Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Ask me anything Submit
The Settlement is a collection of four galleries on the top floor of Pioneer Place Mall in downtown Portland. Each gallery (PEOPLE, PLACE, STORE, and TRADE) maintains a unique curatorial identity, working together to provide a view into the contemporary, cultural landscape of Portland and the Northwest region. The four former storefronts, comprise 10,000 square feet of space. Settlement programing includes exhibitions, performance, and a wide range of literary, musical, and creatively oriented community engagements.
PEOPLES - PEOPLES' featured artist of the month is Gary Houston. He makes hand pulled screen printed posters and prints for various bands and events. He works in scratch-board illustration, inked drawings and hand cut films. He works locally as a graphic designer from his PDX based production studio.
PEOPLES has over 40 local artists on display. Curated by Chris Haberman and Jason Brown, with assistance and management by Alex Cummings. Peoples is the Retail space of the SETTLEMENT
PLACE - Continuing to build on its mission of presenting process-oriented installation work, PLACE offers Terror and Ego. An exhibition featuring the work of Joshua Berger, TJ Norris, Dustin Zemel, Emily Nachison, Rhoda London, Juleen Johnson, and Vanessa Calvert.
STORE - Nico Sea & Zachary explore how two artists can create poetry through healthy competition and collaboration. It is an exercise in folding what they have learned from their Fine Arts training into their influences and artistic practices.
STORE is the SETTLEMENT's academic based gallery where we work directly with institutions and emerging artists. The gallery is directed by Zachary Sea.
TRADE - The most fluid of the galleries focuses on local institutions that fill a creative and experimental niche. TRADE's initial activation will be by the curatorial collaboration of Nim Wunnan of Research Club, Wynde Dyer of Golden Rule, Max Ogden, and Tori Abernathy of Recess Gallery through January 2011. Elizabeth Lamb is the curatorial consultant for the project.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
What is your background and how does it help you to navigate the Portland creative waters?
Professionally I’ve always been in high exposure to the public type jobs (i.e. photojournalism, bartending, college teaching, life coaching), and I’ve always had an infinite curiosity in others. I’ve never been a snob, I’ve never cared much about being one of the “cool kids” about town, and I’ve never been self-serving about who I associate with. I’ve been in Portland 10 years, and over time, all the people I’ve met, all the conversations I’ve had, all the things I’ve learned, it’s added up to the point where I feel really blessed in what I’ll call “human resources.” So if I’m ever feeling lost in whatever waters—creative or otherwise—I can always call on those resources to ask for help.
As for navigating the Portland creative waters, I’ve really got no clue. My much-wittier-than-I friend, Matthew Korfhage, tells me I should say, “What waters? Oh, you mean those puddles? I just rolled down the hill and got wet.” Which is, to some degree, true.
I am very new—aside from a few shows in the late-1990s/early-2000s—to the Portland art scene. I just started painting again in 2007, and then I built a gallery in my garage in 2009 so I could figure out how to curate. We had one show featuring works on paper by Amanda Luna and Jason Graf in January of 2010. Then my mom died that March, I moved the gallery out of the garage and started Golden Rule in June, behind Nationale on 8th and E. Burnside. At that point my art practice moved away from painting and towards the creation of conceptual retail installations. Somehow—in spite of doing very little painting of my own during Golden Rule—I somehow got my feet wet in the Portland art scene. But there was no navigation involved. I just took opportunities when they came.
What’s your Golden Rule?
Right now I’m less into the “do unto others . . .” thing and more into this Native American fable a friend—actually, my builder buddy, Jay, who was the structural consultant on the 1751 Easy Street: For Sale by Owner installation—told me a few years ago. It goes something like there was a little boy and an old wise man grandfather. The grandfather says to the boy, “Son, there are a pair of wolves fighting to the death inside of me.” The little boy says, “Really, Grandpa?” And the old man says, “Yes, one is the wolf of love and hope, and the other is the wolf of hate and fear.” The little boy says, “Grandpa, which one wins?” And the grandpa says, “The one I feed.” So those are the words I’m trying to live by now. I am trying my hardest to feed my love and hope wolf.
But if you’re asking what’s my Golden Rule, as in the “social experiment in creativity and commerce” I founded in the wake of my mother’s death in 2010? That Golden Rule was basically a 15-month, all-encompassing process-based conceptual art installation masquerading as a concept shop and gallery with healthy doses of social-practice and performance art involved. Although it almost killed me, it was meant as a reason to live.
Riley Hooper from the Willamette Week tells our story pretty well here:
Marjorie Skinner of the Portland Mercury also gives great coverage on why we closed:
Our Vimeo is where all the fun stuff like Home Shopping and Dance Therapy lives:
There’s a lot more to it than that. Someday I’ll tell its story. Not today, but someday.
