Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

MEET THE ARTISTS: James Halvorson & Mercedes Orozco January 23, 2013

Welcome to the 5th Annual Fertile Ground Festival of New Work!  Over the next few weeks we’ll be profiling various participant artists on the blog in an interview series where you can get a sneak peek at the origins of their projects and get to know them as artists. 

photo IMG_4720

Left: Installation by James Halvorson.  Right: Installation by Mercedes Orozco.


Site-Specific Art Installations by the Artists of Milepost 5

Part of Ripen: A Feast of New Works at Milepost 5
Dates & Times: January 4 – February 23
Tickets: Free

As part of the city-wide Fertile Ground festival, nine resident artists present Ripen, a suite of interactive, site specific installations distributed throughout the Milepost 5 campus.  Beginning on the first Friday in January, visitors are invited to view and interact with three and four-dimensional installation art inspired by the common theme of “Ripen.”  In exploring this theme, Milepost 5′s exhibition itself will evolve and “ripen” over the course of January and February. The initial opening will feature installations by nine artists from the Milepost 5 community. Following their debut, other artists will be invited to participate and “comment” by adding works to the campus that act in dialogue with the original pieces.  Ripen features new work by Nikolos Ayres, Odir Chavez, Will Elder, Sally Girand, James Halvorson, Nada Katz, Maryrose Larkin, Mercedes Orozco-Barreiro, and Sarah Wood.

Meet James Halvorson & Mercedes Orozco

Profile 2012

James Halvorson works in acrylic mixed media on paper and linen. His studio practice, Visual Progressions, is located at Milepost Five in Portland, OR. His subject matter is intended to get at the idea of how our collective agreement on truth is formed and how that is reconciled on individual terms. To this end, Halvorson’s compositions combine abstraction, text and image, figures are a personification of the human condition, various cultural heritages are interwoven, and real objects are represented in unfamiliar settings to play with the change in its meaning. James grew up on the High Plains region of North America. Raised in the western Dakotas, he received his BFA in painting from the University of South Dakota in 1998. Halvorson established the annual tradition of the Stillwell Refuse Student Show that runs concurrently with the Wilbur Stillwell Juried DSC_0107_2Student Exhibition. He received a senior scholarship the following year. Earning his masters degree in accounting at the University of Montana in 2005, he audited nonprofit organizations. In 2008, he established an indie art gallery and soon pooled resources with young creative leaders to incorporate a nonprofit arts center in Missoula, MT.


Mercedes Orozco was born and raised in Mexico City. She completed high school in San Diego, CA and obtained her Bachelor’s in Visual Arts in Guadalajara, Mexico. She recently moved to Portland to begin multiple different projects, including a Master’s in Contemporary Art, as well as small business fantasies of the crafty kind. Her work usually employs the use of photography and illustration and most often explores the idea of the ‘self’.  Humorously, and often in the form of self-portrait, the artist enjoys pushing pre-established boundaries as well as addressing the subtly destructive behaviors of the human condition.


1. An Artist in My Field I Have a Giant Artist Crush On Is . . .
Miranda July
Miranda July

2.  A Work That Has Shaped My Artistic Voice Is . . .
Gift for Apollo by Robert Rauschenberg (1959)
Most of Liliana Porter’s work

3. When I’m Not Creating Art You Can Often Find Me . . .
Hiking the higher elevations.
Worrying about not creating enough art.

4. Five Songs On My Writing/Painting/Creating Playlist Are . . . 
“Modern Art” by the Poster Children
“Windy” by Page France
“Slow Slow Tune” by My Morning Jacket
“The Piano is not Firewood Yet” by Regina Spektor
“That’s What’s Up” by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

“Jelly Bones” by the Unicorns
“I was Born a Unicorn” by the Unicorns
“Tuff Ghost” by the Unicorns
“Sea Ghost” by the Unicorns
“Early in the Morning” by Peter, Paul and Mary

5. A Portland Artist/Creative/Arts Organization I’d Love To Work With Is . . .
Museum of Contemporary Craft
I don’t know very many, but I’m always interested in any type of collaboration.

6. I Am Terrified Of . . .
Reliving my 20’s over and over and over and over again and again.
Butterflies.  (Yes, I know.)

7. I Am Obsessed With . . .
Amphorae. In my 20’s it was chairs, but now it’s amphorae. Just say it . . .
Letting go.

8. The Book Currently On My Nightstand Is . . .
The Tao of Travel: Tales of Enlightenment from the Road
Ayn Rand’s Virtue of Selfishness

9. Three Adjectives That Describe This Work Are . . .
Spontaneous, Expansive, Ringing
Humorous, Minimalistic, Playful

10. In the Indie Art-House Biographical Film Of My Life, I Should Be Played By . . .
Willem Defoe


1) Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival work.

 The idea is to think of ripe as a virtue of readiness. Usually referring to ripe when describing a person or away of thinking implies “mushy” or too late for use. I this visually demonstrates a condition of mental ripeness that talks about readiness to be active, quick, and seizing opportunity. The progression of color at the connections will suggest the time process of becoming ready to act, to implement. To experience.

The piece sits quietly suspended from the ceiling across various hallways in the building. It sits there waiting for the next distracted onlooker, hoping to appear before their eyes, just moments before causing an accident. Otherwise, it insists you walk around it as it will not budge; not for you, not for me, perhaps only for the wind which your trace agitates.

2) How did this work come about?  What inspired it?

I found this material that I just had to work with because of its tactile properties. I used braided, 1” wide ribbon webbing to make something large, resembling a synapse, or neurological-network. I tied these ropes in “t” and “y” shapes to connect them to each other. At every intersection, I wrapped the knot with yarn using colors that progress from green to yellow, to light orange, bright orange, to red, to maroon, to a dark / high chroma blue. Throughout February I will use the gallery lighting to extend the visual metaphor of growth and connection in paint and shadow, so stay tuned and visit often to watch me work in the gallery!

Inspired by the need to be in the way.

3) Talk about your creative process.  (How do you work?  When do you work?  What gets you inspired?)

I usually let inspiration simmer, I live with them for a while and at some point a  subconscious decision gets made and I’m implementing the idea or finishing a work. I work for 5 or 6 hour blocks of time and then just then just study it for a few weeks. It usually leads me into some subject of research.

It usually starts with a feeling; a want for something, a need to say whatever it is that feeling is. Add a dash of confusion, three pinches of boundary intrusion, and lots of love!


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