Environmental Rebirth and Human Interaction through the Photography of Stan Raucher and Adam Ottavi


The two drawer photographers whose work is on display this week, Stan Raucher and Adam Ottavi, explore human interaction and rebirth in the natural world: Raucher creates scenes focusing on human connections, while Ottavi’s work explores the rebirth of Mother Earth, juxtaposing burnt wood, surrounded by the still living and thriving forest in the background.


Stan Raucher has spent most of his life traveling and photographing the people who reside in different areas around the world. In this particular work, Raucher seeks to point his viewer towards the natural human conditions and the interactions one has with their surroundings. Stan writes in his statement “An expressive gesture, a telling glance, a concealed mood or hidden emotion may suddenly materialize and then vanish in a split-second. Such ephemeral events are often overlooked or quickly forgotten. My photographs capture these fleeting moments as evocative, richly-layered images that invite the viewer to generate their own personal narratives.”



Raucher’s portraits of people in their homes and on the streets of their cities signify his effortless approach to make these images intimate and personal. This approach is seen in almost all of Raucher’s work in different areas of the world. Raucher explains, “At a time when fewer of the images that we see on a routine basis are honest representations of real life, my candid photography opens a window to the world that actually surrounds us here and now.”


Photographer Adam Ottavi works primarily in wet plate collodion, an historic photographic process. Beyond his wonderful portraiture, Ottavi has found a passion for photographing burned forests and wildfire ruins. These wet plates have been created in collaboration with the American poet Kevin Goodan, and the two artists are currently working on a book of this project that is to be published in 2016. With Ottavi currently living in Alaska, it’s no surprise that he has put his focus in this project, surrounded by mountains, never ending wildlife and trees. The smoky and abstract effect produced by the wet plate process only strengthens Ottavi’s intent of photographing the burnt and dying forest after a fire. The emulsion appears as though it’s melting off the side, bubbling and brewing to make abstract marks across the plate.

- Kory Jean Kingsley

Blue Sky seeks Executive Director


Blue Sky is currently seeking the ideal candidate for a new Executive Director. Read the job announcement below, or download it here. Please note the deadline for applications: 5:00 PST on Monday, October 5, 2015.



Title:                    Executive Director

Status:                 Regular, full-time, exempt position

Starting Salary:    $60,000 – 70,000 DOE, plus benefits

About Blue Sky 

Blue Sky, founded in 1975, is a nonprofit gallery dedicated to the presentation of excellence in international contemporary photography whose mission is “to educate the public about photography through exhibitions and publications; to further the careers and artistic development of the artists shown; to create a dialogue among artists and between artists and the public; and to leave a concrete permanent record of their work through print and digital publications.”

With an ambitious schedule of 24-26 solo exhibitions annually and regular artist talks, Blue Sky operates from a 3,700-square-foot venue on Portland’s North Park Blocks in the historic DeSoto Building. All Blue Sky exhibitions and public programs remain free of admission charge, and artists have never been required to pay a submission fee to be considered for a show. Annual visitorship to Blue Sky’s galleries has risen to 25,000, including between 800 and 1,200 at each monthly First Thursday Opening Reception.

In addition to three full-time paid staff, Blue Sky enjoys the dedication and hard work of a large corps of passionate volunteers who contribute to all areas of operations. Specifically, exhibitions are curated by an all-volunteer Exhibition Committee, in keeping with the democratic, participatory, and members-based origins of the organization. With the strong involvement of artists, photographers, and other members of the community serving on the Board of Directors and Exhibition Committee, Blue Sky strives to remain inclusive and joyful in sincere pursuit of its mission.

The Position

We’re seeking an Executive Director who combines a passion for the arts with the business skills necessary to keep Blue Sky sustainable and growing. It is important to know that this is a management and leadership position rather than a curatorial one. The successful candidate must have a high level of initiative, must seek out and seize opportunity, be resourceful and an action-oriented doer, achieving results with limited resources. You must also be tech savvy and have experience and interest in working with IT professionals as we reach out to find new ways of connecting to and interacting with audiences around the globe. If you have these and the following skills and characteristics, this might be the job of a lifetime for you.

