Performance Art

Performance artist Guillermo Gomez-Peña

What is performance art ? It is a time-based art form rather than a permanent artistic gesture that has a beginning and end. The artist forces the audience to be in the present thus challenging them to participate while educating them about current conditions. 

The orgins of performance art dates back to the Middle Ages with the traveling troubadours and performances of the court minstrels, but really grew into existence in the 20th century with movements such as Dada, Futurism, Automatism, Noveau Realisme, Fluxus, Neo-Dada, Body Art and Feminist Art. It became a movement in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Performance art is not a passive art but, an “action” art that focused on the “message” expressed by the performance artist. Below are two examples of performance artists that have succeeded in this art medium.

Marina Abramovic bursted onto the scene in the 1970’s with “cathartic performances that tested the limits of spectator participation and personal safety (“Between 1973-1974”, 2015). She used her own body as art.  Rhythm 10 is an excellent example of this and her first performance piece. For this particular performance she used 20 knives of different sizes and shapes and adapted the slavic knife game called “five finger fillet”. This game lasted till each knife was used twice. Another example is Rhythm 0, which was the last performance of the Rhythm Series that involved her objectifying her body for an audience that gradually became aggressive. This performance lasted for 6 hours and involved the audience to do whatever they wanted with her body that included the use of the 72 objects provided. Her emotionally and physically challenging performance pieces have been highly influential in performance art and earned her the title of “grandmother of performance art”. 

Guillermo Gómez-Peña is another performance artist. He came onto the art scene in the 1980’s and incorporates activism into his pieces. In 1992, his most notable work came out which is titled Couple in The Cage: Two Amerindians Visit the West in collaboration with Coco Fusco. It was about responding to the widespread commemoration of the 500-year anniversary of Columbus’s arrival to the Americans while focusing on colonial ideas regarding the exploitation, captivity, and abuse of indigenous people.  What Gómez-Peña notice was that the audience still held onto these colonial ideas of Western thought towards non-Western cultures and that they need to let go of these mentalities. 

As an activist, much of his work is about erasing the divide between art and politics. His most current work to date is the perfect example of this: The Most (un) Documented Mexican Artist performed at Los Angles Contemporary Exhibitions. In this particular piece, he presents an eclectic perspective on the prompt future of the Americans. 

As you can see, both of these artists have used their art to teach society about itself, hoping to point out the attitudes and mindsets of the current society we live in. Finally, art is necessary for the advancement of civilization, thus letting go of outdated ideas can civilization be allowed to move on to a better world.

Other notable performance artists:

Joseph Beuys

Ana Mendieta

Works Cited:  

Between 1973-1974, Abramović performed five pieces. (2015, February 10). Retrieved from

Butler, Anne Marie. (2012, January 22). Performance Art Movement Overview and Analysis. Retreved from

Lopez, Mia. (2014, October 14).  A History of Revisionism: Contemporary Art and Columbus/Indigenous People’s Day. Retrieved from

Stromberg, Matt. (2018, February 14). “Welcome to a World Without Trump!”: Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s Latest Performance. Retrieved from

Promoting your First Friday Event

First Friday PDX has a number of tools available to help artists and galleries promote their First Friday events. Here are a few east ways we can can publicize your opening.

Submit an opening or onetime event

First Friday PDX maintains and promotes a monthly listing of First Friday shows, openings, and events. This listing is updated every month and includes every show that is submitted to us. Additionally, we send out a monthly newsletter featuring selected shows and other First Friday updates.

We do our best to make the list as complete as possible, but to be sure that your event is included (and the we get the details correct!) please send show details to or use our online event submission form.

If you decide to mail us information directly for promotion, please don’t forget to include information about the event name, location, time, brief description, and an image.

You can submit an event either through our website, or by mailing us. We will promote events we receive this way through all our available outlets.

Join the First Friday map and gallery listing

If you are hosting events every First Friday, we would love to include you as a permanent location on the First Friday map!

To be added to the roster contact us with the following information:

  • Gallery or venue name
  • A brief description of the space
  • First Friday hours
  • Address
  • Contact information

In order to provide a positive experience for visitors however, it is important that we keep our listing up-to-date, and that art galleries on the First Friday map are consistently open during their posted hours. If your information needs to be updated, or you decide to stop opening on First Fridays, please let us know! We will remove locations that no longer appear to be participating.

The First Friday map includes both monthly events submitted to us on a one-time basis, and a permanent roster of participating galleries.

Connect on Social Media

First Friday PDX uses Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Meetup. If you connect with us, we can be on the lookout when you post news, events and updates. You can also tag events with #firstfridaypdx to reach potential visitors and patrons.