Do you know what the name Wynde stands for?
I don’t. But I can make a pretty good guess. My father was Wynn Ross Dyer. Didn’t know him, but my mother always said he had a Peter Pan complex. So maybe I became Wynde because of the girl Wendy in Peter Pan, but my mom spelled it W-Y-N-D-E like W-Y-N-N. On a side note, it’s pronounced “Wendy” and I am, in fact, not a man.
What do you stand for in life?
I don’t pretend to have a strong enough core sense of self to be able to answer that.
What does safe and unsafe mean to you?
If I knew, I’d be a lot farther along in therapy, and a lot more able to cope in the world. One day I’ll explore that question in my art, but right now it doesn’t feel “safe” to me.
In your opinion, what is the role of art in life, generally?
There are two quotes about communication that have always resonated with me, one from a textbook, and one from my favorite author, Somerset Maugham. Although they are about communication—that’s what I studied, not art—there are parallels to art.
From Maugham: “Each of us is alone in the world. He is shut in a tower of brass and can communicate with his fellows only by signs, and the signs have no common value, so that their sense is vague and uncertain. We seek pitifully to convey to others the treasures of our hearts, but they have not the power to accept them, and so we go on, lonely, side by side, but not together.” And from the textbook: “Communication is the process whereby humans collectively regulate social reality. Speech communication is a human process through which we make sense out of the world and share that sense with others.”
If I could give a good guess as to the role of art in life, I would hypothesize that art seeks to reconcile any dissonance between those explanations of communication. Art is a way to make sense of the world, a way of reducing uncertainty and loneliness. It is a dignified way of opening up those closed-off watchtowers, of being brave enough to share those treasures, all the while knowing full well others may not have the capacity to accept.
What label are you the most comfortable with if you had to accept one?
I have only recently begun to accept the label of “artist” and that acceptance came purely from a Free Advice conversation with Jennifer Armburst at Nationale. Her advice was to embrace the label of artist, rather than to fight it. She told me something like, “Wynde, the art world is one of the only places where you get permission to be crazy. In fact, it’s even encouraged.” Now I fully and wholeheartedly accept the labels of “artist” and “crazy” along with all the other labels I’ve accumulated over the course of my life.
Labels are only as meaningful as their utility. They are only valuable in terms of what allowances they afford. At age 31 I have finally developed the confidence and competence to accept labels. I no longer feel scared or confined by them. I see them as flexible, not fixed. By accepting labels as a conscious choice, I recognize that I have the ability to change them by consciously transforming myself. In as much, labels have no power over me. It’s like from the movie Labrynth: “You have no power over me . . .”
On a side note, everyone should get some Free Advice from Jennifer Armburst. You can usually find out when the next sessions of Free Advice are if you visit these links:
Jennifer Armburst’s Motel Projects:
May Barruel’s Nationale:
What place do memories have in your mental landscape?
Past traumas in my life have blocked many would-be memories and ongoing stress challenges my ability to create new memories. But the memories are there, even if I don’t have full access to them. They’re in my body, in my art—The Clearing Out show at Portland Garment Factory (PGF), especially—and in my thoughts and feelings, which govern my actions. Everything I do—particularly in my art practice—is governed by memory, and I feel an intrinsic need to access and transform those memories with art.
There are some images from The Clearing Out here:
And the show statement Matthew Korfhage wrote explains the work well:
What are the teachings you carry over from your past into the present moment and how does that inform your perspective of the future?
1. My grandmother—my favorite person—taught me, implicitly, leading by example, to give to the world what you want back from it. She also taught me, by not being able to do so her self, to give to yourself what you want from the world.
2. My grandfather taught me to pick my battles. I used to feel like my grandfather wanted to squelch my passion, or to normalize me. Now I see that he was trying to protect me from expending energy trying to change that which I could not.
3. My mother taught me that I could do anything I wanted to do, to be anyone I wanted want to be. Because of her belief in me, I have never been too scared of the future. Sometimes the past is haunting and the present can be really discouraging, but the future has always remained a place of hope for me.
4. A former therapist once told me: “You should only allow yourself to feel guilt when you have intentionally done something wrong to hurt someone/something else.” I used to feel guilt every single day, several times a day, but that heuristic device has helped me forgive myself when I don’t always live up to expectations.
5. My leasing-agent at Golden Rule/friend/unintentional-mentor, Robyn Zaffino, told me: “Stop selling stuff. Start selling yourself. Stuff is just stuff. What’s really valuable are your skills, your ideas, your resources, the things that are intangible, and the things you can replenish.” So that’s what I’m working on now. I’m trying to figure out how to turn the things I’m really good at into a sustainable living.