  • A proven leader with at least 3–5 years of professional experience, preferably in the arts, at least some in the nonprofit world, and increasing levels of responsibility,
  • Significant successful development experience in creating fundraising plans, writing grants, and making individual donor solicitations,
  • An energized presence keen to find new ways of sharing photography with the world,
  • A solid fiscal background with the ability to read financial statements as well as develop and adhere to annual budgets,
  • Ability to work with staff and Board to ensure that Blue Sky has a long-range strategy which achieves its mission, and toward which it makes consistent and timely progress,
  • A collaborative and supportive leader with a proven ability to mentor staff, and coordinate and inspire volunteers, and board members to achieve clear goals,
  • Ability to work with a diverse group of long-time volunteers,
  • Superb oral and written communication skills with the ability to market and sell ideas, promote photography, and attract potential donors,
  • An exceptional time manager who enjoys the challenge of coordinating the hundreds of disparate tasks necessary to run an organization like Blue Sky,
  • A great sense of humor, preferably irreverent, and joyfulness in your work,
  • Undaunted by the necessity for creative solutions.

How We Define Success

The successful next Executive Director for Blue Sky will:

  • Keep Blue Sky fiscally sound by raising additional revenue
  • Mentor and support staff to learn new skills, experience creative opportunities, and expand their capacity to contribute to Blue Sky and the world,
  • Implement new programmatic initiatives—both in gallery, in print, and online—as guided by Blue Sky’s current strategic plan,
  • Broaden, diversify and expand Blue Sky’s audience base and build organizational visibility,
  • Maintain a robust roster of exceptional exhibitions,
  • Continue providing a meaningful gallery experience for visitors,
  • Strive to insure Blue Sky programs are beneficial to artists.

To Apply

Please submit a detailed and compelling letter showing your passion and fit for the mission and skills outlined for this position at Blue Sky Gallery Also tell us how you heard about this position, explain why you think you should be the next Executive Director, and include a complete chronological resume, as well as the names and contact information of four references to: with “Executive Director” in the title by 5:00 PM (PST) on Monday, October 5, 2015 (Blue Sky’s 40th birthday).

Interwoven Opposites

Visual and Thematic Layers in the Photography of Larry Larsen and Frank Lavelle

The two drawers photographers whose work is on display this week, Larry Larsen and Frank Lavelle, explore collisions and contradictions: Larsen creates scenes focused on the interplay of light and color, in which opposites interact and collapse, while Lavelle’s work explores more thematic contradictions between modernity and tradition in an Irish pilgrimage.

Dahlias, Pike Place Market, 2014

In his recent series, Larry Larsen’s images exist somewhere between film noir and a convenience store freezer aisle, with a color scheme reminiscent of painter Edward Hopper. Larsen writes: “I am interested in the painterly quality of light, color, and gesture that evokes a sense of mystery in the mundane moments of life. All of my work is captured on the scene with available light.” One image, “Dahlias, Pike Place Market,” from 2014, shows a bouquet of flowers, with the entire frame obscured by a plastic wrapping beginning to peel at one corner. Aside from making the flowers appear aged or even dead, encased like a carcass, the plastic residue calls attention to the physicality of the photograph, alluding to the emulsion of the film itself and mimicking the peeling edges of a polaroid transfer.

Flaneur, 2013

Another picture, “Flaneur,” from 2013, offers an urban street scene, in which a man in a wide brimmed hat faces the passing cars and pedestrians. The title alludes to the idea of the voyeur/spectator, made popular by Charles Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin: the flaneur observes the comings and goings of urban life, later channeling his musings into an artistic outlet. Baudelaire writes in The Painter of Modern Life: “the lover of universal life enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electrical energy. Or we might liken him to a mirror as vast as the crowd itself; or to a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness.” The observer in the hat, then, serves as a stand-in for the artist, as the title alludes doubly to the figure within the frame and behind the camera. All of Larsen’s images have this flaneur-like quality, a curious attention to light, movement, and color, which contributes to the creation of an image not unlike artist James Turrell’s light sculptures, both kaleidoscopic and painterly.

