Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Managed Retreat by Dawn Stetzel

Cascade Paragon Arts Gallery

(promotional image description) image of five people carrying a large quilt in a desert near the mountains

Dawn Stetzel, Communal Moving Blanket, 2023

  • Exhibition dates: March 7, 2024 – April 13, 2024
  • Opening event: Thursday, March 7, 5-8pm
  • Gallery hours:
    • Wednesdays – Fridays, 12-7pm, Saturdays, 12-5pm
    • 24/7 view at 815 N. Killingsworth, Portland, OR 97217
  • All events are free and open to the public.

Managed Retreat, in reference to the moving and relocating of people, infrastructure, and communities in response to climate change, is a large-scale sculptural exhibition by Washington coast artist Dawn Stetzel.

Many of the sculptures in this exhibition imply movement, odd contraptions of sorts that include wheels, skis, floats or backpack portability and are used to physically navigate a landscape as well as allude to a conceptual pathway or trajectory. The work struggles with seeking moments of survival within a dysfunctional system, on the move, searching out, opportunistic existence. Dawn uses a tinge of the ridiculous to create barely functioning pieces. The sculptures embrace the aesthetics of resourcefulness, moments of repair and adaptability, while conceptually striving towards a resilience in which to navigate the climate crisis that connects us all yet widens the disparity gap.

Sculptures such as Climate Watch Chair and Fire Coveralls tackle the despair in dealing with a universal crisis, but hope remains in creating objects that adapt to this new world. Influenced by climate activists like Jake Bittle, Stetzel points out the disparity that continues to expand the more inaction takes place. Speaking from a personal point of view, Stetzel writes:

“There is something fragile and fleeting in making my deep pain visible to the public. I use the demarcated pavement of this fire zone to create a space in which to speak of impending doom, a protective place to allow my hopelessness and fear to emerge, to become tangible in my body for a brief moment. There is tenderness in this work for me, but it might also read as a tad humorous, ridiculous, playful in an unexplainable way. This nods towards a dysfunction which also seems appropriate as we humans continue our climate collapse pathway.”

About the artist

Dawn Stetzel is a United States artist currently residing on the Long Beach Peninsula, on the southern coast of Washington. Her performative sculptures interact with environments in the margins, where humans and nature rub together leaving a sometimes-messy residue. Currently, Dawn is exploring what makes people want to take part in treks, feats of endurance for activism, and action-spurring change through what seems ridiculous, unimaginable or impossible. Her work reflects on thoughts of maintaining a sense of drive through political and environmental doom.

Stetzel holds a Master of Fine Arts from the College of Visual and Performing Arts at The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. She has exhibited nationally and internationally through multiple solo exhibitions, public art commissions, and group exhibitions which include Grounds for Sculpture, Disjecta and the Portland Biennial, among others. Her work is included in permanent public collections at The City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, and the Shiwan Ceramic Museum in the Guangdong Province of China. Stetzel’s work has been printed in multiple publications, and has lectured in the United States, China and Brazil.

About Paragon Arts Gallery

Paragon Arts Gallery is an educational showcase committed to exhibiting work of high artistic quality. Our versatile gallery is located at 815 North Killingsworth, at PCC’s Cascade Campus. Mindful of our role as a member of the Humboldt community, we are especially committed to engaging community members in our space.