Publish Events with First Friday PDX on Facebook

When creating an event on Facebook you can make First Friday PDX a co-host to have the event appear on the main First Friday Facebook page and reach a larger audience. First Friday PDX will not make any edits or changes to your event.

When creating your event make First Friday PDX a co-host and it will automatically add your event to our featured events AND post the event to our main newsfeed.
Announce participation in First Friday PDX

On your website, blog, newsletter or other social media announce that you are a part of First Friday PDX and link to our website or Facebook page.

Once you plan on opening for First Friday on a recurring basis we recommend repeating this kind of post at least a few times a month because repetition tends to draw more visitors to your posts and over time this will create a buzz!

Art Colleges from the Past

Before diving into the past let’s ask ourselves how important is art to learning? Some say not that much while others say it is significant to learning and understanding the world. Below are two art colleges that deviated from traditional colleges in the 20th century. 

The Bauhaus building in Dessau.

Bauhaus was a school of design that started in 1919 by Walter Gropius in the German city of Weimar. In 1925 it moved to the city of Dessau and finally to Berlin in 1932. It changed hands many times and combined fine arts and crafts. Besides from the fact that it was an art school, the minimalistic design that it taught and publicized became well-known throughout the world. Aside from the school being progressive, especially in the manifesto that Gropius written in 1919, stated that it welcomed “everyone without regard to age or sex”, students still meet with discrimination. The women who went there faced prejudice from the professors that they could not work in the more “challenging” fields of metalwork and architecture. Nevertheless, only 11 female students preserve and worked in the more “challenging” fields.  It closed in 1933 due to constant harassment by the Nazis. 

Another art institution that was also progressive was Black Mountain College. It ended up becoming a haven for Bauhaus expats when it opened up in 1933 in Black Mountain, North Carolina. It was started by John A. Rice who left Rollins College due to controversy. And was born out of a desire to create a new type of college based on John Dewey’s principles of progressive education. At the time, the college was a community-centered education that was owned and operated by the faculty. The traditional hierarchies that are usually found at colleges were non-existent. The community type environment was meant to inspire “the individual student with a sense of his or her relations to others and the environment.” The Liberal Arts College was committed to democratic governance and to the idea that the arts are central to the experience of learning. Even though it was located in the south at a time when it was segregated, the Black Mountain community did have 11 black students before closing in 1957.

Students at Black Mountain College, sunning on the dock at Lake Eden
– looking out to the Studies Building.
Photo by John Campbell (Western Regional Archives)

Therefore, even though both schools were seen as a progressive they both faced challenges. What they left behind is still present to this day; a simple revolutionary design and a community-based education.

Works Cited: 

Kino, Carol. (2015, March 16). In the Spirit of Black Mountain College, an Avant-Garde Incubator.

Gotthardt, Alexxa. (2017, April 3). The Women of the Bauhaus School. 

Lutyen, Dominic. (2018, September 20). Anni Albers and the Forgotten Women of the Bauhaus.

Pearce, J., Michael. (2019, June 1). Why Art Schools Are Disappearing.

Ritter, M., Jennifer. (2011, December 30). Beyond Progressive Education: Why John Andrew Rice Really Opened Black Mountain College.

Saval, Nikil.(2019, February 4). How Bauhaus Redefined What Design Could Do for Society.

Through The Eyes of Annie Meyer: Gentrification and the Re-emergence of the Central Eastside Art Scene

Recently, I interviewed Annie Meyer who is one of the leading figures in the Portland art scene. Long story short, Meyer came to Portland in the 1980’s while driving up from California and oddly enough her car broke down in Portland. In 1995, she opened up her art gallery on Clinton Street and in 2010 opened up a successful art gallery in the Pearl District before closing it in 2018. In 2004, Meyer received a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council to create a map of First Friday Art Walk. Meyer is one of the few people that has witnessed the changes in the Portland art culture over the years. 

Speaking of changes, in the past 20 years, the art scene in Portland has not changed for the better and has “devolved”. This can be due to the increasing rent prices happening in Portland due to new developments that has to do with gentrification. 

With the rise of gentrification in Portland, it has affected the art scene in the process and has made it worse, especially for emerging artists getting their start. Meyer’s thoughts on how gentrification affected the art scene in Portland is that it is: 

More expensive for artist to have a gallery to sell their art.

Brings in people with money, but they are either not buying art or

maybe it is harder for them to find artists. 

~Annie Meyer

As to making the art scene more accessible to emerging artists coming from different cities and states. Portland needs to encourage artists to be part of the art scene. First Friday Art Walk is one example that Meyer suggested and to elaborate further:

[You need] cheaper places and First Friday Art Walk is perfect.

