The Center for Contemporary Art & Culture Presents a Symposium on the Occasion of Potency of Process

September 29, 2016

Featuring Ellen Dissanayake in conversation

September 27, 2016

Contact: Lisa Radon,

The Center for Contemporary Art & Culture Presents a Symposium on the Occasion of Potency of Process: Moving Through Breast Cancer
Featuring Ellen Dissanayake in conversation

Portland, OR—September 27, 2016— On the occasion of the exhibition Potency of Process: Moving Through Breast Cancer, the Center for Contemporary Art & Culture at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) presents a one-day symposium bringing together artists, medical experts, academics, and community partners for a series of interdisciplinary conversations around art and healing, the body in trauma, and breast cancer. Free and open to the public, the symposium takes place Saturday October 8, 2016 from 1–5pm.

Presentations and roundtable discussions will feature speakers from a variety of disciplines including Dr. Arpana Naik of OHSU, Professor Anita Helle of Oregon State University, as well as representatives from The American Cancer Society, and Susan G. Komen. The keynote presentation will be given by renowned scholar Ellen Dissanayake, who will be in conversation with writer and artist Sonja Dahl.

The exhibition Potency of Process: Moving Through Breast Cancer brings together the work of two Pacific Northwest artists who have independently developed bodies of work to address the issue of the human body in trauma. Both survivors of breast cancer, Martha Banyas and Deborah Horrell created series that helped them express the experience of coming to terms with their diagnoses, journeys through treatment, and roads to recovery. Banyas and Horrell utilize enamel and glass, favor additive processes, and employ narrative techniques, to explore the role and the power that art and craft have in healing. The exhibition is on view through October 22, 2016.


1:30pm: Presentations from Community Partners

3:00pm: Ellen Dissanayake in conversation with Sonja Dahl

Ellen Dissanayake is not an artist herself, but a scholar who writes about artmaking as a universal characteristic found in all cultures and as a normal, natural, and necessary component of our evolved nature as humans. Similarly to Banyas, Horrell, and Sonja Dahl, her approach has been profoundly influenced by her life in non-Western countries—in her case, Sri Lanka, where she lived from 1968-1982, and between 1982-84 in Papua New Guinea. Since 1991 she has presented over a hundred invited lectures to audiences in Europe, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Russia, and Bangladesh, as well as the United States and Canada — including art and music educators, art and music therapists, evolutionary biologists, developmental psychologists, archaeologists, neuroscientists, and—in November 2016—architects and designers. Her books, What is Art For?, Homo Aestheticus (translated into Chinese and Korean), and Art and Intimacy are all published by the University of Washington Press (Seattle), where Dissanayake is an Affiliate Professor in the School of Music at UW.

Anita Helle is a Professor of English at Oregon State University and affiliate faculty in Medical Humanities at Oregon State. Her research focuses on narrative in breast cancer memoir. Most recently (2014) she co-edited a special issue of Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature on the role of narrative, theory, and memory in breast cancer narrative.

Dr. Arpana Naik earned her bachelor’s degree at Yale University and completed her medical school training at New York University School of Medicine, followed by a surgical residency at New York University. She has completed a surgical oncology fellowship at the surgery branch of the National Cancer Institute and a breast surgical oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Her research interests include sentinel node biopsy, multidisciplinary trials, and surgical outcomes research in the area of breast cancer and breast disease. She also has a special clinical interest in oncoplastic breast surgery, skin-sparing mastectomy, and nipple-sparing mastectomy.

Sonja Dahl is an artist, writer, and independent scholar based in Oakland, CA. She draws from a textiles background in her artwork, and in her scholarship delves into the cultural, economic, historic, and metaphoric aspects of how textiles and textile processes live within and reflect the values of human societies. Her current project looks critically at two seemingly disparate histories of indigo dye in the United States - the colonial era of plantations and slavery, and the contemporary trending of indigo among artists, botanists and growers, DIY makers, and popular culture. Sonja’s work also often takes her to Indonesia, where she began research in 2012 with support from the Fulbright Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council. Her projects there span topics from the significance of intangible culture in Indonesian textiles, to the importance of nongkrong (an Indonesian word for non-goal-oriented hanging out) in sustaining mutually supportive relationships in the contemporary arts. Sonja holds an MFA degree with Fiber emphasis from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. She has exhibited her artwork nationally and internationally, and published in the following journals: Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, Surface Design, Dilettante, Carets and Sticks Contemporary Arts, and forthcoming in PARSE Journal. Her work can be viewed at

Martha Banyas is a longtime Portland resident, artist, educator, and dealer of ethnographic arts, who has been working in enamels for over 40 years. She is widely known in Portland for her former gallery Apa Ini, which featured textiles, artifacts, and art from Southeast Asia and central Europe. During her extensive travels to SE Asia and Turkey, her work evolved in many directions including mask-making, life-size puppet design, jewelry, and small-scale sculpture. In 2005 she returned to studio enamel and metal work full time. Her work has been exhibited nationally including shows at Craft Alliance, St Louis, MO, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, Mobilia Gallery, Boston, MA, American Craft Museum, NY, Jamison/Thomas Gallery, Portland, OR, Greenwood Gallery, Washington D.C., Contemporary Crafts Gallery, Portland OR, and internationally at Germany, and Japan.

Deborah Horrell has a studio-based practice in which she manifests her ideas into forms as a means to process, contemplate, and acknowledge the experiences of life. Horrell received her MFA from the University of Washington in 1979. After working as a ceramist for many years, Horrell participated in the Pilchuck Glass School's visiting artist program in 1994. A residency at the Bullseye Factory followed in 1996, permanently changing the trajectory of her career. The artist has shown her work, both ceramic and glass, in museums and galleries throughout the country, including Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, OR, Museum of Northwest Art, La Conner, WA, Elliott Brown Gallery, Seattle, WA, Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Louisville, KY, Racine Art Museum, Racine, WI, Heller Gallery, NY, American Crafts Museum, NY, and internationally in Korea, Italy, and Australia.

About the Center for Contemporary Art & Culture
The Center for Contemporary Art & Culture is a platform for cultural production including exhibition, lecture, performance, and publication. Housed within Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), the Center throws open its doors to the greater public to foster conversation and community.

About Pacific Northwest College of Art
As Oregon’s premiere college of art and design since 1909, PNCA has helped shape the region’s visual arts landscape for more than a century. Today PNCA is a dynamic platform for 21st century art and design education at its new campus in the heart of downtown Portland. PNCA offers a BFA program with ten majors, six graduate programs within the Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies, and a Post-Baccalaureate program.