From now through May 19th, our Library is featuring Relief – ten thematically-intertwined prints by Nickolas Hurlbut, Rachel McLain, and Hazel Glass, curated by Claire Bassett. These three artists are also select participants in our 2017 Pacific Northwest Photography Viewing Drawers. Hurlbut and Glass are based here in Portland, while McLain is based in Eugene, Oregon.

In keeping with our Library exhibition tradition, we wish to consider our current theme and convey its thread through our featured prints. Relief: reassurance and relaxation following release from anxiety; alleviation of pain or discomfort; a temporary break from tension. Amidst tremendous political tension in the States, we wonder whether moments of relief soothe our spirit, and refocus our mind.

 Nickolas Hurlbut. Spell (left) and Cleanse (right). 8 x 8 inches each, cyanotypes on watercolor paper, 2016.

Take the prints of Nickolas Hurlbut, for example, whose Cleanse, Lush, Spell, and Willow showcase softness and beauty in men. His subjects offer gentle gestures, harmonious with natural landscapes or rooms inside one’s home. According to Hurlbut, “femininity and masculinity [are] in one form, in each human.” Gentle and powerful is not a dichotomy, but a truer understanding of what it means to be human, irrespective of gender. With emphasis on masculinity, though, Hurlbut’s cyanotypes on watercolor paper allow repressed qualities, namely vulnerability and sensitivity, to reemerge. His prints legitimize feeling.

Rachel McLain. Flutter (left) and Pointed (right). 16 x 20 inches each, photography on plates, 2016.

Similarly yet distinctly, Rachel McLain’s three Untitled photographs offer “relief” through acute sensitivity to nature’s detail and organic structure. McLain, like Hurlbut, finds beauty in what is natural, but also emphasizes transformation: “I use minimal post-processing because I want to show what really existed in that moment …. [dew]drops are tenuous, light is right for only a short time, flowers droop and die, or become seeds.” The inevitable is prefigured with grace and maturity. Moreover, there is comfort in remembering what is delicate is not fragile; what is subtle and often overlooked is strong.

Hazel Glass. Salted 1 (left) and Salted 4 (right). 11 x 14 inches each, fine art digital prints, 2016.

Turning to Hazel Glass’ Salted 1, Salted 4, and Salted 5, we see larger organic structures – salt pools in the middle of a Mexican desert – haunting with everyday grace and enchanting with otherworldly contrast. Glass’ “shining lens eye” is ready for magic: playful shadows and reflections; beauty in unexpected places; the full spectrum of ambient light. These moments sing to her and to us. We feel the possibility of wonder without escapism and attention without force. May we value the gentler parts of ourselves, reflected within nature and our bodies in continual abundance.

Please note: All prints on our Library wall – and in our Viewing Drawers – are for sale, purchasable at our Front Desk.

Written by Claire Elizabeth Bassett.