How did you get involved with PLACE PDX?
Nim Wunnan, who runs Research Club, brought me into Place. It was 2010, very late-November, or maybe it was early-December, and some not-to-be-name-dropped-by-me higher education art institution had, at the very last minute, for whatever reason political or financial, backed out on programming one of the galleries. Nim called me up and said, “So, we’ve got this 3,000-square-foot gallery in Pioneer Place Mall we need to fill. Can you pull something together by December 18th?” They—the people at Place, Research Club, and Recess Gallery were in full on “Oh shit!” mode with less than two weeks to go to fill this huge space. So I struck a deal with Nim. The deal was I would pull over to the mall my March show for Golden Rule—I was planning to cover the floors, wall and ceilings with my dead mother’s letters to a lover who was in and out of prison for 20-something years—if he would pull together a show for Golden Rule to replace it. That handshake agreement turned into me showing I Knew You Pt. 1 (Dear James) at Place.
Here’s a link to the show statement for that I Knew You Pt. 1 (Dear James):
Over the course of my week of install—I was literally there every day for 12-15 hours a day covering more than 900-square-feet of the walls with those letters—I became reacquainted with Gabe Flores, who I’d known from the early 2000’s, and I got to know Palma Corral and Gary Wiseman. I volunteered there for a while, and brought Emily Counts’ work in to represent Golden Rule in the In(ter)Dependence exhibit. Now I hit Gabe up every so often when I have a performance I want to workshop—like the I Know You Are But What Am I sand painting performances—and, in turn, Gabe hits me up when he wants to show my work, like with the 1751 Easy Street: For Sale By Owner piece.
What’s your experience been like working with PLACE?
I will always take any opportunity I can to show under Gabe Flores’ direction. He can be a challenge to collaborate with, or to work for, but in my experience, he’s a pleasure to work under. He’s very strategic. He’s incredibly hardworking. He’s a great person to workshop ideas with because of his truly un-evaluative “What if . . .” approach to brainstorming. Brainstorming in its purest sense is about striving for quantity over quality—more is more—and withholding judgment until everything’s out on the table. A lot of people just can’t do it. Gabe can. I go straight to Gabe for help if I’m ever feeling stumped by an aesthetic challenge or a conceptual dilemma. Perhaps most importantly, producing work under Gabe is a no-holds-barred kind of experience. In other words, once he trusts you and he trusts your vision, you can literally do anything you want. There’s no curatorial meddling. He gives you total and complete freedom of expression, and a lot of space to explore that freedom with. That’s a luxury only a few emerging- to mid-level artists get. You usually have to pay your dues for a long time to get to a place where you can do whatever you want with art. I’m really grateful for that. I just wish more people came out to the mall, and that the mall galleries received more coverage from the press.
Talking about past present future what inspired you to do the installation “For Sale By Owner: 1751 Easy St.” and what is its destined path?
Starting with the present and the future, 1751 Easy Street: For Sale By Owner, the 1/2-sized model of my childhood home showing through November 27th at Place, is currently framed, covered in lath, and bordered in a 600-square foot sod lawn with marble walkways and patios. After it comes down at the mall, I’m planning to burn it down at an off-site performance. We have secured a 48-acre property in Estacada for this event, but I’d kind of like to shop it around a little bit so we can burn it somewhere more centrally located, more publicly accessible. Wishful thinking has my presumptuous little fingers crossed that I might be invited to burn it down at TBA in 2012. Regardless, the event will be called 1751 Easy Street: Control Burn. It will involve a memorial service/life celebration for the house. There’ll be some eulogies, a slide show of the house’s life, perhaps a dance number, maybe even a dance party, and a lighting of the fire to the tune of Janet Jackson’s Got ‘till It’s Gone—a 90’s classic which topped charts the year I moved away from home—with samples from Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi.
You can watch a video here:
Regarding its inception, in a less conceptual, more chronological sense, 1751 Easy Street: For Sale By Owner is inspired by loss. It is my response to a series of unfortunate events in and around my childhood home. Metaphorically, the losses began with losing my sense of safety in that house, through the abuse and neglect I experienced. As a result, I lost my ability to feel at home within myself. More literally, it is a response to losing my mother to mental illness, prematurely poor health, and substance abuse. It’s about losing the house I was supposed to inherit. It’s also about losing the faith I always had in my grandparents’ word, or losing the idea that if nothing else, I could always count on them to follow through on a commitment. Lastly, it’s about losing the former childhood friend who purchased the house from my grandparents, who promised me I could always return home for my memory work or artwork, only to later deny me access to the house.
