On a beautiful early evening in Northwest Portland, with the emergence of what I will call “Sports Bra Season” (You know, those first legit summer days when the sports bras start to finally surface after collecting dust in the closet during the relentless onslaught of rain and cold. It’s my version of the first signs of summer. On this day, flocks of sun-hungry post-work 9-5ers were comically jogging from block-to-block and stopping at every intersection in NW, strutting like peacocks when they weren’t impeded by traffic.), we witnessed the collection of work at Gallery 114 this past First Thursday. It was the opening night for Alana DiCicco‘s show Keep Portland.

From briefly speaking with her and observing her paintings, I find a genuine pathos and care for her pieces. She is meticulous in her craft, conscious of each fold and crease in the cloth that she is replicating, weary of every reflection on the glass of a beer bottle.

DiCicco says it is not about the subject, but rather, the process of observing the detail that is there; the light, the shadow, the material, and the texture. But I disagree, it’s not just about the technique and process. It’s clearly about an appreciation she has for her subjects; her family, her friends, the city where she resides and works. That pride and love is reflected in the work. It’s no wonder the best piece, in my humble opinion, is the one of her husband, Dan DiCicco. It’s the most complete painting (I forgot to ask her when she feels she is finished with a piece. When does she know a piece is complete and that she should stop?). If I had a single gripe about the collection, it would be that she could display more consistency with her level of rigor; rigor that is clearly displayed in the piece of her husband. But we’re splitting hairs, it’s all fine work.

The Portland art scene, if there is one, needs practitioners like her. I think it sorely needs an edge, it needs discipline and dedication. The amateurish underground Lowbrow art that litter and hang upon the walls of the Goodfoot Lounge, the occasional arrival of collections such as the Seuss stuff, the stuffy ultra-conservative galleries in Pearl, Upper Playground‘s Fifty24PDX Gallery are not enough to make or sustain a “scene”. But there is something brewing in the city of Portland that might be substantial and we’ll see if DiCicco can further contribute and supply an edge from her future realist offerings. “Edginess, tension and grit” might be a topic that is neither here nor there, but I’m confident that she can supply a focus and purity that is somewhat lacking in P-Town; she can at least be one of the voices. DiCicco displays a level of pride and earnestness that is admirable.

I have always been weary of the ethos of “Keep Portland Weird“. It’s a blanket gimmick to me. I’m not down with being weird for the sake of weird. You don’t need to be weird to be interesting. Any hipster can be weird. So maybe let’s not keep Portland weird but maybe just…keep Portland.

(edited interview below, images and gallery at end, click to enlarge)




TONY TRINH: So, Alana, I watched your video (at header) prior to this. You brought up this whole issue, this topic of technique. Can you just elaborate upon that? Besides just perfecting your hand, there’s this issue of observing, you have to have a good eye for photorealism and depicting your subject or source.

ALANA DICICCO: For me, painting is…there’s technique, there’s art and there’s craft. I don’t know if those are subsections of each other or if they’re all different genres but, for me, the subsection of art that I’m interested in is the craft of art that goes along with technique. I mean, any photorealist or any realist, which is probably what I would characterize myself, is a craftsman or craftswoman because you can’t paint like that without it being about the craft. And so, to me, that’s the most exciting part about art and there’s a lot of different areas of art that’s exciting but that’s what my work reflects for me.

TRINH: How do you represent yourself in…is there an issue of style within this representation? Like, how do you introduce your style or personal attitude within that process of technique and craft and capturing these subjects.

DICICCO: I think, in some ways, the subjects are secondary. Which is maybe an unusual thing to say about art but, for me, to be able to represent something accurately is the subject. So if I’m painting the shadow or the reflections on a bottle of beer or a bottle of wine or a glass, then it’s the reflections that are the subject to me. It’s not the overall piece, it’s the little pieces, it’s all the things together.

TRINH: So you’re approaching it from a very technical standpoint?

DICICCO: Exactly, I think so. I believe in “art as art” also but, to me, being a craftswoman is being an artist. There’s no distinction for me.

TRINH: But at the end of the day it’s still an artistic endeavor and there’s always this thing where you act as a filter to project these kind of images in your hand, with your eye and your perspective.

DICICCO: Absolutely, the end result is always the art. It’s always to create something beautiful. And even if the image isn’t beautiful, even if it was an image of blood or something that was not beautiful, it’s still the fact that it is crafted by hand with the pigment and the arabic and the medium. To me, that makes it art and that’s the beauty of it.

TRINH: So the art is within the detail.

DICICCO: Exactly, the craft is the art and is result of…

TRINH: The process.

DICICCO: Exactly.

TRINH: Why “Keep Portland”?

DICICCO: Well, I live in Portland, I socialize in Portland, I do everything in Portland. I make love, I work, I paint in Portland and to me there’s an essence of a renaissance in Portland. And I want to be a part of that renaissance and so when I use the term “Keep Portland” as the title of the show, what I mean is I want to keep this renaissance going and I want to be a figure in it, I want to be a part of it and it’s really important to my work.

TRINH: I like that because you bring up this whole issue of craft and there’s this attempt to manufacture this artisan flair and this sense of craftsmanship within this town and that’s really cool. Thank you, Alana.

DICICCO: Thank you.


Alana DiCicco Thread