Blue Sky Opens Call for 2019 Curatorial Prize Submissions
 Shikeith,  Nobody Knows My Name , 2017, from the 2018 Curatorial Prize exhibition  Ultra Vivid Dreaming  curated by Ashley Stull Meyers

Shikeith, Nobody Knows My Name, 2017, from the 2018 Curatorial Prize exhibition Ultra Vivid Dreaming curated by Ashley Stull Meyers

Call opens: August 9, 2018
Call closes: September 17, 2018           
Decisions announced: November 2, 2018
Exhibition held: May 2–June 2, 2019

This second annual Curatorial Prize provides an opportunity for curators to present an exhibition of photo-based work, along with related programming and publications at one of the nation’s most highly regarded photography galleries. The program seeks exhibitions of 2–5 artists who use photography in traditional or experimental ways. Video/film are welcome. Our inaugural Curatorial Prize winner was curator Ashley Stull Meyer’s exhibition Ultra Vivid Dreaming.

Blue Sky Gallery’s ambitious exhibition schedule does naturally limit the extent of work possible (we only have 1–2 days for installation and 1 day for de-install). Within those parameters, we commonly hang shows of approximately 20–30 images, generally either framed or hung with magnets. If your work is installation based, or is otherwise rigorous to install, please be sure to directly address a manageable approach to installation/de-installation within our fast-paced schedule.

 Scope of Work

  • Solicit and select 2–5 artists for a May 2019 exhibition, working with Blue Sky’s Exhibition Manager to confirm artists, contracts, etc.

  • In collaboration with Blue Sky staff, oversee exhibition planning, shipping of work, and coordination of artists’ schedules for events. Artist schedules and events will be finalized 3 months in advance of the exhibition.

  • Write about the artists’ work/your vision for various venues including:  an exhibition catalog, press release, and the Blue Sky blog.

  • Present a talk about the artists’ work/your vision at Blue Sky to the public during the opening weekend of the exhibition (or at another mutually agreed upon time, decided 3 months in advance of the exhibition). Attend the opening night if possible.

  • Align with the mission and goals of Blue Sky Gallery while bringing a unique curatorial vision to the Gallery.

  • Prepare exhibition models and sketches as required.

Qualifications

  • Awareness of contemporary photography issues, practices, and artists.

  • Ability to work responsively and collaboratively with Blue Sky staff.

  • Ability to organize and communicate messages effectively through writing and public presentation to different audiences.

  • Ability to manage an exhibition, stay within budget, and meet deadlines.

Financial Considerations

Curatorial stipend is $750. An additional total pool of up to $4,000 for artist stipends, travel/housing (artists and curator), honorariums for writing, printing, and shipping will be available. Blue Sky will work with selected curator to establish budget for programs and publications and all budget allocations are subject to Blue Sky approval, in keeping with our normal fees for other exhibitions. Blue Sky can provide black frames for photography at no cost if the photos are of a standard size. Other alternatives to framing include magnets or mirror clips.

Submission Requirements

Proposals are due to Blue Sky Gallery by September 17, 2018. Please submit to exhibitions@blueskygallery.org, and be sure to put the write “CURATORIAL PRIZE” in the subject line. Applications will be reviewed and a curator chosen by Blue Sky’s staff and Exhibition Committee. Applications should include the following documents merged into a single PDF:

  1. Curatorial statement and vision for the Curatorial Prize, including estimated costs.

  2. Professional resume/CV, including a link to your website if applicable.

  3. Examples of past curatorial work, including images and critical reviews.

  4. Samples of work the artists you have chosen for your exhibition (and/or links to the websites of the work selected).

  5. A writing sample of previous curatorial statements or published writing.

Note:  The Exhibition Committee reviews proposals projected onto a screen; keep this in mind when formatting examples of past curatorial work. The preferred format for viewing images in a PDF is with one image per page on a black background with no borders. All images should be free of watermarks. Please be sure that the total size of your emailed file does not exceed 25MB. For videos, please include a link to view video(s) online in your PDF.

For questions, please email exhibitions@blueskygallery.org. Please note that Blue Sky is unable to give feedback on your application or the application process.

For more information about Blue Sky Gallery, please see www.blueskygallery.org.

Blue Sky
Call for Entries: Curatorial Prize at Blue Sky Gallery

Call opens:                                               November 10, 2017 Call closes:                                               December 27, 2017 (extended from December 8th)

Decisions announced:                      late January 2018

Exhibition held:                                    May 3 – June 3, 2018

Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, OR is seeking proposals for a Curatorial Prize for a one-month long photography exhibition in May 2018.

Founded in 1975, Blue Sky's mission is to educate the public about photography through exhibitions, publications, and dialogue; and to further the careers and artistic development of the artists shown. Our main programming focuses on an ambitious exhibition schedule of 22 -24 photography shows each year in Blue Sky’s two galleries. Exhibitions represent a wide variety of work from local, national, and international photographers.

Our newly established Curatorial Prize provides an opportunity for curators to present an exhibition of photo-based work, along with related programming and publications at one of the nation’s most highly regarded photography galleries. The program seeks exhibitions of 2- 5 artists who use photography in traditional or experimental ways. Video/film are welcome.

