Laura Kurtenbach

Tumbling statues, voices heard

ArtsWatch Weekly: A culture in crisis clashes over the past; a museum reopens; photos & films; singing amid the vines; a bookstore steps out

THE BIG NEWS IN PORTLAND THIS WEEK has been Sunday night’s downtown rumble through the cultural district, a highly focused and rigorously carried out protest – declared by its organizers to be an Indigenous People’s Day of Rage – in which activists toppled public statues of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, vandalized the Oregon Historical Society to the tune of an estimated $25,000 or more, did lesser damage outside the Portland Art Museum and at Portland State University, smashed store windows, and shot bullets inside an empty restaurant. Police declared the protest a riot, but took no action until after the damage was done. And the story was immediately picked up by President Donald Trump, who tweeted his desire to rush federal officers into the Portland fray. “Put these animals in jail, now,” he tweeted, referring to the protesters, and quickly followed up: “Law & Order! Portland, call in the Feds!”

David Manuel’s “The Promised Land” was controversial when it was installed in 1993 and is even more controversial now after months of racial and political unrest. It was removed for safekeeping from downtown Portland’s Chapman Square in July.

ArtsWatch’s Laurel Reed Pavic was working on a story about the issue of politically and mythologically charged public monuments and how to deal with them when cultural values and understandings of history shift. She quickly updated her analysis after Lincoln and Roosevelt – not the most obvious of targets, although each had specific issues about Indigenous rights – came tumbling down. The symbolic overthrow of monuments, she notes in her essay After the Statues Come Down, is nothing new: “Defacing or damaging public art has always gone hand-in-hand with putting it up in the first place. It happened in the city-states of ancient Mesopotamia and continues to happen today. The visual impact of a former leader face-down on the pavement hasn’t lessened over the past 5,000 years.”

Continues…

Chasing the Light

Astoria's LightBox Photographic Gallery is a Bright Beacon in Dark Times

The great German portrait photographer August Sander wrote, “In photography there are no shadows that cannot be illuminated.” Best known for his documentary-style portraits of working class Germans in the early twentieth century, Sander practiced his craft during a dark and transformative period in world history, and he suffered great personal and professional adversity in his lifetime. He lost his son and his home to war, and tens of thousands of his photographic negatives were later destroyed by fire. Still, he persevered, and much of his art survives.

Perhaps the story of Sander can teach us something about resilience in our own dark time. The coronavirus pandemic has brought both personal and professional loss to many over the last several months, and across the world people have had to adapt quickly to the crisis in order to survive. Many businesses and organizations have also been affected, and art galleries have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. At a time when we may look to the arts to help us through difficult times, many galleries have been forced to shut their doors to the public. And with their closure we also lose a vital connection with our communities.

LightBox Photographic Gallery in Astoria has not escaped the hardships that art galleries have faced during the pandemic. A beloved institution among photographic artists and patrons of the arts, LightBox has grown into a premier gallery for photo-based art since its opening just over a decade ago. The gallery’s stellar reputation is a testament to the vision, commitment and professionalism of its owners, Michael and Chelsea Granger, as they have continued to build their photography center. Both acknowledge that they could not have fulfilled their dream without the support and devotion of the gallery’s members, many of whom have stood by them since the beginning. This is the story of how LightBox has grown, how it has withstood the pandemic, and what it has meant to many of its members over the years.

Logo, LightBox Photographic Gallery

THE GALLERY


LightBox Photographic Gallery opened in June 2009 with the first in a long succession of monthly exhibitions celebrating the work of photographic artists. Since its grand opening LightBox has become a Mecca for fine art photographers, particularly those who embrace the use of film, traditional photographic methods, and historical alternative printing techniques, but also for those who practice their craft using the finest in contemporary digital processes. With a guiding mission dedicated to the promotion of creative photography, the gallery has long been a venue for photographic artists to exhibit their work, share their vision, and inspire fellow photographers wishing to further develop their creative and technical skills. LightBox has served as a cherished community gathering place for photographers and patrons of the photographic arts, as well as a center for educating the public in current practices in fine art photography.

LightBox Photographic Gallery, Astoria

Continues…