It is less about drinking and more about art.

 ~ Annie Meyer

This coming August and September, First Friday is having an Art Party, that is at no cost for artists, which will help them tremendously. As a quick mention, First Friday Art Walk recently became a non-profit.

Therefore, Portland is an art buying city, but in times like these, everyone has to step in and help make it a thriving and lasting art culture. Not only does the art community has to be doing the work, but the city has to be doing its part as well. Finally, when people from different backgrounds put aside their differences and work together for a cause, change happens for the better. 

Art & Emotion: Mark Rothko

Orange and Yellow by Mark Rothko

How many people can say that they have had an encounter with a painting that made them cry right there in a museum or art gallery? Did it happened to be a Mark Rothko painting?

For those of you who don’t know who Rothko was, he was an American painter born into a family of Russian Jewish intellects in 1903. His full name was Markus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz which got abbreviated to Mark Rothko in 1940 due to anti-Semitism. In 1913, he immigrated to America with his Mom and sister, they eventually meet up with his father and 2 brothers in Portland, Oregon. Soon after arriving his father sadly died.

Rothko had a complicated relationship to religion and after mourning the death of his father for almost a year, made a conscious decision to move away from organized religion.

He believed that color was “primal, elemental, pure unconscious emotional resonance and response.”(Meditations on Mark Rothko) This emotional response or experience was the reason why he recommended viewers to position themselves as little as 18 inches away from the canvas to have that experience. He described his paintings as “…not a picture of an experience. It is the experience.” This experience is eventually described as a religious transcendence or spiritual transcendence. The barrier that you find in other paintings is gone when you view one of Rothko’s paintings and become a part of it.  It is essentially taking you on a higher plane.

This higher plane is the communication of emotion, that invoke the experiences of grief, ecstasy and destiny. Rothko famously wrote that “The people who weep before my pictures, are having the same religious experiences I had when painting them.”

As seen, his paintings invoked basic human emotions that allowed for the viewer to actually be felt as a human being, in an empathic way. One were the person is listened to and finally understood. It is something that is lacking in today’s world and is needed more and more in a world gone mad.

Works Cited:

Auishai, Tamar, host. “Meditations on Mark Rothko.” Episode 24. The Lonely Palette. 22 November 2017. Retrieved from

Gaylord, Martin. ( 20 September 2008). The mysterious tragedy at the heart of Rothko’s tranquil masterpieces. Retrieved from

Jain, Mayank. (28 March 2017). HOW TO UNDERSTAND ART – A MARK ROTHKO CASE STUDY. Retrieved from

Art’s Impact on Politics and Society

Ai Weiwei, Law of the Journey

When was the last time a piece of art moved you? Was it a film, a painting or a street performer? Art in many ways can enrich the human experience and initiate change in society. These types of changes can be used to better society by not answering questions, but by asking questions.  

How can art be used for a political purpose? Well, it can be used to raise awareness and shift perspective. For example,  Beirut based artist, Lawrence Abu Hamdan asked 2 sheikhs in Cairo to deliver city wide speeches about the danger of noise pollution as a public health issue instead of their usual weekly Friday sermons. Cairo is the 3rd worst city for noise pollution, according to Worldwide Hearing Index. Another example is Definition, by Czech artist, Ivan Kafka, who placed 1,000 wooden sticks to block people from going to work. In order to understand this work of art, one has to understand that Prague at the time was under control of a communist government. Thus, Kafka created a critical dialogue that asked the local population to take a stand, one way or the other, to define their existence.  

How can art impact society? By translating experience across space and time. Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, does exactly this in his art piece titled, Law of the Journey. Which was to confront and question the west’s complicity in the refugee crisis in 2015. This piece is a oversized life raft (60 feet long) composed of faceless figures and is made from rubber that the manufactures use in the boats most often used by the refugees.

As you can see, art can be used to transform an experience through art. Finally, in the words of Eli Broad (entrepreneur and philanthropist), “Civilizations aren’t remembered by their business people, bankers, or lawyers. They’re remembered by their arts.”  

Works Cited:

Blanc, Nathalie and Barbara L. Benish. Form, Art and the Environment: Engaging in Sustainability. 2016.

Larmon, Annie Godfrey.(2018, May 21). Can Art Change the World?

Eastham, Ben. (2015, September 22). Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s “The All Hearing”.

Gray, Alex.(2017, March 27). These are the cities with the worst noise pollution.

The Cynical Side of Art Censorship

Before diving into art censorship, let’s ask ourselves, what is censorship? According to the Oxford Living Dictionaries, censorship is: “The suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.” Censorship can shelter citizens from reality and infringe on their rights. Below are some examples of art censorship.