Frank Lavelle’s monochromatic 2014 series diverts from the saturated colors of Larsen’s work, documenting the Reek Sunday annual pilgrimage, during which thousands of pilgrims climb Ireland’s 2,000-foot holy mountain, Croagh Patrick. The project playfully vacillates between portraits of devoted pilgrims in traditional, modest robes, making the journey barefoot and with wooden walking sticks, to teenagers and businessmen in modern clothing taking selfies at the summit. The series pictures these two worlds colliding with one another, modernity and antiquity stumbling side by side up the ravine.

Reek Sunday 10, 2014

The series opening and the closing images, “Reek Sunday 1” and “Reek Sunday 10,” together exhibit this phenomena beautifully. The first shows a religious icon on a stone pedestal, his blinding white figure juxtaposed with the darkening sky. The figure offers forth a clover with an outstretched hand; below this symbol of spiritual purity a sign reads “donations for oratory on summit.” Like the collisions between modernity and the distant past, this image suggests the prevalence of consumer culture within organized religion, the commodification of what was once spiritual and holy. However, the images avoid nostalgia or judgment, instead seeing humor in these contradictions, notably with these two images side by side. “Reek Sunday 10” shows a pilgrim taking a selfie, his position echoing that of the statue, with an outstretched arm offering a cellphone rather than a clover, his dark form contrasting with the pale white sky. The series examines religious iconography and saintliness, picturing a modern spirituality in which technology and antiquity comingle; both pilgrims toting walking sticks and selfie sticks ascend the holy mountain together.

Monochrome and Color Landscape in the work of Brian Kosoff and Jenni Kowal

The Drawers photographers whose work is on display this week, Brian Kosoff and Jenni Kowal, both portray landscape, but in vastly different manners. Kosoff’s large-format nightscapes explore the uncanny nature of rural scenery, while Jenni Kowal’s color-saturated mountain scenes depict natural cycles, both monumental and slight.

Barn (2012)

Brian Kosoff offers us vacant cemeteries under the moonlight, streetlights at the ends of empty roads, and anthropomorphic tree branches. The series conveys a similar mood to Andrew Wyeth’s paintings, scenes all at once pensive and vaguely menacing. The star trails created by the use of a long exposure do not swoop parabolically through the sky, instead catapulting catastrophically towards earth in diagonal streaks. Kosoff describes the series, writing: “at night, with the skies now transparent, we are truly outside and at the whims of nature, [we realize] that we are just fragile passengers on a small, spinning ball in the middle of nowhere.”

Bonneville (2012)

The photographs explore the uncanny nature of these country landscapes shrouded in darkness–a setting once pastoral has shifted towards the fantastic realm of a Chris Van Allsburg or Stephen King story, in which residents of a nowhere town question the appearance of unexplained crop circles. One of the images, “Bonneville” from 2012, looks unmistakably extraterrestrial, as the cracked white surface of the salt flats mimics the terrain of planetary craters. The richness of detail and the use of long exposures gives the land in many of the photographs a distinctly tactile quality, with the softly blurred grass in juxtaposition with the explosive and dynamic sky above.

The Lights Over Kantishna (2013)

In her series Alaska: Above and Below, Jenni Kowal also depicts landscapes, differing from Kosoff in her use of vibrant color. Against the backdrop of Alaska’s Denali National Park, Kowal explores shifts in perspective; shot from below, the mountains appear limitless and towering, from above, textured and intimate, like folds of cloth. She articulates this, writing “I feel safe in the mountains because I am powerless beneath them; from above I can see their secrets.” One photograph, “The Lights over Kantishna” from 2013, alludes to Van Gogh’s iconic “Starry Night,” the eery swirls of the Northern lights mark the sky like impressionist brush strokes. As small pictures beg closer viewing in order to discern their details, the darkness of this piece demands that the viewer move closer, creating a squinty intimacy with the photograph.

The School and the Shadow (2013)

In “The School and the Shadow,” also from 2013, shadows of unseen trees line a wooden wall. This deviates from the majestic tone of the rest of the series; it is simple and quotidian, a meditation on light and shadow. Kowal creates a grid of pattern and texture with the seemingly accidental elegance of a found sculpture. The work as a whole depicts different types of vicissitude: monumental shifts, like the slow crumble of mountains, are treated with the same careful reverence as seasonal variations and the even smaller cycles of light and shadow across a wall.