Blue Sky Gallery’s ambitious exhibition schedule does naturally limit the extent of work possible (we only have 1 -2 days for installation and 1 day for de-install). Within those parameters, we commonly hang shows of approximately 20 – 30 images, generally either framed or hung with magnets. If your work is installation based, or is otherwise rigorous to install, please be sure to directly address a manageable approach to installation/de-installation within our fast-paced schedule.

Scope of Work

  • Solicit and select 2-5 artists for a May 2018 exhibition, working with Blue Sky’s Exhibition Manager to confirm artists, contracts, etc.
  • In collaboration with Blue Sky staff, oversee exhibition planning, shipping of work, and coordination of artists’ schedules for events. Artist schedules and events will be finalized 3 months in advance of the exhibition.
  • Write about the artists’ work/your vision for various venues including:  an exhibition catalog, press release, and the Blue Sky blog.
  • Present a talk about the artists’ work/your vision at Blue Sky to the public during the opening weekend of the exhibition (or at another mutually agreed upon time, decided 3 months in advance of the exhibition). Attend the opening night if possible.
  • Align with the mission and goals of Blue Sky Gallery while bringing a unique curatorial vision to the Gallery.
  • Prepare exhibition models and sketches as required.

Qualifications

  • Awareness of contemporary photography issues, practices, and artists.
  • Ability to work responsively and collaboratively with Blue Sky staff.
  • Ability to organize and communicate messages effectively through writing and public presentation to different audiences.
  • Ability to manage an exhibition, stay within budget, and meet deadlines.

Financial Considerations

Curatorial stipend is $750. An additional total pool of up to $4,000 for artist stipends, travel/housing (artists and curator), honorariums for writing, printing, and shipping will be available. Blue Sky will work with selected curator to establish budget for programs and publications. Blue Sky can provide black frames for photography at no cost if the photos are of a standard size. Other alternates to framing include magnets or mirror clips.

 SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS

Proposals are due to Blue Sky Gallery by December 8, 2017. Please submit to exhibitions@blueskygallery.org, and be sure to put the phrase “CURATORIAL PRIZE” in the subject line. Applications will be reviewed and a curator chosen by Blue Sky’s staff and Exhibition Committee. Applications should include the following documents merged into a single PDF:

  1. Curatorial statement and vision for the Curatorial Prize, including estimated costs.
  2. Professional resume/CV, including a link to your website if applicable.
  3. Examples of past curatorial work, including images and critical reviews.
  4. Samples of work the artists you have chosen for your exhibition (and/or links to the websites of the work selected).
  5. A writing sample of previous curatorial statements or published writing.

Note:  The Exhibition Committee reviews proposals projected onto a screen; keep this in mind when formatting examples of past curatorial work. The preferred format for viewing images in a PDF is with one image per page on a black background with no borders. All images should be free of watermarks. Please be sure that the total size of your emailed file does not exceed 25MB. For videos, please include a link to view video(s) online in your PDF.

For questions, please email exhibitions@blueskygallery.org. Please note that Blue Sky is unable to give feedback on your application or the application process.

For more information about Blue Sky Gallery, please see www.blueskygallery.org.

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TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE ART
Eclipse © Adam Ekberg
Eclipse © Adam Ekberg

You are invited to share a once-in-a-lifetime experience with Blue Sky: Join us for a viewing party of the 2017 TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE (well...TOTALLY 99.3% ECLIPSED IN PORTLAND) on the DeSoto rooftop terrace!

Monday, August 219am-12pm

What to expect:

  • A light breakfast, coffee and orange juice
  • Eclipse viewing with safe viewing glasses provided by Blue Sky
  • a fun photobooth!
  • a unique view of Downtown Portland
  • an exclusive tour of The Eclipse Show

Please join us for this Blue Sky fundraiser, and celebration of the Solar Eclipse!

Tickets are $30 and can be purchased

HERE

After the event, please join us in the gallery to enjoy the August exhibitions:

Kris Sanford, "Through the Lens of Desire" and

The Eclipse Show, curated by Blue Sky co-founder and photographer Christopher Rauschenberg. The exhibition will feature over 100 artists in honor of the total eclipse of the sun in Oregon on August 21, 2017. In addition to the gallery exhibition, Blue Sky is pleased to collaborate with student photographers from Young Musicians & Artists (http://www.ymainc.org/) to feature the work of 19 young photographers working with the theme of “eclipse” in our Library Gallery.

[Event cover image: detail shot of Eclipse © Adam Ekberg, part of the Eclipse Show on view in August in the Blue Sky galleries]

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Ima Mfon in Conversation with Dr. Derrais Carter

To provide a more in-depth look at our June exhibition, Ima Mfon's "Nigerian Identity," Portland writer and scholar Derrais Carter recently interviewed artist Ima Mfon about the series, which is currently on view at Blue Sky through July 2, 2017. Nigerian Identity: Untitled 17

Nigerian Identity: Untitled 17, 2015 © Ima Mfon. Courtesy of Rick Wester Fine Art, New York.

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Derrais Carter: In your artist statement, you describe yourself as more than “just black.” How do you see that showing up in your work?

Ima Mfon: When I say “more than just black” I mean that being from Nigeria, I’m used to thinking about tribes, not race. In Nigeria, no one is really going to ask you about your ethnicity because we are all black. People are going to ask “what’s your tribe?” or “Are you Yoruba?” or “Are you Igbo?”

