the way humans communicate with each other as technology changes in the world. Maybe the old style phones are just easier to paint than using cell phones–I mean what would the arms be made of then?.

While not naming any artists that inspire him he says, “What inspires me is watching people and also reflecting on the social structures of my life. I’ve always been rather quiet and somewhat of a recluse so this lends an interesting view into everyday life.”

Some people might think having a 21st being stuck at an art gallery would be disappointing because you couldn’t get drunk at the bars, a concern the artist did not share. He was grateful to have his birthday coincide with the opening of his show because, “It felt more like a celebration of who I am and the people I know rather than the celebration of the date of my birth. I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” he says.

Bardana recently enrolled at the Pacific Northwest College of Art to further his art studies. His first college classes in art were at a couple of northwest community colleges. Bardana didn’t take any art courses until he was a senior year in high school, then was quickly placed in advanced art section because of his natural talent. Moving on from Lane to study at PNC his last blog post before transferring says, “ . . . No more angst-driven posts about being bored and unchallenged at Lane Community College,”1; however, he does say that “taking multiple art courses from countless art instructors I have learned that the instructor can only open doors for the students. It is up to the student to take that idea and practice it on their own time and efforts.” Proving this as every painting displayed at The Voyeur was created outside of class and more impressive than his work created inside class.

The other show I went to last term was an opening at the Jordan Shnitzer where I wrote a piece focussing on the band that played next term.

Here is what happened at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of art for the winter term opening. Next term is a show of Cuban art curated by graduate student Ashley Gibson. The show is about cultural taboos in Cuba and Gibson says, “This exhibition will contribute to current debates about racismin contemporary Cuba and elsewhere in the world, while raising larger questions of cultural heritage, gender, identity, and diaspora.” The show runs from March 22 – June 26, 2011

Currently on display at The Voyeur is a show titled “Bathroom Art” by Ben Rood use your imagination to whatever bathroom art is or go there yourself.

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The Voyeur, 547 Blair Blvd, clearly the best and I hope they stay the highlight of the Last Friday Artwalk although all the other places would have to start caring about art more to even come close to what they do.

CALC, 458 Blair Boulevard, there was absolutely no art just a guy playing guitar who was too stubborn to close his show when his exhibit is not there.

The Whiteaker Hostel, 970 West 3rd Avenue did have art and an artist present, however, move away from his booth in the corner and you are transported into a high school kegger.  Feeling hostel about waiting for the block party? Then visit this venue for the next Artwalk and you’ll fit right in.

Territorial Vineyard, 907 W 3rd Avenue when I was there, they balance the atmosphere between outright party and art show despite the artist couldn’t make it that night.

Delphina (or Slash and Burn), 941 West 3rd Avenue, whose attitude toward me was standoffish (to put it nicely) and they hung all the paintings from their rafters so you have to crane your neck to look at anything. I can’t remember anything about the art either because it was that unimpressive. I hope no artist ever has to hang out at this place for the entire show or has the unfortunate experience of having their art shown there.

Ninkasi, 272 Van Buren St., was a good for what photography is in art, but they were aesthetically pleasing photos, but nothing else certainly not the insight Bardana put into his work. Make the beer free and then it would be worth it; however, the beer is tasty. If you’re not really into art, then Ninkasi is the best stop on the Artwalk. Despite the high amount of consumption going on there it doesn’t feel like a party like the hostel. In addition, similar to Delphina’s they just hung the pictures in the corner and called it good.

Michael DiBetto’s studio, 201 Blair Blvd, clearly not an art gallery and nothing was hung, however it was a welcome surprise because the artist was friendly and willing to talk (and sell) his artwork, and his work was more impressive than most pieces on the Artwalk anyway. So not a gallery, but a welcome surprise. Also cool to be in an artist’s studio as part of an Artwalk

I missed the rest because there are so many, but there is one that seems so far away that no one would walk to it is The Museum of Unfine Arts. It’s too far away to be on the Last Friday Artwalk as they are in downtown. Probably outright rejected from the First Friday Artwalk  and decided to jump in on the Whiteaker’s party. I also don’t have that much hope for other spots with the let down at Delphina’s.