Kowal’s images pay tribute to the grandiose Alaskan scenery, while Kosoff explores the strange mystery of rural nightscapes; both artists depict different states of harmony and tension in natural realms, at times emphasizing juxtaposition, and at others showing graceful interaction between the elements.

Modern Landscape

Urban and Western Scenes in the Work of Ann Kendellen and John Kane

This week, I decided to divert from the model of past weeks’ blog posts: rather than examining the two Drawers photographers in conjunction with one another, through the lens of their commonalities, I examine them both separately. This has allowed me to delve into their distinct themes and concerns, without limiting my discoveries to the qualities they share.

Portland, Oregon (2011)

Baltimore, Maryland (2014)

Portland photographer Ann Kendellen documents small-scale urban streetscapes, creating intricate forms out of graffiti, murals, detritus, dumpsters, and tree branches. Likening the layers of residue to prehistoric cave paintings, Kendellen writes that “cities offer their walls as a modern canvas…compressing the details inside the frame is a way of creating a second view, a reflection on the complex relationships within the jumble of the street.” Her work creates a detailed record of the city’s residents and the imprints they leave behind, both planned and accidental. Kendellen distills a kind of order from chaos, grafting real and imagined objects together through shape and form. For instance, in “Portland, Oregon,” from 2011, a painted tree trunk from a public mural merges with a dumpster resting against the side of the building. Tags and miscellaneous graffiti mark the scene, uniting high and low art in a visual palimpsest: a streetcar labeled “desire” reaches the end of its tracks beside a tag that simply proclaims ‘TITS.’ In a second image, “Baltimore, Maryland” from 2014, Kendellen challenges perceptions of artificiality. The image shows a familiar scene of an apartment building, bordered by a mound of garbage; however, upon closer inspection, the setting reveals itself to be almost entirely fabricated, as the windows, trees, and open white gate are painted on, and only the trash and overgrown sidewalk are three-dimensional. This leads to questions of artistic ‘creation’: if a photograph is largely made up of a painting, does it serve as its own work of art? This recalls the work of Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto (specifically, his dioramas) which picture scenes from inside the Museum of Natural History. The images illuminate the nature of photography as a collector’s art, as a photographer ‘takes’ rather than ‘makes’ an image, uniting fragments of real objects into the mutant form of the frame. Kendellen’s images exhibit these postmodern tendencies, collapsing boundaries between the real and the artificial, crafting forms from urban leftovers with joyous curiosity.

Ranch Below the Caprock, New Mexico

God Bless, Texas (2014)

In Ranchlands, photographer John Kane documents the modern American West, alluding to the grand, sweeping landscapes of Ansel Adams and his predecessors, including Western land surveyors like Timothy O’Sullivan. The wide horizons, leading lines, and cloudscapes reference these forefathers of landscape photography, but the technological structures show a departure from those pre-industrial scenes: the formerly sublime hills are bordered with barbed wire, the monochromatic grayscale has been replaced with intensely saturated, unnatural reds and blues. As Adams’ images served a political purpose, furthering his conservationist agenda and spurring the designation of Kings Canyon as a national park, Kane’s work, in part, suggests the environmental toll of ranching. In “Ranch Below the Caprock, New Mexico,” from 2014, cows nurse on a dusty, irrigated river, the saturated red hues giving it a blood-like quality, like the aftermath of a biblical sacrifice. However, this imagery has more expansive possibilities than simply admonishing violence on nature: Kane writes of his work that “ranching is the occupation and way of life most central to the mythology of the West, and to many of its realities as well. It is intimately and inseparably tied to the Western landscape.” Kane’s images, by showing the vital nature of ranching, complicate and ground the familiar Western landscape imagery of the past. The immense beauty of Adams’ photographs forced a sacrifice of honesty and nuance, as the fallacy of emptiness, with its implications of colonial ideals, has its own adverse political effects. Kane’s work conveys the modern Western landscape as multifaceted, as beautiful and unnerving, inhabited yet vacant. He both probes and admires the patriotism that these Western landscapes inspire through a tainted and strange red, white, and blue color scheme.

-Molly Walls