But, when you step outside of Nigeria, in America for instance, people don’t even ask you if you’re Nigerian. They just see you as African. And, even just seeing a black person as African is still kind of specific in American terms because you can also still generalize and be like “oh, the black guy.”

In America we tend to see things in terms of color. There’s black guys, white guys, Asian guys, Mexican guys. That’s kind of what I mean when I say I’m more than just black. There are so many levels to being black. I’m African, I’m Nigerian, ¼ Yoruba, ¼ Efik, ¼ Cameroonian, ¼ Ghanaian.

It shows up in my work through me talking about the things that I want to talk about, the things that are important to me. I think that a lot of people exploring African identity are going in certain directions, for instance they are going home to shoot landscapes or textiles and fabrics. What makes me “me” is what’s on the inside. I’m a very emotional person and I think that’s why my work is the way it is. I try to examine people and look at them, engage them…as people. I look into their eyes to see them and not simply reflect cultural things you might want to associate with them. I ask, “Who is this person?”

DC: I’m glad you say that. Since the homogenous cultural narrative we impose on African people often prevents us from seeing African people’s interior lives in meaningful ways, do you see yourself trying to create a space for intimacy in your work? If so, could you talk about the cultural work of black intimacy?

IM: To be honest, a lot of times I just go with how I feel. I’m not consciously trying to promote black intimacy or start a movement around that. I think I’m just saying, “this is me” and “this is how I see things.” As an artist, you do have the responsibility to delve deeper, to explore more. So maybe that’s something I can learn from a professor like you. You know, it would be great to read about people who have explored similar themes, but to be honest, I haven’t analyzed it to that level.

DC: I was also wondering about your use of the white background. I believe in your artist statement you say that the white background allows you to remove context from your black subjects. But, could you talk about how black skin brings context into the picture? You know what I mean?

IM: Yeah. You know, there’s only so much you can say in an artist statement, so you have to pick a cohesive thread, especially when you’re not there to clarify. The white background represents a lot of things. In the image, there’s white space with a black person occupying that white space. In a lot of ways, that’s me. That’s a lot of black people. I started my career in corporate America and a lot of times I would feel like a blot of black in a sea of white. So that was something that I wanted to figure out how to convey. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a place, just acting normal and having a good time. Then, all of a sudden, it dawns on me that I’m the only black person in the place.

I darken the skin in my work for two different reasons. One reason is that when you are a black person living in an all-black context, like Nigeria, you’re not conscious of your skin color. But when I’m in America, I begin to feel very conscious about my blackness. I feel more black. I don’t know if that makes any sense. You hear people talk about having to modulate their blackness, especially in the workplace. Even at parties. I think the idea of being so self-conscious of one’s skin color is something I wanted to convey.

Another reason is that I love black skin. I think that black skin is extremely beautiful and I wanted to portray that.

DC: Looking at your work made me think about Kerry James Marshall’s paintings in his Mastery exhibition at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Are there artists who have taken up black skin in their work that inform your practice?

IM: I haven’t been exposed to Kerry James Marshall’s paintings, but there’s a photographer called Valérie Belin. She’s done a lot of typology. I also like Jean-Paul Goude. Both Belin and Goude are photographers whose images are nice and clean to me. But there was something a little bit too objectifying in their work. I wanted to shoot black skin, but I didn’t want it to become a fetish. I didn’t want it to be objectifying people. I wanted some level of pride and dignity.

Richard Avedon in probably one of my biggest photographic inspirations. For one, he always shot with a white background and he was good a conveying emotion. He could do anything with anyone. Whenever he shot someone, he could give you a glimpse into their soul. And that is something that I strive for in my photography. There’s also the Nigerian photographer J. D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere. He does a typology of women’s hairstyles. He shot hundreds of Nigerian women’s hairstyles. He’s one of my favorites. When you look at my work, you might see some similarities. He shot his subjects from the back to emphasize the hairstyles, but I shoot the front to highlight the person.

DC: Could you say a bit about emotion in your work? I like the stark contrast you create between the white background and your rendering of black skin. That contrast, for me, creates an opportunity for viewers to think about the nuances of black expression. Were there particular emotions that you wanted your subjects to convey or did you leave it up to them?

IM: I pretty much left it up to the subject. I told them what I was doing and what the project was about. I shared a few experiences with them and we shared stories for a bit so that they would be comfortable. Then I would take their pictures.

For the most part I would tell people “whatever you want to express, try to do it through your eyes.” I didn’t want people laughing or crying. I didn’t want extreme emotion. But whatever emotion they chose, I wanted them to convey it with their eyes. That was the direction I gave. Beyond that, it was all about what they felt.

DC: As somebody who is historically-minded and often works in archives, I’m wondering if you kept records of your interactions with each subject, even in the form of a cache of written material related to these interactions that won’t ever be published with the photographs? Or did you just meet your subjects, have them sit for you, and part ways?

IM: I think there’s a mix of both. For people who I already know well (roughly 40% of the people in the pictures) the documentation process was less formal. They are my friends and relatives. For the people I was just getting to know, I conducted interviews with a voice recorder to learn more about them. I don’t know that the material will be published, though. I don’t think I’m organized enough to publish it the way I want to, but I thought it would be nice to do a book with stories and thoughts related to the project.

DC: I’m really struck by your comment about wanting your subjects to communicate through their eyes. What do you want that communication to do for your viewers?