The route I took is a .6 mile walk which was pretty good and an even better reason to skip the Museum of Unfine Arts.

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By Michael Wallen

 

Joshua Alderson and partner Claire Johnson pose outside Morning Glory Café.

 

 

Joshua Alderson has worked as a chef for 20 years. In the late 1990s, on a day he doesn’t remember precisely, he decided to become a vegetarian. As you might imagine, life got difficult. The work suddenly felt unethical. Plus “it was hard to find food prepared in a way that was appetizing,” he says.

Today, with over ten years experience as a vegetarian chef, Alderson owns Morning Glory Café. Located at 450 Willamette Street, Morning Glory embodies the spirit of Eugene, Ore. Activist Misha Dunlap opened it 15 years ago, eventually selling it to go to law school. Keystone Cafe veteran Gail Brown owned it from 2003 to 2010. Keystone was where Alderson started cooking vegetarian ten years ago, and that connecting got him a job at Morning Glory in 2007. When Brown wanted to sell, he wanted to buy.

There are other cooks in the cafe, but most days you’ll find Alderson hard at work in the kitchen, sleeves rolled up on a snap-front collared shirt. Morning Glory is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. On the lunch menu, Triple Lucky Noodle, a peanut sauce stir-fry, is his favorite dish to make.

Breakfast is where Morning Glory shines, though. The dining room is crowded until around 11:00 a.m. and Alderson is having fun in the kitchen, in his element as orders come for vegan fusion omelets and challah bread french toast. He says those are the most fun to make.

Alderson says people in Eugene have always wanted to embrace Morning Glory. 15 years ago, it was a little hole in the wall. It had just a few tables, the kitchen and a bathroom covered with notices of upcoming protests. Business became brisk under Brown. The building next door got purchased and a hole knocked in the wall, creating the current dining room. Alderson says the place is doing even better now. “Since we’ve taken over,” at the beginning of 2011, he says, “we have seen a real dramatic increase in business.”

After emptying the register at 4:00 on St. Patrick’s Day, Alderson sits down for a tall glass of water with his partner, Claire Johnson. Being both chef and business owner takes a lot of work. Why make the choice to buy it?

“I really enjoyed the energy here,” Alderson says, “I really love this place.”

“I kind of feel it was like part of our family too,” Johnson says.

They’re excited about the future. Since taking over, they’ve expanded how much of the menu is local. All dairy comes from organic farms within 50 miles. The produce comes from organic farms within 100 miles. “It’s going to get that much better when everybody has an abundance of crops,” Alderson says. There are different all-organic specials every month. By the time the dry season starts in June, they plan to have a lot of outdoor seating, in hopes of even more business.

It can be difficult to find healthy, appetizing vegetarian restaurants. Morning Glory is about making that easier. “It’s a small part, but it’s something we consider very unique. There’s only one place like this and we’re proud of that,” Alderson says.

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By Michael Wallen

Ever since the dawn of agriculture, meat had been a luxury, but now you seem to get charged a premium for not eating it.
Industrial capitalism has been an incredible engine of wealth generation. Goods that were once dear become plentiful; goods that once didn’t exist become necessities (think of your computer). Part of the magic is firms competing to maximize efficiency. However, I think what’s done to animals in factory farms for efficiency is horrific. Ergo, vegetarianism.
Too often, though, the vegetarian options at restaurants turn out to be meat dishes with the meat left out, or items like garden burgers that cost substantially more than hamburgers. How’s that work? It costs less to turn grain into cows than to shape it into patties? No, it’s the demand function of economics at work. There’s more going on, like subsidies, but let’s not get distracted.
Annoyed, I checked out Happy Cow’s list of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Eugene. Nearly half the entries were food carts. Those are done to death, warned a good journalistic authority. That left five interesting sites: Morning Glory, Holy Cow, Lotus Garden, Pizza Research Institute and Govinda’s Vegetarian Buffet. Three, including a breakfast place, were conveniently located near Willamette Street, making a day’s convenient expedition. The rest required driving to West Eugene.

