Note: Performance canceled; see below.

Performance artist Karen Finley opens the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s (PICA) 1996/97 Performance series with three shows at the Aladdin Theater, May 9 and 10*. In her first Portland appearance, Ms. Finley presents The American Chestnut, her first solo performance piece since 1990, when she and three other artists became embroiled in a controversy over NEA funding. Tickets for Karen Finley are $16 ($14 for PICA members) and are available by calling PICA at 503/242-1419. All shows begin at 8 p.m.

Karen Finley is an artist who uses the mediums of theater, performance, literature, installation, and visual art to aggressively address her subject matter which ranges from the social to the political to the personal. More often than not, she examines the oppressive attitudes directed at the abject (usually female) body. A recent recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, she has also received grants from ArtMatters, Inc. and the New York State Council of the Arts, and was granted an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute. In 1990, her piece entitled We Keep Our Victims Ready was singled out by conservative columnists Evans and Novak in an article which eventually led to the denial of her NEA Fellowship, and the “NEA Four” censorship controversy. Widely acclaimed as one of today’s most compelling artists, Ms. Finley has received two “Bessie” Awards, has toured extensively in the US and abroad, has exhibited in museums and contemporary art public spaces, has written two books, and has been recorded on several narrative and musical CDs.

In her piece entitled The American Chestnut (which had its world premiere at American Repertory Theater), Finley has crafted a series of multi-media vignettes metaphorically linked to the plight of the American Chestnut tree. Plagued with a disease that will kill the tree before it can mature, the American Chestnut never gives up in trying to overcome its predicament. Finley uses this metaphor to take aim at contemporary American culture’s “pursuit of unattainable domesticity.” From Betty Crocker to Martha Stewart, Winnie the Pooh and a host of other characters, Finley takes audiences through an emotional tableaux of fables and obstacles that are at once thought-provoking, poignant, and political, the sum of which results in a deafening wake-up call.

Book signing at Powell’s on Hawthorne, Tuesday, October 22nd, 7:30 PM, for her book Living It Up

*The original press release does not appear in archival materials, with the oldest preserved one having been edited by Kathy Budas for the rescheduled performance before additional language about the cancellation was added for clarification. While we realize this is confusing, the language here has been preserved to show the closest approximation to what Budas first used to publicize this performance.

Cancellation note from PICA’s 1996 newsletter

As you may know, Karen Finley was forced to cancel her October appearance in Portland due to illness. We are trying to reschedule her for May [1997]. Announcements will be sent to everyone informing them of the new date.