IM: I don’t want to say confrontation, because that’s not the right word. But, when it comes to the black experience, there is always something that is left unsaid. In a way, these portraits are all self-portraits of me. A lot of them reflect my experience. There are a lot of ways that we respond to situations. I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I know a lot of people, including me, who have these moments when somebody says something racist to you or makes ignorant assumptions about you. I tend to let it go, let it fly. Keep my head down.

With the photographs, I get to look back. I return the gaze. When making the photographs I went back to the feeling of being the only black person in the room and having all of these eyes on me. The photographs allow me to look back.

DC: Your subjects reflect various genders and ages. Thinking about “Nigerian Identity” as self-portraits of you, the artist, what do you want to communicate through this range of gender and ages?

IM: One key aspect of Nigerian identity is about being part of a larger community, a support system. I don’t know if you have any Nigerian friends, but we tend to support each other on the sole basis of being Nigerian. No other reason. With the ages and genders, I wanted to convey a sense of family, a sense that we are all in this together.

DC: This final question is a bit of a departure. If “Nigerian Identity” had a soundtrack, what three songs would you choose to include?

IM: That’s tough, in part because I toyed with the idea of having music as part of the exhibition. I wondered if the music would be Afrobeat or emotional. I know I would have something by Fela Kuti. Yeah, Fela would be on the list for sure. I’d also pick some jazz, like Miles Davis or Charlie Parker. I’d also add “Shades” by Wale (featuring Chrisette Michele).

Dr. Derrais (pronounced like Paris) Carter is an assistant professor of Black Studies at Portland State University. His research interests include 20th century African American history, gender and sexuality studies, and black cultural studies.. He is currently writing Obscene Material, a book examining black girlhood and scandal in 1919 Washington, D.C.

Ima Mfon is an editorial and fine-art photographer based in Lagos, Nigeria. He also spends a great deal of time in New York City, where he recently earned his MFA in Photography at the School of Visual Arts. Mfon was a recipient of the 2015 Lensculture Emerging Talents Award and he has exhibited at the Klompching Gallery and Rick Wester Fine Art in New York City, San Francisco Camerawork Gallery, and the Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography. Mfon also periodically collaborates with Bloomberg, covering stories that showcase less reported aspects of Nigerian culture.

Nigerian Identity is part of the Embodied: Asserting Self exhibition series that is generously supported by Arlene Schnitzer and Jordan Schnitzer

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Our 2017 Viewing Drawers and Library Exhibition

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.

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The intersection of photography and performance

There are many ways to explore photography and over the next few months, we will spend some time exploring our exhibitions through the performing arts. We kicked off this concept in March, when dancer/choreographer Catherine Egan responded to the work of Magda Biernat’s Adrift series. This Saturday evening (April 1), Blue Sky hosts dancer Tracy Broyles and musician Adrian Hutapea in exploring Lauren Semivan’s series, Observatory. I will join Adrian with voice and sound (answering for some of you the question of what I do in my spare time).

Broyles will begin at 7pm, performing throughout the space for about 90 minutes, interacting with Semivan’s work, exploring wind, geometry, alternate viewpoints, and re-arrangement of linear and perceived time.

Audience is invited to come and go observing for as long as they choose.  Sip on a drink (thanks Pike Road Wines), wander, observe, and reflect. A suggested donation of $0 - $10+ will help pay for this and other collaborative programming.

Lauren Semivan’s and Tara Sellios’ exhibitions close on Sunday, April 2, so don’t miss this (almost) final opportunity to engage with this amazing work.

- Lisa DeGrace, Executive Director

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Camp Blue Sky 2016

 

 

CAMP BLUE SKY at Camp Westwind September 23 — 25, 2016  
Friends of Blue Sky, We are getting VERY excited to join fellow photographers and photographer lovers for a two-night retreat at Camp Westwind on the beautiful Oregon coast— located just north of Lincoln City, OR. We'd love for you to join us! Enjoy your time on 500 acres of secluded prime coastland with two miles of unspoiled beach, tide pools, a saltwater estuary, mountain trails, meadows, hidden lakes, and a spectacular ocean view.Camp Blue Sky is a casual, relaxing "retreat from the real world” for photographers and photography lovers. In addition to having plenty of free time for beach activities, photographing, and hiking in the glorious natural setting, we will have ongoing projections in the main building both evenings (like they do in the square during the Arles photo festival in France), including 20 images of whatever work you'd like to share. There will also be informal workshops, discussions, professional networking and the making of lifelong friends.

How much will all this cost?

The all-in cost for this weekend is just $200 for Blue Sky Members, and includes transportation to Camp Westwind from Blue Sky and back, lodging, food, and drink.

*Visit blueskygallery.org/support/join/ to join today if you are not currently a member. Annual memberships start at just $25 for students, artists, and seniors.

What are Camp Westwind's accommodations like?

Cabin lodging consists of cozy, but rustic shared cabins featuring single bunk beds (most sleep 9, and a couple sleep 16.) Dining is communal and delicious. Plan on sharing meals together; have a seat next to someone new and make a new friend. You can see lots of pictures at http://westwind.org/westwind/galleries/.

*NEW THIS YEAR: Reserve an entire cabin for you and 8 friends! (Cabins sleep up to 9 people)- Guarantee to know your bunk-mates by reserving a cabin for you and eight friends.

[Individuals (and couples) will be assigned to cabins after registration is closed]

Register by August 24, 2016.