Day One Breakfast
First up, Morning Glory Cafe at 450 Willamette Street. Walk in during peak breakfast hours and you feel like, if the University of Oregon is the city’s brain, this is its soul. You’ll find tables packed with hippies, hipsters and possibly other demographics that start with “hip.”
Look up from your table to the wall and you’ll see expressionist-influenced surrealist paintings of people in agony as they pull off their own heads or saw off their own arms, which are inexplicably tree branches. It’s like eating amidst Salvador Dali’s paintings of Dante’s “Inferno”.
If the walls are “Inferno”, the food is closer to “Paradiso”. Besides vegetarian, it’s mostly organic and local. I had the biscuits and “tantric mushroom” gravy.  You don’t get gravy where the mushrooms ritually copulate. What you do get are two huge organic biscuits, halved and slathered in gravy from Eugene mushrooms.
The prices are reasonable. Breakfast ranges from $4.75 for “Buddha Belly” oatmeal (what, was the Buddha Scottish?) to $9 for a large order of French toast. Staff is friendly, though service is limited, with water and coffee being self-serve by the door.

Day One Lunch
Holy Cow Cafe has been a University of Oregon fixture since 1990. Their logo tells you what you’re in for, with cows dressed in Indian, Middle Eastern, Italian, East Asian and skateboarder garb. The breadth of the menu is unbelievable, ranging from dhal to falafel to macaroni and cheese. The trade-off is authenticity. You can’t expect falafel served up cafeteria style to have the savor of Lebanon. On the other hand, everything is organic and local, enriching the taste of what might otherwise be Americanized ethnic takeout.
Holy Cow’s bread and butter is the campus cafe, but they’ve opened a restaurant at 2621 Willamette Street. It has the same breadth of cuisines, without the cafeteria atmosphere. That said, it doesn’t have much restaurant atmosphere either. The stark, primary color decor and fast food style tables won’t win any fans. All Holy Cow has to offer is the food.
I had a plate of saag paneer and coconut chickpeas on long-grain brown rice served with raita and two chutneys, with a “Big Pink” hibiscus iced tea, all for under $9. It wasn’t like anything I’ve enjoyed in India. But it had a complex medley of fresh flavors. Plus if you’re a vegetarian, spinach on brown rice is just the thing to get your iron and other vitamins.

Day One Dinner
Lotus Garden is just west of Willamette Street, at 810 Charnelton Street. I walked in at 7:50 p.m., not long from their 8:30 p.m. closing time. The staff was thoroughly friendly despite the hour. Turning in from the front door, you’re confronted by a large painting of Guan Yin, the Buddha of compassion, at the center rear of the dining room above an altar. Owners Van and Yin are Chinese Buddhists who opened Lotus Garden here in 2000. It’s Eugene’s only all-vegan Chinese restaurant.
Lotus Garden offers a variety of mock meat dishes, using tofu and wheat gluten to mimic the texture of most meats in a typical Chinese restaurant. This sort of thing being new to me, I tried the soy strips with lemon grass, for $9.50.
I felt mocked by the mock pork, with the texture of ham but flavorless except for soy sauce. The steamed broccoli was bereft of sauce, making it no better than plain steamed broccoli. The mushrooms, carrots, and lemon grass were flavorful, but could not save the main ingredients.

Burger at McMenamins
Disappointed by mock meat, I impulsively added McMenamins to my list. I had to have a Hammerhead garden burger. Made with mushrooms, cheese and their Hammerhead beer, it makes vegans unhappy. It should satisfy everyone else though, even meat-eaters. There’s no attempt to mimic a hamburger here. It’s just a good sandwich on a delicious toasted bun, with lettuce, tomato and your choice of basic spreads.
As a regional chain, spread out from Eugene to Seattle, McMenamins is a known quantity. Obviously they don’t advertise as vegetarian, since you can get thick dripping hamburgers, but the rest of their happy hour menu is meat-free. At least it is at the High Street site I frequent. Want a drink and a bite? Go with confidence.

