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Holiday shopping? Start with some art

November shows include Yalies, Canadians and Mickey Mouse
by: copyright 2006 SMITH ELIOT, "Clock, 3rd Floor Women's Ward, DSH" is part of Smith Eliot's series from the old state hospital in Wilsonville.

If the coming holidays are all about buying more clutter from the big box stores, buying art is the antidote. The less conformist the better. And Portland has plenty of that.

Showing at Valentine's restaurant are drawings by Arrington de Dionyso and Sophia Dixon under the title 'The Witchcraft Rebellion.' On ink and paper, they dabble in the language of fantasy, drawing mixed-up humans, animals and vegetables.

Dixon graduated from Yale a couple of years ago and lives in New York - say no more. De Dionyso is from Olympia, Wash., and lives here. They work in similar imaginary realms, and when asked whom he would like to show with, de Dionyso chose Dixon. She deals with female desire (doesn't everyone?) and male fantasy, and uses red ink to symbolize the melodramatic teenage fantasy of writing things in blood.

De Dionyso uses his art and his band Old Time Relijun to, as he says, explore 'the nameless territories held between surrealist automatism, shamanic seance and the folk imagery of rock and roll.' And you thought of it as just a sandwich shop.

First Thursday reception 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., music performance by de Dionyso at 9 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 2; regular hours 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Tuesday (plus evening hours if there's a show), 11:30 a.m. to between midnight and 2 a.m. Wednesday-Friday, 8 p.m. to between midnight and 2 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, through Nov. 30; Valentine's, 232 S.W. Ankeny St., 503-248-1600, free

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Butters Gallery has a colorful and stylish show this month. William LePore uses layers of acrylic on panel to make fascinating images that most recently combine cartoon outlines (Mickey, Aladdin) with expressive daubs of paint and slick surfaces and graphics resembling screen prints.

His works rarely end up as rectangles, being pieced together from different panels, yet painted grid lines run throughout. There's a lot going on, but somehow it usually all works. LePore is the chairman of the art department at Portland State University, so the art/entertainment buck stops here.

Complementing this are the wonderful abstract patterns of Matthew Haggett made with an acrylic/stencil process. Dark curves dance while background colors glow - the look is part mosque, part microbe. He's also capable of softly tinted surrealist scenes featuring holes and pipes.

First Thursday reception 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; regular hours 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, through Dec. 2, Butters Gallery, 520 N.W. Davis St., 503-248-9378

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It's not part of the First Thursday trawl, but 'I want to show you somewhere' is worth calendaring now.

Hadley+Maxwell (Hadley Howes and Maxwell Stephens) from Vancouver, British Columbia, spent the summer restaging scenes from photos of the Kent State riots on May 4, 1970.

They play-acted corpse and cop on the most peaceful campus in the world, Reed College, and now project the videos they made on cutout representations of themselves. Also involved, in a complicated way, are graphite drawings of the photos, and a recording of Hadley singing a sad song called 'Gloomy Sunday.'

You want more?

Like a hanging chad, the show is accompanied by the installation 'Promise,' a 22-foot flagpole waving a white flag at half-staff that will be installed on the great lawn across from Eliot Hall, Reed's oldest building.

Also in the house will be Lucien Samaha, sitting live at a desk and taking photographs. He's also bringing 100 of his 300,000 photos and promises to bend your ear about them. (On Monday, Nov. 6, at 7:30 p.m. at the Vollum lounge on Reed College campus, the artists will be in conversation, free.)

Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, through Dec. 10, Reed College, Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, 3203 S.E. Woodstock Blvd., 503-777-7251

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Photographer Smith Eliot went poking around the old loony bin that was the Dammasch State Hospital in Wilsonville and produced an impressive series of prints and sculptures.

The Dammasch's experimental psychiatry from 1961 through 1995 included electroshock and drug intervention. Not much is known about what really went on there, since pre-1969 records have been destroyed. Crazy.

First Thursday reception 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; regular hours 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Pushdot Studio, 830 N.W. 14th Ave., 503-224-5925

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If you're looking for the circus maximus of art events, the Portland Artist Network nonprofit is staging Merge - a First Thursday show of art, photography, experimental film, spoken-word artists, live music and dance on two levels of the Fez Ballroom.

Musical headliners include Gypsy Caravan and Sneakin' Out. If that sounds like a bit of everything, it is. But that's the Portland scene: Wherever two people gather together in the name of art, it is. (And if it sucks you can always slide over to the Adidas store and see if they're partying.)

6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 2, Fez Ballroom, 318 S.W. 11th Ave., 503-221-7262, $8