REGISTER NOW FOR CAMP BLUE SKY 2016

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ANNOUNCING BLUE SKY'S NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: LISA DEGRACE!

Blue Sky Gallery is pleased to announce that Lisa DeGrace has accepted the position of Executive Director, effective December 2, 2015. Lisa has spent her career working in nonprofits in Oregon and SW Washington in various leadership and fundraising positions. Over the past 20 years, she has gained a clear vision of what makes non-profits—particularly arts organizations—thrive. Lisa served as the Director of Foundation Relations at the Museum of Contemporary Craft and PNCA during the first years of their joint operating agreement in addition to working for the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology and as the Managing Director of Profile Theater. Lisa is also a composer and a performing artist, and she brings a deep passion for the arts and photography to her new role at Blue Sky:

“I admire Blue Sky’s deep roots in the local and national arts scene, its collaborative tradition, and its commitment to the photographers who show their work at Blue Sky. As Portland’s art scene continues to grow and change, Blue Sky, with its 40-year history, has a unique voice in this landscape. I’m excited to work with our board, staff, artists, and arts community to help steer Blue Sky toward its next 40 years.”

Welcome, Lisa!

 

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Connecting Boundaries in the work of Carol Yarrow and Terri Warpinski

The two Drawers photographers whose work is on display this week, Carol Yarrow and Terri Warpinski, both traveled away from home to photograph these wonderful series: Yarrow photographs the many different personalities of primates in the jungle of Cameroon, while Warpinski’s Surface Tension focuses on the Berlin Wall, the U.S.-Mexico Border, and the Israeli-Palestinian separation border and the "multiple and conflicted personalities that complicate these places."

Terri Warpinski’s series “Surface Tension” focuses on border control and the chaos that often takes place in the areas where the borders are located. Some images focus on the physical land and the areas in which the borders have been made, whereas other images show groups of people anticipating their entrance onto the other side. Warpinski successfully uses diptychs and triptychs to heighten the viewer's sense of place as well as emphasize the notion of a divide that is physically created on the paper by dividing the images.

Many of the diptychs and triptychs serve as a narrative, leading the viewer from one image into the next. By making these connections there is a better understanding of what takes place in these highly guarded and concentrated borders. Warpinski states, “Walls and fences, embodiments of social and political oppositions, mark and divide the physical landscapes. Surface Tension utilizes various methods for capturing photographic images and incorporates the juxtaposition of images arranged in diptychs, triptychs or single frames.”

Carol Yarrow’s portraits of chimpanzees remind us of our shared ancestry with these “animals” and we’re reminded where we, as humans, truly originated from. Although most people consider apes to be animals, recent studies and lawsuits show that some people and scientists continue to convince the public that chimpanzees are legally human. Yarrow’s photographs only further confirm those statements when you notice the many personalities and human-like traits these chimps exhibit in her photographs.

The studies of animal behavior has a lengthly history when it comes to apes. Although one may point out that most chimpanzee emotions are noticeable in their eyes; they are extremely smart and talented. They know compassion and they know fear - something many humans tend to forget. Yarrow successfully photographs the chimps in their natural environment where they are comfortable with her presence and welcome her by allowing these portraits to be photographed. Yarrow captures the moments where some chimps are in a state of trance and others are completely locked in eye contact with her. Yarrow explains the experience as “life changing and life affirming.”

- Kory Jean Kingsley

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Isolated Dwellings by Mary Stroud and Tina Tran

The two Drawers photographers whose work is on display this week, Mary Stroud and Tina Tran, both focus on isolation particularly in their homes and neighborhoods: Stroud photographs the abandoned dwellings on the remote Arctic coast of Alaska, while Tran’s work explores the intimate moments that take place inside her brother’s home.

Mary Stroud is a fine art photographer residing 300 miles above the arctic circle in Barrow, Alaska.  Originally born and raised in the deep South, Stroud has always enjoyed photography as a hobby but when she moved to Alaska in 2006 she began using her camera more often to focus on her photographic projects and the results are beautiful.

For her series featured in the drawers, Stroud photographed abandoned neighborhoods and dwellings that are slowly deteriorating on the coast of Alaska. In her statement she explains: “Where I find isolation and vulnerability, the Inupiat traditionally find protection and sustenance. It is a distinction that weighs on my mind as I struggle emotionally with my surroundings. I think this is what first attracted me to photographing the dwellings in my community. They don't belong. Houses stand out conspicuously against the landscape, vestiges of an outside culture, my culture, one that has fatefully assumed dominance.” She strives to answer the questions “What lies within? A healthy household that is warm and inviting? Or one that is cold and dark, succumbing to deterioration within as well as without. Hope or despair?”

Tina Tran is a young photographer who explores her presence in her brother's home by photographing his living quarters with her Mamiya RZ67 camera. With the use of warm light and color, Tran photographs every-day objects that speak of her brother's lifestyle. Tran's photographs successfully depicts a sanctuary that seems to be uninhibited. These photographs give the viewer an idea of an individual who prefers to be unaccompanied - potentially comfortable with the idea of loneliness. Although there is no human presence, Tran makes this sofa look inviting as it appears to be velvet from the warm light.