Day Two Lunch
The next afternoon, I got a pizza to go at Pizza Research Institute. You’re not missing a key part of the experience by doing so, as the main dining area is limited to a few tables in a converted warehouse. PRI, at 530 Blair Boulevard, is literally a mom and pop operation. Co-owner Usha Boise (her husband, William Boise, is the other) took my order after texting her youngest son a happy 21st birthday. Turning her attention to me, she couldn’t avoid sharing her enthusiasm for the stencil machine behind me, which they use to brand their boxes.
That do-it-yourself charm characterizes PRI. The menu is hand-written on a blackboard above your head as you face the cash register. I got a medium number four special: feta, spinach, kalamata olives and artichoke hearts. Just about everything is organic, though not local.
While waiting, I noticed a wooden Ganesha head above the door leading to the dining area. You have to have your Indian images to run a vegetarian restaurant, it seems.
The hot pizza arrived in its hand-stenciled box and I drove off to share it with friends. The crust, from dough made fresh daily, was crispy and had hints of herbs. The sauce was just right. The veggies were flavorful.
Unless atmosphere is important to you, there’s nothing to dislike about the PRI experience. The food merits the cult following it’s developed. At $20.00 for a medium, though, people will differ on whether it’s worth it.

Day Two Dinner
Now here’s something different. Govinda’s Vegetarian Buffet, at 1030 River Road, is associated with Eugene’s Gaudiya Vaishnava community, better known as Hare Krishnas. While the menu at Morning Glory makes Indian religious allusions, these folks are the real deal: white people who converted to Hinduism.
As soon as you step in the door, you’re confronted with a hologram of Krishna on a swing with his lady (Radha, for whom the associated Radha Govinda Temple is named). “Govinda” is an epithet of Krishna himself, meaning “cow protector.” Look around the walls and there are many devotional paintings depicting Krishna’s childhood as a cowherd, before he went on to star in the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata as an adult.
There were two highlights. One were the rice and lentil cakes (iddlis) with three tasty chutneys. The other wasn’t Indian at all, the vegan lasagna, filled with olives, corn and diced spinach, with tofu in lieu of cheese. The other dishes, namely brown rice, coconut curry, curried mixed vegetables and halavah, were rather bland. On the plus side, you do get all you can eat for $8.50, or $7.50 for students and seniors.

Concluding Thoughts
The highlights of this expedition were Morning Glory and Holy Cow. Each offers an organic, locally sourced vegetarian menu at prices competitive with omnivorous restaurants in their class. Morning Glory will take care of you for breakfast or a sit-down lunch. Holy Cow offers a variety of delicious dinners or items like burritos for a quick meal on the run. Vegetarian, organic, local, decent prices… sometimes you can have everything.

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Morning Glory Cafe's crowd thins around 11:00 a.m.

Morning Glory's vegan biscuits and gravy. $5.50

Holy Cow's cafe at the University of Oregon is their original location.

Clockwise from top: Holy Cow's tomato chutney, raita, tamarind chutney, coconut chickpeas and saag paneer. $7.50

Lotus Garden gets quiet near closing time.

Lotus Garden's soy mock pork, with lemon grass, mushrooms, carrots and broccoli on rice. $9.50

McMenamins garden burger patties contain mushrooms, cheese and their Hammerhead beer. $4.00 during happy hours.

Pizza Research Institute has handmade charm.

Pizza Research Institute's special number four features feta, spinach, artichoke and kalamata olives. $20.00 for a 14" (medium)

Govinda's Vegetarian Buffet sports plants and Krishna paintings for decoration.

Clockwise from top: Govinda's tomato and mint chutneys on iddlis, vegan lasagna, curried mixed vegetables, salad and coconut curry on brown rice.

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Local DJs weigh in on the scene in Eugene.
by Claire Staley

This April marks the first anniversary of the opening of Cowfish, the newest addition to Eugene’s fledgling club scene. The progressively modern space was immediately accepted into downtown’s “Barmuda Triangle” as an alternative to grimy dives (John Henry’s) and dimly-lit hipster hotspots (Jameson’s), instead providing a long white bar illuminated by a large fish tank containing the club’s namesake and, more importantly, a well-stocked DJ booth that rises above a lively dance floor. Since its opening, Cowfish has expanded its weekly parties and now hosts events every day of the week, providing a space for local DJs to explore their particular sounds in a town that’s previously struggled to establish a club identity.

(more…)

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Please allow me a quick story time tangent.  Let’s start by turning the previous music oligarchy that is made of up companies like Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group into a bunch of humongous, lazy dinosaurs.  (more…)

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