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Artist Jaik Faulk Returns To Portland With 'Back At The Crawdaddy'

Jaik Faulk’s latest show at Nationale, “Back at the Crawdaddy,” explores what it means to leave one home and return to another.

Oregon’s transplant population continues to grow as our state attracts makers, doers and creative types from all over the country. Leave it to artist Jaik Faulk, then, to buck the trend.

After studying art at Portland State University and spending 10 years in Portland, Faulk earned his MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute. He returned to his hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana after graduation to be closer to his family, leaving the Portland art community behind.

But now Faulk is back in the Rose City – at least for a little while.

In December, the painter accepted a month-long residency at FalseFront Studio in NE Portland to explore what it means to move from one home to another. The works he produced during those 30 days are now on display at southeast Portland’s Nationale, in an exhibition entitled Back at the Crawdaddy.

The name of Faulk’s exhibition works on two levels.

For one, it comes from a Keith Richards quote: “And the Crawdaddy [a club where the Rolling Stones performed] is where I realised that Mick could actually work a stage about the size of a rug better than anybody in the world.”

The concept of working in a confined space inspires Faulk.

“On so many levels — as an artist — I feel that this idea is peppered with admirable goals,” he says. “I constantly think about it.”

And the word “crawdaddy” also speaks to Faulk’s identity as a Louisianan in Oregon.

“It irks me, which is a good thing,” he says. Though “crawdaddy” is a term used frequently in the Northwest to describe crawfish, Faulk claims no Southerner would be caught dead uttering it.

During his residency at FalseFront, Faulk hosted weekly open studio hours and conversations with local artists. Inspired by 18th-century salons and portrait studios, he invited members from his old circle of influence to comment on and inspire his work.

“New Orleans has a rich history of itinerant portrait painters who traveled through the city on horseback painting portraits for common folk — limners they’re called,” he says. “They were usually self-taught and made up a huge portion of the portraits you come across in New Orleans and the South. I had this very loose idea that in some way I was going to have a similar experience to what these artists may have had in my residency at FalseFront.”

For Faulk, collaboration is as much a part of painting as canvas or brushes, and working with old friends allowed him to do just that. “Subject matter in these conversations ranged from ‘the void’ to ‘the resourcefulness of rural folk,’ ” he says of the depth and breadth of the experience. “It was quite a trip.”

Although a 30-day residency with a gallery show at the end of it is a tall order, Faulk is used to working quickly. For Back at the Crawdaddy, he produced around 20 paintings, nine of which are on view. His subjects range from still life to “minimalism done [intentionally] badly.” With each piece, Faulk hopes to upend audience expectations through his use of space, paint and a restrained abstract style. With a color palette inspired by the culture of Lafayette — rich purples and greens contrasted with light pinks and blues — the paintings on display represent both his reunion with the Pacific Northwest and his Southern Bayou roots.

One of the reasons Faulk decided to return to his hometown of Lafayette was the isolation it offered. Unlike Los Angeles or New York or even Portland — whose art scene Faulk describes as “still fun, but packing a new punch” — Lafayette boasts few art galleries or opportunities to collaborate. This gives him a chance to be re-inspired by the tangible artifacts of his youth, like mixtapes and books. With that comes heightened improvisation and an appreciation for the analog: Faulk finds his inspiration in the pages of books and magazines, but never online because, as he puts it, “you can’t crumple the Internet.”

Though he loves his life in Lafayette, Faulk has also enjoyed being back in Portland for a while.

“Returning to Portland was a no-brainer,” he says. “I missed my art family here. I was excited to see how healthy the art scene is — there are plenty of new folks doing interesting things and old faves continuing to push. Across the board Portland is doing well. I am proud to be from this community.”

“Back at the Crawdaddy” is on view at Nationale through February 9.

Editor’s Note - January 9, 2015: A previous version of this article quoted Jaik Faulk as saying his subjects range from still life to “futurism done [intentionally] badly.” The quote has been corrected to read “minimalism done [intentionally] badly.” 

Jaik Faulk Back at the Crawdaddy painter