Tran's statement explains "In a transient state where I am constantly on the edge of the unknown, I explore the only space that has remained constant over the past year. Currently living in my brother's living room, I investigate one of the many facets of the "post-grad life," and document moments of struggle, growth, and a hope for renewal. I am interested in the ideas of response, emotion, repetition and frequent these areas while adapting to living in a private/public space."

- Kory Jean Kingsley

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Southern Perspective: photographs by Kory Jean Kingsley

This past week at Blue Sky Gallery, I have displayed some prints from my most recent series titled “To Be Here,” on the “No Strings” wall, a weekly non-juried opportunity.

I’ve just recently moved to Portland to pursue my career as a photographer.  I’ve spent the last four years living in Savannah, Georgia where I received my B.F.A. in Photography and Printmaking from the Savannah College of Art and Design in May. Primarily using medium format film, I strive to document subjects that influence my personal life.

During my time in Georgia, I developed a connection with the local people and culture of the Southeast. Soon after I started living in Savannah I became more aware of the fact that the community that I was apart of was deeply rooted in African American history. From there I began exploring my relationship with the surrounding residents (usually men) by taking their photographs. I found that the photos came more naturally with men because often women wanted their portraits to be staged and anticipated. I quickly befriended these men and gained their trust by explaining my motives as a photographer. When photographing for the series, I would visit the local basketball court and stay after dark to photograph the players and share some laughs when they joked around. Just around the corner from my apartment there was a house where groups of families would sit outside and visit with one another, warmly welcoming me as I passed by. Occasionally, I would stop by the local barber shop “Jazzy Cutz,” and exchange stories with the barbers, or step out my front door and see smiling children playing near the street. These places are where I found companionship and trust when I was taking photos. After leaving Georgia, I feel fulfilled knowing that I created these bonds with many people for whom Savannah is home. 

Along with interning at Blue Sky Gallery this fall, I’m an editor for Aint-Bad Magazine, a bi-annual publication that focuses on contemporary photography. I’ve exhibited my work at various venues in the United States and internationally, including in Egypt and Southern France. In the future I hope to pursue many similar projects and to become an educator.

- Kory Jean Kingsley

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Extraordinary Vacant Spaces with William Rihel and Christopher Rauschenberg

The two Drawers photographers whose work is on display this week, William Rihel and Christopher Rauschenberg, focus on finding the extraordinary moments within the ordinary: Rihel creates narratives by including traces of humans without their physical presence, while Rauschenberg’s work explores light and space in neighborhoods and alleyways in places far from home.

William Rihel is based in Portland, Oregon. He graduated from from Pratt Institute in 2000 and has been actively exhibiting his work since his return to Portland in the following years. Rihel’s work featured in the drawers depicts what seems to be uninhabited areas, and although one figure appears in the series, she is still hidden from view only exposing her feet to the viewer. His apt use of color juxtaposes the loneliness of these images, allowing the viewer to relate to the space but to also acknowledge the abandonment that’s taking place.

 Christopher Rauschenberg, one of the founding members of Blue Sky, makes most of his photographs overseas. Christopher has explored many different areas of the world and has exhibited his work in Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Greece, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the United States, and Yugoslavia, to list a few. Rauschenberg’s series featured in the drawers focuses of his trip to Macedonia during the summer of 2013. There is a mysterious sense of place in each of the images which portray an active yet empty cityscape. Rauschenberg successfully captures the ephemeral aspect of light and color in these wonderfully composed photographs.

- Kory Jean Kingsley

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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

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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.

 

JOB ANNOUNCEMENT

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: [email address="bobhazen@blueskygallery.org"] with “Executive Director” in the title by 5:00 PM (PST) on Monday, October 5, 2015 (Blue Sky’s 40th birthday).

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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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 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.

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

 

 

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Synchronized Rituals

Military and Spiritual Practice in the Work of Andrew Jarman and Carol Isaak

The two Drawers photographers whose work is on display this week, Portland natives Andrew Jarman and Carol Isaak, explore different types of ritual: Jarman photographs members of the Oregon National Guard aviation unit performing exercises during training in his 2014 series Hurry Up and Wait, while Isaak documents two distinct religious groups engaged in prayer. Both photographers, although examining disparate settings, question the ways in which verbal and unspoken cues affect ritual movements, investigating harmony and dissonance in transitory spaces.

In Hurry Up and Wait, Andrew Jarman documents the daily lives of the Oregon National Guard. The photographs show visually familiar practices, referencing the tropes of war photography: guardsmen fly planes, crouch behind guns, and scramble over treacherous terrain. However, the lonely background of the stark Eastern Oregon and Washington landscapes, and the complete absence of any enemy, marks the images as clearly not part of the expected narrative of war journalism: no blood stains the guardsmen’s hands, and their expressions often seem more reflective (see “Returning to Biak, Blackhawk Helicopter”) than aggressive. Jarman notes the setting’s transitory nature in the title, stating: “‘Hurry up and wait’ is an expression that was used throughout training when joking about punctuality and preparedness for exercises and courses. Many of the moments I capture fluctuate between two ends of this motto, while sometimes getting stuck in-between.” The images largely exist in this intermediary state, as Jarman also articulates the importance of verbal cues in the military and their omission in these images: “while the physical actions of the guardsmen are distinct, the commands being given and the narrative surrounding their actions are undefined.” Because of this disconnect between the orders being verbalized and the images presented to the viewer, the photographs become more suggestive, gesturing at underlying meanings rather than asserting any singular message.