In 2011, Facebook closed the account of Frédéric Durand without warning after he posted an image of Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde (The Origin of the World). For those not familiar with the painting, it showed a woman’s genitals.  Durand took it to French court and sued Facebook for violating his freedom of expression. After a 7 year battle, a French court ruled that Facebook was wrong to censor Courbet’s painting. However, the social media network did not pay the $25,000 in damages, due to the fact that he was using a pseudonym and opened up a new account on the same day his previous account was deleted.

Another example of art censorship involves low-level detainees at Guantánamo Bay and their artworks. 32 works of art by 8 detainees are now owned by the US government which were previously on exhibition at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. The reason for this is that the US government suspects that their potential sale would go to supporting terrorist activities. This new policy is a no-win situation when ownership is taken away and barbaric, especially when the art poses no security threat.  

As you can see, censoring art does more harm than good. It makes society less accessible and open for citizens. Finally, in the words of Ai Weiwei (artist and activist), “words can be deleted, but the facts won’t be deleted with them.”

Works Cited:

Rea, Naomi. (2018, March 15). A French Court Rules Facebook was Wrong to Censor Gustave Courbet’s Provocative ‘Origin of the World’.

Thompson, Erin. (2017, November 27). Art Censorship at Guantánamo Bay.

Toor, Amar. (2015, March 3). 19th Century Vagina Sparks French Lawsuit against Facebook.

Rosenberg, Carol. (2017, December 1). U.S. Military May Archive Guantánamo Prison Art Rather than Burn It.

(2018, February 1). Facebook to French Court: Nude Painting did not Prompt Account’s Deletion.

(2015, May 3). Court to Rule that Facebook can be Judged in France in Vagina Painting Case.

How Many Greens Do You See?

Scorpio Moon With Sirius by Concetta Antico

Any one thought that the mutants in the X-Men series were cool?

What if I told you that there is this really cool mutation existing in today’s world called tetrachromacy. What is tetrachromacy? Tetrachromacy is “The condition of possessing four independent channels for conveying color information or possessing four types of cone cell in the eye.” Basically, a person has an extra cone that allows them to see the differences in colors that appear identical to others.

This type of condition has so far shown up only in women. Maureen Seaberb and Concetta Antico are the only two known functioning tetrachromats in America. Antico was tested positive for tetrachromacy in 2012, when her daughter was tested for colorblindness. Her perception for color allows her to excel at being a tetrachromat artist and oil-painting teacher, since she can see more than a trichromat. For more information you can check out her website at

Maureen Seaberb is a journalist and author who finds matching tops and skirts a different shade to her. Seaberb has also had some disagreements over colors, such as rejecting 32 sample colors that were part of a house remodeling project.  She tested positive in 2013 after hearing about the subject on a Radiolab podcast.

So, could you be a tetrachromat? Had any recent arguments about an object being beet red?

Beyond Average Color Vision: An Interview with Tetrachromat Artist Concetta Antico.

Robson, David. (2014, September 5). The Woman with Superhuman Vision.

Lewis, Ricki. (2016, December 25). A Good Mutation: Seeing the World with Extra Cones

Shearer, John. (2012, March). Tetrachromats.

A New Change on the Horizon: Representation in Art Galleries

Raise your hand if you have ever been on an artwalk. Good. Now tell me: why are trans and queer artist of color, people with no BA’s, and people with disabilities left out of the picture, or not pushed to the forefront? Because the gallery owners are either rich, white, or male. Here are three galleries that are redefining the art world for the better with owners who are not rich, white, or male.

One of these art galleries is on the other side of the world, in the thriving metropolis of London. The gallery is called Sid Motion, which is also the name of the gallery owner and curator. The gallery opened up back in June 2016 with the intent “to bring a range of fresh vibrant artists working in different media to this new gallery space” as stated on the gallery’s website. For example, for her opening show she chose to exhibit a group of unsigned artists in the UK who work in various mediums. Her shows range from solo shows to two-­woman show and group shows. She presents a  spectrum of artists from the established artists to lesser­ known and difficult-­to­-track­-down artists. These exhibitions “aim to introduce a forum for conversation, education and development.”

