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Art to wade through while Pearl diving

First Thursday is heavy with exhibits to wrap your tastes around

It's shaping up for a hot First Thursday art walk.

For those who somehow have missed this free phenomenon, First Thursday is a huge, sprawling art walk. Every month like clockwork, the galleries in Northwest Portland, the Pearl District and downtown Portland throw open their doors on the first Thursday to the roiling masses, and the streets are as crowded as Venice's Piazza San Marco. Getting there by bus or streetcar is strongly encouraged.

The peak hours are 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., though the smaller galleries in the Everett Station Lofts check all four sides of the block stay open later and attract younger crowds. The lofts are between Northwest Broadway and Sixth Avenue and Everett and Flanders streets.

Though jockeying for position is hardly the connoisseur's idea of the best way to view art, most people grudgingly accept that First Thursday is really about coming together, people-watching, ogling the Pearl's high-priced real estate and keeping an amused eye on the unpredictable street theater.

When you're done with all that, the following are a few of the June exhibits worth checking out.

The Mark Woolley Gallery unveils a double feature this month.

Seattle artist Ethan Harrington's 'Plein Air Portland' feeds our persistent obsession for the city around us, while Kathleen Stephenson of Portland returns with new life-sized ceramic figures.

Harrington is a graffiti artist turned plein-air think outdoor landscape painter. He sets up on the street, armed with a fully loaded paintbrush and easel. The buildings and scenery, all recognizable, have crooked roof lines and fun-house angles. Harrington paints from a bug's-eye view, with head thrown back. Tangible subjects such as the Brewery Blocks and Chinatown's Classical Chinese Garden are depicted with loads of paint and splashy, ringing color.

Stephenson's show, 'The Party People, the Pancake People and Non-Random Hearts,' was a breakout hit at the gallery in 2000, especially for those who thought that ceramics were a bore.

Stephenson, who is the morning news and public affairs director at KBOO (90.7 FM), continues her exploration of large-scale ceramics with 'All About Women,' a show which examines stillness and waiting. OK, it still sounds boring, but in fact 'Three Women Waiting,' which depicts three seated life-size forms with fixed expressions, makes you need to know: Who are they, and what the heck are they waiting for?

Mark Woolley Gallery, 120 N.W. Ninth Ave., Suite 210, through June 28

The Alysia Duckler Gallery has a show of oil paintings on linen by Kim McMarty. The artist's portraits of androgynous, big-eyed adolescents are spooky and alluring. Her colors are cool and swampy, with brushes of pink and eggplant. The yellow greens are the color of antifreeze. McMarty's paintings of teens who appear to be on tranquilizers are as unsettling as the real thing.

Also on display are works by Anne Carstensen.

Alysia Duckler Gallery, 1236 N.W. Hoyt St., through June 28

All this chirpy summer weather makes a show about birds feel right somehow. Manhattan, N.Y.-based artist Jane Mount delivers with 'Birds and Bird Boxes' at the Steel Pond Gallery. The gallery is owned by artists Travis Pond and Daniel Wiancko and is a bit far afield in its extreme westerly location across Northwest Vaughn Street.

Mount's mixed-media dioramas are tucked inside of 3-inch Plexiglas cubes. Tiny nests, birds and other avian scenes hover inside. Cozy and homespun as these are, Mount could easily pass for a Portland artist: There are flocks of locals with a similar aesthetic. Materials used are clay, acetate, ink drawings, Shrinky Dinks and thread. Also included in the show are life-size drawings on paper of different birds.

Steel Pond Gallery, 1905 N.W. 26th Ave., through June 28

The June show at the Margo Jacobsen Gallery is the 11-year-old gallery's last before Jacobsen moves to Singapore. It features the brain-teasing glasswork of artist Bennett Battaile, who creates intricate webs by heating and fusing clear glass rods into shapes that relate to mathematical problems. Also hanging are the math-themed paintings of artist Michael Schultheis. Puzzling indeed.

Margo Jacobsen Gallery, 1039 N.W. Glisan St., through June 28

See what the graduating class of 2003 is up to at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. The student thesis show offers up a broad range of work and talent in painting, drawing, mixed media and sculpture.

Pacific Northwest College of Art, 1241 N.W. Johnson St., through June 14

Last but not least, amble over to William Pope.L's show, 'eRacism,' at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art for a trip outside your comfort zone that involves rapidly decomposing hot dogs. Enough said.

Pope.L will give a public performance, 'Candy Mountain,' at 6 p.m. Friday, June 6, and Saturday, June 7, in the empty lot on the corner of Southwest Third Avenue and Taylor Street.

The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, 219 S.W. 12th Ave., through July 26

Contact Michaela Bancud at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..