This is particularly apparent when considered in light of the history of gender relations in US military history. One image, “Firing Weapon, Yakima, Washington,” shows a guardsman aiming a gun into the empty, dry abyss. Bullet casings can be seen shattering in the air in front of him. The phallic symbol of the gun exploding, and the viewer’s position behind and below the figure, imply themes of masculinity and individualism, reflecting the historically hyper-masculine culture of the military and the limitations for women within it. A second image, “Morning Workout,” pictures two guardsmen, one female and one male, together on the empty quad with arms outstretched towards a blank sky. The two figures don’t look to be exerting any effort, and the motion in this moment looks less like a jumping jack and more like a pause between yoga poses; they seem to be involved in some sort of joint ritual. Unlike the first image, this photograph suggests both unity and tension through synchronized, awkward movements, gesturing ambiguously towards the military’s gender politics, but provoking more questions than answers.

This theme of ritual and repose also marks the work of Carol Isaak, who takes portraits of people performing spiritual exercises in a series from 2014. Her work focuses on the religious practices of two different groups: first, Muslims worshipping in Istanbul, and second, Christians during Ethiopian Orthodox Lent in Addis Ababa. Though Isaak notes the differences between the actions of the two groups, the consistent visual vocabulary that she uses seems to collapse the boundaries between them: her fascination with light shapes created by stained glass windows, as well as the layers of texture and pattern in different tapestries, give the visual narrative a cohesion that suggests an even larger practice of spiritual coordination across borders and barriers. “Private Supplication” shows a man crouched on a patterned carpet, with a square of light cast beside him from an unseen window. The light imprint serves as a metaphor for a spiritual presence, especially when both the window casting the shadow and the sun are absent from the image, literally elevated above the figure in prayer. Though the man is alone in his practice, the collection of images of prayer within Isaak’s body of work, and the ways in which the poses of the figures echo one another, suggests harmonious unity. A second image, “Inspired by the Light,” shows two men facing a window, in a richly colored and decorated room with layers of intricate patterns. Electric lights hang from the ceiling, some glowing and some dark, becoming part of the ritual in their arrangement of pattern and repetition. Isaak’s work shows a fascination with what goes unspoken, with the spiritual implications of a series of movements; this dovetails with Jarman’s work, which fixates on what is spoken but remains silent in the photographic image. Both series examine the intricacies of ritual movements, through military or spiritual exercises, exploring the transient spaces between words.

-Molly Walls

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Subversive Text

Titles and Signage in the Work of Stewart Harvey and Tamar Haytayan

The two Drawers photographers whose work is on display this week are Stewart Harvey and Tamar Haytayan. Keeping with the precedent set by last week’s blog post, I am looking at the ways their images, although different, complement and parallel one another. On first look, their photography blatantly contrasts with one another. Harvey pictures American scenes, especially interactions between strangers, often in an urban environment, while Haytayan focuses on the domestic space that her son and daughter inhabit and the ways they interact with each other. Both photographers, however, use text in ways that subvert or complicate their visual narratives, such as with Harvey’s incorporation of signage and Haytayan’s use of the series title Innocence.

 

The photographs of Stewart Harvey, from his project Ephemeral Views, show instances of modern American life: in the tradition of Robert Frank, they show people interacting, in environments both iconic and quotidian, such as hippies dancing at Burning Man, crowds of tourists and locals walking down Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and Portlanders waving the Timbers Army banner. In the first photograph, “Bourbon Street Encounter,” from 2013, a woman in a satin outfit with a wide-brimmed, translucent hat turns away from the viewer, disproportionately large because of her proximity to the camera. Instead of her face, we see that of a man walking towards her, the sunlight over the tops of buildings illuminating him. The title leads to the question: what encounter are we witnessing? We are, of course, witnessing more than one: that between the photographer and the scene, between the two figures, between the buildings, the light, and the burgeoning crowd behind them that will dissipate in an instant. In several of Harvey’s images, text adds to this layered narrative: a sign beside the woman’s head advertises “HUGE ASS BEERS,” and restaurants list their menu offerings. Flags line the block, both American and those of many other nationalities, showing the modern urban environment as one where cultures collide and intermingle endlessly. The next image, “Photochapel Couple” from 2013, employs text to gesture at underlying meaning. It shows two figures approaching a structure that displays photographs, presumably for sale. Beside the structure, a sign reads: “PHOTOCHAPEL IS FRAGILE.” The image again manipulates perspective: the viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to the strange images stored in the object itself, disoriented to realize that they are, in fact, photographic prints on display. Though the warning of fragility relays the literal instability of the shrine-like structure, it also suggests other meanings: “chapel” points to the reliquary-like presentation of the prints themselves, but the word “fragile” complicates, and perhaps undermines, this elevated nature. This aligns with the questioning of the truth claim in Harvey’s images, through manipulations of space and proportion that subvert the supposed verisimilitude of the photographic image.

