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Throughout her new exhibition, "As Easy as Falling off a Log," Vanessa Renwick fixates on wood and sex, pairing her interests in the great outdoors with the bedroom, so to speak.
While the connection between these two ideas isn't entirely seamless, the Portland-based artist is drawn to the combustive potential in both and argues her case through a focused braiding of signifiers in the work on display.
In a suite of landscape photographs, for example, her camera lustily eyes the forking branches of trees as if they were the limbs of human bodies. By contrast, in "Flat as a Board (Knot)," 2010, she mounts a dried piece of fir with two knots and a sprig of pine needles on the wall, comically sketching the sexualized portions of a woman's body.
The show's centerpiece, created in collaboration with local design collective Von Tundra and musician Sam Coomes, is "Full on Log Jam," 2010, an installation that offers viewers a chance to cozily nestle on a pair of body-length cushions amid a cord of chopped wood and gaze, supine, at one of the artist's videos, which is projected upward onto the ceiling.
The video, which includes shots of a woodcutter's chopping and roving zooms of spindly branches, invites comparison between the long, sinewy forms of the living trees and the neatly cloven, aromatic logs that surround.
In the gallery, which Renwick has darkened with heavy curtains over the windows, the piece stands as an offering of quiet comfort to visitors, an opportunity to luxuriate in pseudo-nature within the cultivated airs of a gallery.
- John Motley
Vanessa Renwick: "As Easy as Falling off a Log"; PDX Contemporary Art, 925 N.W. Flanders St., 503-222-0063; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tues