PORT TOWNSEND — You don’t have to wonder what Remedios Rapoport is trying to say in her art.
“Peace is possible.” “Fear Less.” “Everybody over there: Get into it!”
While we’re into it, “Help a neighbor.” “Love Mother Earth.” And “Smile more.”
These are among Rapoport’s gentler — less overtly political — art signs. A longtime resident of Portland, Ore., she’s up and brought her art and herself to Port Townsend, and is ready to find her own studio space here.
A convergence of fortunate events has made her feel welcome.
First, the Centrum foundation chose Rapoport for its artist-in-residence program at Fort Worden State Park. Then her kinetic sculpture created years ago, “The Gentle Revolution,” was chosen for the new Think Big show at the Northwind Arts Center downtown. The Port Townsend School of the Arts, also at Fort Worden (https://ptschoolofthearts.org/), invited her to teach classes.
“In two weeks my whole life has changed,” said Rapoport, who turns 52 this year.
She’s getting to know people in the arts community, and is eager to engage with, well, everybody.
On her open-studio day at Fort Worden State Park on May 26, the painter displayed the 9-foot-tall “Gentle Revolution,” plus a carnival of signs and sculptures.
Another of her three-dimensional works has a mosaic mirror ball in the center, surrounded by the words “Try to see,” “Become” and “Yourself.” Then there’s a triptych of signs announcing “Compassion,” “Love” and “Humilidad,” Spanish for humility. A sky-blue sign proclaims a prescription: “Acro-Thinking … Strong & Flexible Minds for Healthy Solutions to Bend Around the Problems of Today.”
Lest you suspect Rapoport deals only in fuzzy platitudes, she lists some of those problems on the Acro-Thinking sign:
YES! These Minds Can
• Reduce and Control Military Madness
• Clean-up Corporate and Political Criminals
• Stop Invasion of Your Privacy by Big Brother & B. Biz.
The open-studio day is done, but down at the Northwind center, “The Gentle Revolution” is the piece directly before you as you walk in the door. On wires slim and strong, classic Rapoport signs turn.
“Fear less,” one reads. “Vote.” “Now is the time to make democracy real.” “Just give me some truth! now,” attributed to John Lennon.
Afloat above it all are a black cloud, a white cloud and a rainbow.
Those aren’t just any clouds, observed Les Schmick, a fellow artist at the Northwind center. They’re thunderheads, he said — fitting symbols for change, which is what Rapoport is about.
Seated amongst her loud, colorful signs and paintings, the artist marveled at the way things have unfolded since she arrived for her May residency.
“There’s a whole new sign-painting movement going on. People are enthusiastic about learning” the art form, added Rapoport, a sign maker for four decades now.
Working for clients, living in the rapidly morphing city of Portland and raising a son could be considered plenty for one woman. But Rapoport, a graduate of Portland’s Pacific Northwest College of Art, is fiercely disciplined about her fine-art work. A muralist, painter and sculptor, she has shown her creations in galleries from Seattle to Los Angeles to Buenos Aires.
As a companion to the “Revolution” mobile, Rapoport penned “The Gentle Revolution Manifesto,” a 10-sentence call for action that begins with “People, inspiring people, to get involved, with positive change.”
Printed on 4-by-5-inch sheets of paper, the manifesto is available at the Northwind Arts Center on a table below the “Revolution” mobile.
Michael D’Alessandro, executive director of the center, chose to remark not on the work’s political content, but on its beauty.
“The signage is exquisite,” he said, adding that the mobile reminds him of a circus calliope.
Rapoport’s work is ringed by other responses to the “Think Big” idea: freestanding sculptures, large-scale dreamscapes and “Shadowladder,” an acrylic and mixed-media piece by Kim Kopp of Port Townsend. It’s winner of the show’s top Juror’s Choice award while Rapoport landed a merit award.
“Think Big” fills Northwind’s front gallery through July 1. Admission to the center, at 701 Water St., is free; its hours are 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day except Tuesday.
Rapoport, meantime, has a new painting series going: “Sacred Earth/Holy Water,” with the wild thickets of the Olympic National Forest as her inspiration.
This place “is a sacred refuge for me,” she said, “as I continue this journey to speak out with my art.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.