 

Though Tamar Haytayan’s images focus on the private sphere and the relationship between her daughter and son, the work also expands in meaning through text: each image is titled “Innocence,” while often picturing the darker, grittier sides of childhood. For instance, the first photograph, “Innocence 5,” from 2012, shows her daughter with a towel on her head in the kitchen, her face curled up in an indignant snarl. The foreground and background are shrouded in heavy black and the camera is slightly tilted, giving the image a disorienting, almost nightmarish quality. The literal darkness of the image, combined with the discomfort of the subject and the strange camera angle, undermines the ideal of purity, creating instead a more complex, often fearful and angry, depiction of childhood. The second image, “Innocence 1,” shows one of the artist’s  children’s hands draped over the lip of the bathtub. Grit lines the fingernails, and the monochromatic nature of the print masks the color of the hand: it could be muddied with dirt, but its dismembered quality suggests something more violent. Not all of Haytayan’s photographs fixate on such darkness: one image, “Innocence 7,” pictures a hug between the two siblings, with soft, sleepy light; “Innocence 2” shows her son with sun through the window illuminating his bright eyes, giving his face a painterly, classical quality. However, the two on display this week do highlight a trend in her work to subvert traditional ideas of childhood innocence, alluding to contemporaries like Sally Mann and harkening back to pictorialists such as Julia Margaret Cameron.

Both Drawers photographers on display this week incorporate text in ways that challenge the traditional duality of text and image, integrating them through literal photographs or through titles, and thus allowing the work to expand in meaning.

- Molly Walls

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Streetlight Landscapes

The Surreal Work of Andrew Hartzell and Ed Hamilton With this post, Blue Sky is proud to introduce Molly Walls, a summer intern from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She will post a new piece here weekly over the course of her internship, each time looking closely at two photographers featured in the 2015 Pacific Northwest Photography Viewing Drawers cohort. We welcome Molly to the blog, and we welcome you to come discover these and many other compelling photographs at Blue Sky this summer.

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As an intern, along with working on exhibitions in the galleries, I’ve become interested in the unique ongoing project of Blue Sky’s Pacific Northwest Photography Viewing Drawers (“Drawers”). Founded in 2007 when the gallery moved to its current location, the Drawers program features a yearly juried installment of photography, selected from an open call for entries to artists living in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, or Montana. Each chosen artist shows ten original prints, which are kept inside large, flat file drawers. The project allows for innovative photography to reach a wider audience, showcasing many diverse bodies of work, selected this year by jurors Shane Lavalette, of Light Work in Syracuse, New York, and Prudence Roberts, writer, curator, and professor at Portland Community College. Every week, we highlight two photographers from the Drawers by placing two selected images from each on a pair of wooden easels on top of the Drawers. Though the Drawers photographs are sorted alphabetically by artist, and therefore, any similarities between the two artists that share a drawer are purely coincidental, the pairings do often have thematic harmony (as former Blue Sky intern Jason Horvath noted aptly in his blog posts on the subject). The two artists on display this week, in particular, have remarkable parallels: both Andrew Hartzell and Edward Hamilton’s bodies of work are photographed entirely at night; they also show a preoccupation with electric light and with  urban and suburban landscape.

            

Hartzell’s photographs, from his series Stars and the Electric Glow, address the relationship between electric and natural light, picturing the two together: these moments reveal, rather than blatant opposition, mimicry between the two forces. The first of the two selected images, “An Unfamiliar Glow of Streetlights,” from 2013, shows a forest below a road; orange streetlights emit a warm glow between the trees. A bright spot of light near the center of the image could be either one of these streetlights or the sun itself rising above the hill, as the photo collapses the boundaries between natural and artificial through repetition in form and color. In the second photograph, “There’s a Freeway Running through the Yard,” from 2012, taken below an overpass, orange orbs from streetlamps light the edges of hanging tree branches. This silhouetting effect recalls the way the sun or moon might glow through plant life, but the artificiality of the electric lamps gives the scene an uncanny, almost Lynchian glow. In Hartzell’s scenes, not only do manmade and natural light intermingle, but also manmade and natural landscape, such as with the trees scattered below the roadside in the first image, and the concrete structures looming beyond the forest in the second. Part of the eerie strangeness of Hartzell’s images comes from the transitional time of day that most of them were taken: an ambiguous gloaming between night and day, perhaps before sunrise but maybe after sunset. This ethereal mood, rather than having a harsh or jarring effect, creates a sort of romantic strangeness, like how putting Vaseline over a camera’s lens dreamily warps an image with flares of light.

  

Though the subject matter of Edward Hamilton’s series Eastside Walkabout parallels Hartzell’s, his images show a sharp focus and use of line that is notably un-romantic. Taken around Southeast Portland, his nightscapes feature a surreal, sometimes nightmarish, urban setting. In the first of the two selected pictures, “Mirror,” from 2014, empty school busses line a vacant street, their darkened windows and rigid repetition giving them an almost sinister quality. A mirror near the top of the photograph reflects an empty parking lot somewhere behind the viewer, suggesting paranoia and the sense of being watched. The electric light in these images does not mimic or echo anything natural, but rather takes on a digitized, futuristic hue, giving each scene a subdued sense of foreboding reminiscent of The Twilight Zone. The second selected image, “Springwater,” from 2014,  shows a bike path, streaked with light trails, beside a looming water tower, bordered by a chainlink fence caked with rust. The bursts of light, though obviously emitted by a biker or jogger and captured through a slow shutter speed, take on a shape and form of their own, dynamic and vaguely supernatural. Light from the street lamps above the pathway trails off in swooping streaks, rope-like and jolting into the sky. The orange tint of the image accentuates the strange, ghostly mood; the position of the viewer below the water tower enforces the earlier sense of being monitored.

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