Conceptually, the house is about memory, transparency and transformation. It was constructed in the absence of actual blueprints or concrete measurements. We did it from spatial and experiential memory, photos, and documents, not unlike the way we create our own imperfect memories of the past. The transparency component is embodied within the piece, literally, through the light that passes through the 3/8” spaces between the rows of lath, and via the absence of a covered roof or windows. Metaphorically, there is transparency in the documentation of the project, in interviews like these, and in the vulnerability I share in my efforts to merge the conceptual with the personal. The power of transformation, for me, is always in making something out of nothing, turning things that are dark, scary, ugly—like the real 1751 Easy Street—into things that are light, safe, beautiful—like the installation—so that balance and neutrality is restored. It is a way of using the transformation of physical space as a visual representation of transformations underway in psychological space. It’s a way of transforming the sadness, disappointment, anger, jealousy, and confusion of what happened with this house into a kind of peace.
What do you expect it will lead to personally?
I think I’ve hinted at this above, but I hope building 1751 Easy Street and burning it down will lead me to a place of peace and closure. So far, I’ve already found satisfaction in knowing that my house was taken from me, so I built my own. That’s the more childish middle finger in the air, tongue out, side of me. The more mature side of me is just really pleased about how the house—totally 100% unintentionally—turned out as a 3D representation of my black and white 2D paintings. In process and product, my paintings evoke tranquility in me. I also like that it looks like a sauna. I love saunas.
I have quite a bit of attachment to the house, and find myself sitting the fence on whether to burn it down or set it up in my back yard. A part of me wants to keep it as a giant trophy, or to sell it to someone as a kid’s playhouse to recoup the cost of building it. But I need to burn it. I want to burn it for my mother, for reasons I’d prefer not to elaborate on here. But I really need to burn it for myself. Sending it up in smoke, it’s kind of like the ritual of burning of the letters, photos, and other ephemera of a painful past relationship. Burning it down is accepting it, letting it go. It’s moving on, forgiving, if not forgetting.
Where do you see it leading you professionally?
Professionally, I am looking forward to what spins off of this project, in terms of continuing to explore the materials and concepts I began to work with on 1751 Easy Street. I am very much a materials-based artist. Everything I work with has some kind of metaphorical conceptual connection to the finished product. So, to that point I guess I’m just appreciative of all the materials-based doors this project has opened up for me.
I also hope that completing an installation of this scale will help me get a grant next time around, or if it were to put me on the radar of some other galleries. It would be nice to explore other venues besides the mall. In particular, I have a painting/installation show, Colonial Interiors, waiting to find a home. It needs a long rectangular room with at least three walls, ideally four. I want to paint the gallery walls as if they are colonial home and then hang my large-scale paintings of colonial interiors on the walls. I want to create an entire environment calling attention to the tension between the calmness and dis-ease in my paintings. I want to do something where the audience is immersed within my skewed black and white perspective on life. That’s not really something I can do inside the mall.
Where would you like to be 2 years from now?
Maybe this is more in the 10-year-plan, but ideally, I want to be far away from city life. In other words, New York is not calling me. I’d like to be living in a sleepy little beach town, like Wheeler or Giribaldi, with my dog Daisy, a warm fire, my art supplies, and some quality companionship. I’d still come back to Portland every-other-week for appointments, groceries, dance class, therapy, and for a dose of city life, but there’s something about the ocean that grounds me. When I was younger I wrote a poem with a line about the sea being “where the air steals craze from canines” and I think the same holds true for me. I’m easily overwhelmed, and prone to sidetracking. I want to minimize distractions and maximize peacefulness by the sea. I’m also drawn to the South, where I was conceived, but where I have never been. Detroit sounds good, too. Who knows where I’ll be geographically, but wherever I am, I hope I’ll be learning to love me more.
How can the Portland creative community communicate even more effectively with each other?
By learning to love you more. But no, really, the Learning to Love You More project that Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher started had such a wonderful though not-fully-realized community-building component to it. I would love it if someone in Portland would re-envision that project as even more of an open forum, where not only the creators/founders/directors of the project got to make the assignments, and anyone could. The power differential there kind of irritated me, but regardless, the outcomes of Learning to Love You More were wonderful. Great art making ideas, great art.
For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, go here:
I’d love to see how the sharing and comparing possibilities of a project like that might open up doors for the Portland creative community to more effectively communicate, create, curate, and to explore our conceptual, theoretical and materials-based choices, and to have fun making work. More signals from our towers of brass would be great.
Thanks again for doing this.