“When you enter a room, you have to kiss his ring. I don’t mind, but he has it in his back pocket.” —Don Rickles on Frank Sinatra
There’s a new critical gun in town. His name is Dobson and he’s not kissing anybody’s ring. With both guns blazing, this caustic “conservative artist in a liberal world” takes on the Portland art world, saying things one might think but is too polite to say (and many things one might think only perhaps when hell freezes over). Dobson, refreshingly and maddeningly, is not too polite to say, well anything.
I was first introduced to Tanner Dobson at PNCA’s MFA showcase in 2009. I was struck, at the time, by how much he resembles Portland artist Sean Joseph Patrick Carney. In his stand up routine at Milepost 5 for the Manor of Art, Dobson was the Don Rickles of the insider Portland arts world, skewering friend and foe alike.
More recently Dobson has taken to the keyboard with his eponymous blog. Like the “Merchant of Venom,” Dobson may come off like a son-of-a-bitch, but as my dad used to say about a local pol (after FDR on some dictator-or-other), “He may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he’s our son-of-a-bitch.” He takes the stance that Portland artists are soft (he used more…anatomic words to convey this), not having the audacity to call one another out. One gets the sense that beneath all of Dobson’s shit-talking (literally, Dobson’s musings are riddled with references to body parts, bodily functions, and he cusses like a sailor), there is a man who wants more from art in Portland and is asking for it. Wading through his retina-scorching prose one is struck by the fact that there’s some astute observation and criticism going on, and that Dobson may in fact be closer in spirit to Upton Sinclair than Rickles.
Welcome to the party, Mr. Dobson.