High and Low Art Auction features student art for cheap

Over the past week, the Autzen Gallery, on the second floor of Neuberger Hall, has been slowly filling. Like riffraff washed ashore from a bountiful ocean, hundreds of pieces of art line the walls and lay on the floor.

The confines of the gallery seem to either hold the collection of an eclectic art fanatic or the creations from a prolific and highly talented artist. From paintings, sculptures and handmade jewelry to prints, scrolls and hand-bound journals, the pieces wait, ready for their big night.

That night is tonight, when they will all be moved to their main stage and into the spotlight in the Smith Center Ballroom, where they will be auctioned off during a party of free food, free beer and live music.

The third annual High and Low Art Auction and Gala begins at 5:30 p.m. and will feature art that spans every imaginable subject: chickens, cowboys, power lines, the moon, martinis, Humpty Dumpty, the human nervous system and much, much more. And that includes lots of art of naked people.

The event is free but the art isn’t; it’s just plain cheap.

“Get good art cheap,” said Cliff Bodell, a painting and sculpting senior, who helped to organize the auction. Last year’s auction raised over $12,000.

“From $5 to a few thousand,” said Jeremy Hart, a senior in printmaking, “I think it’ll go the whole gamut.”

Hart, who had a large part in organizing the event, oversees the auction’s two raffles.

For $10, a ticket can put the buyer in the running for one of three pieces by Portland State faculty, Horia Boboia, Elizabeth Stanek or Rita J. Robillard.

The $5 raffle gives half of what it raises towards student scholarships and puts the other half in the raffle pot. Each raffle ticket is hand painted by an art student at Portland State and will be on sale in the ballroom.

As for the auction, all the pieces, over 200 works, will be up for grabs, either through a silent auction or a live auction, overseen by a professional auctioneer.

The event has been completely planned and organized by students, a first for the auction, and all of its proceeds go directly to fund art student scholarships.

The story began last spring when art professor Susan Harlan, who had a hand in organizing the previous auctions, approached Portland State’s Drawing Club. The group, which counts art majors, math majors and just about every other kind among its members, was wary to take on such a large project.

“When [Harlan] first approached us, I was like, ‘No way!'” said Michael Endo, a painting senior. “Was it going to be a positive experience or were we going to be gophers for the department?”

Endo, who eventually became one of six students running the auction along with Hart and Bodell, ended up being in charge of acquisitions. He has collected art from the famous to the not-so-famous. There are pieces from successful Portland artists Marie Watt, Mark Smith and Laura Ross-Paul to many of Portland State’s own artists, whether they are graduate students, undergrads or faculty.

“It’s high-quality art,” Hart said, whose tousled hair and high energy revealed the work that has gone in to the occasion. Over this last week, any one of the six students could have been found carrying an arm’s full of tickets, looking to unload a few, or sitting in the Autzen, cataloging art, or in the art department’s woodshop, building frames to display the pieces in.

“They’ve put in more hours than are really countable,” said Eleanor Erskine, a professor in the art department who helped the group greatly. “They’re doing an amazing job.”

The art is catalogued, the auctioneer is hired and the auction is on its way to success. All the auction needs now is for the community to come out.

“We’re going to have a lot of beer,” said Susan Agre-Kippenham, chair of the art department. “We’re well ahead on beer donations.”