Back on the West Cost, there is the Ori Gallery that “seeks to reclaim and redefine ‘the white cube’ through amplifying the voices of Trans and Queer Artists [sic] of color, community organization and mobilization through the arts”, as stated on the gallery’s website. Co­-directors Maya Vivas (ceramic/performance artist) and Leila Haile (tattooer and community organizer) are not fazed by “limiting” those who can participate in the space. The most marginalized identity is being reflected and, unlike most galleries, they are being direct about it. Since they opened last February the gallery has been seen eight exhibitions that directly connect back to the gallery’s goal. So far, the gallery has done group exhibitions such as Emergent, which featured eleven young queer /trans /artists of color and two­-person exhibitions such as Linoleum Flowers . These exhibitions show the work as is and leave the “diversity representation” behind which connects to one of the gallery’s goals to “hold institutional power.”

Finally, the Wolff Gallery, run by Shannon O’Connor and Zemie Barr (visual artist themselves) seeks to “broaden the Portland art scene by prioritizing the exhibition of work by traditionally underrepresented artists.” These include exhibitions that focus on being “dedicated to a feminist, collaborative organizational model.” This means “rejecting certain things women have been told to believe.” Their grand opening, Now I am Myself exemplified this specifically through five female photographers, and focused on eliminating the male gaze and leaving the viewer with non-sexualized subjects. The five artists used softness and vulnerability in their works to shift the narrative and communicate strength.

As you can see, these newfound galleries challenge the status quo and make the viewer question society as a whole. These types of independent galleries are being brought to the forefront to instill curiosity and thought in this chaotic world. Therefore, the world is in a dawn and it is up to the owners/directors of these galleries to make a difference in society.

Notable Mentions:
Access Gallery
Medium Tings

Works Cited:
Skidmore, Maisie. (2016, October 10) A Beginner’s Guide to Opening an Art Gallery.­photography/9154/a­beginners­guide­to­opening­an­art­gallery

McCann, Fiona. (2018, January 30). A New North Portland Gallery Gives Space to Queer and Trans Artists of Color. a­new­north­portland­gallery­gives­space­to­queer­and­trans­artists­of­color

Rabin, Jennifer. (2016, April 12). Now One Called Koons “Masculinist Art”.­one­called­koons­masculinist­art/

Rabin, Jennifer. (2016, September 6). Portland’s Newest Gallery Is Only Representing Female Artists. Rabin, Jennifer. (2016, September 6). Portland’s Newest Gallery Is Only Representing Female

Women Taking Down the Street Art Boys Club

Forget Banksy for a second and let’s focus our attention on the women taking on the male dominate world of street art. Here are 5 female street artists making headlines and giving new meaning to street art.

American artist Caledonia Curry, aka Swoon, known for her wheat pasting, is also an activist and humanitarian. Her projects/work include: Konbit Shelter, which helps to rebuild communities in Haiti and the Braddock Tiles project that enables local employment and arts training in North Braddock, Pennsylvania.

Shamsia Hassani, who is the first female Afghani graffiti/street artist, is also a associate professor of sculpture at Kabul University. Her art depicts women as “strong, independent figures.” The figures can be seen with musical instruments, inside of which they either play or carry, and which act as a vehicles for self­-expression.

Nina Wright, aka Girl Mobb, who hails from Oakland, California, creates work that expands on the theme of “urban girly grotesque,” where her figures display their hairy legs as they lounge. She has been doing graffiti since she was a teenager in her rural hometown in Ohio. When she moved to Oakland, although she found community through street art, she also found herself as the only female in her crew,  This lead her to create a graffiti camp for girls to hopefully shift the gender imbalance in street art. Her graffiti camp proved such a success when she launched it 2017 she has since been asked to bring the camp to other cities around the country.

Vexta is an artist from Australia whose theme gravitates towards feminine forms that are painted with bright colors. Her thoughts on inequality in the street art world: “Often you’re [sic] doing a project there’ll be the inclusion of one girl. Or people go to the other extreme and make it all girls. There’s no middle ground, which to me highlights the inequality.”

As you can see, many of these artists focus on inequality in the art field and society. These artists want to be considered on the basis of their works alone, and not their gender, for this to happen there needs to be a change.

Other notable mentions:
Lady Pink
Clare Rojas
Maya H
Lady Aiko

Work Cited:
Ryzik, Melena. (2014, Aug 6) Life Wonderment: Swoon Blurs the Line Between Art and Activism. Retrieved from­-blurs­-The­-line­-between­-art­-and­-activism.html

Burke, Sarah. (2017, Aug 14) Dismantling the Street Art Boys Club at an All ­ Girls Graffiti Camp. Retrieved from­street­-art-patriarchy­-graffiti-­camp­-girls

Henry, Roland. (2015, Jan 7) Meet the woman redefining street art. Retrieved from­-art­women-elle­-swoon­-vexta

Graham ­ Harrison, Emma (2012, Feb 24) Art in the Streets of Kabul. Retrieved from­-street­-art­-kabul