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The Cultural Landscape: Part 11

K.B. Dixon's cultural-portrait series continues with visual artist Marie Watt, classical percussionist Niel DePonte, dancer & choreographer Oluyinka Akinjiola, poet & storyteller Brian S. Ellis, and actor & Portland Revels leader Lauren Bloom Hanover.

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TEXT and PHOTOGRAPHS by K.B. DIXON


As with the portraits in the previous installments of this series, I have focused on the talented, dedicated, and creative people who have made significant contributions to the art, character, and culture of this city and state—in this case a visual artist, a musician, a dancer, a poet, and an actor.

My aspirations have remained the same: to document the contemporary cultural landscape and to produce a decent photograph—a photograph that acknowledges the medium’s allegiance to reality and that preserves for myself and others a unique and honest sense of the subject.

The environmental details have been kept to a minimum. The subjects have the frame to themselves and do not compete with context for attention. This provides for a simpler, blunter, more intense encounter with character. It is character that animates the image.

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Marie Watt

Visual artist Marie Watt. Photo: K.B. Dixon

Marie Watt is an interdisciplinary artist and a member of the Seneca Nation. Her work draws from history, biography, and indigenous teachings. She holds an MFA in painting and printmaking from Yale University as well as degrees from Willamette University and the Institute of American Indian Arts. She serves on the Board for VoCA (Voices in Contemporary Art) and on the Native Advisory Committee at the Portland Art Museum. In 2020 she became a member of the Board of Trustees at the Portland Art Museum. She has received fellowships from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Harpo Foundation, The Ford Family Foundation, and the Native Arts and Culture Foundation, among others. Her work can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Seattle Art Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Yale University Art Gallery, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian and Renwick Gallery, the Tacoma Art Museum, the Denver Art Museum, and the Portland Art Museum. She is represented by PDX Contemporary Art in Portland, Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco, and Marc Straus Gallery in New York City.

Niel DePonte

Musician Niel DePonte. Photo: K.B. Dixon

Niel DePonte was the principal percussionist of the Oregon Symphony for 43 years, and the past music director and conductor for Oregon Ballet Theatre. He has a national reputation as a composer, arranger, conductor, and performer. A Grammy Award nominee in the category of Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra for his performance of the Concerto for Marimba by Tomas Svoboda, he has appeared as guest conductor with the symphonies of Oregon, Syracuse, Spokane, Charlotte, Anchorage, and Tulsa, among others; with the San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Boston Ballet companies; and at the Mussorgsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia. An educator and arts advocate, DePonte was the artistic director of Cognizart, MetroArts Inc.’s Young Artists Concerto Competition, for 28 years. He is President of DePonte Creativity Partners, a nonprofit organization producing the concert series The Concerts At The Barn.

Oluyinka Akinjiola

Dancer, choreographer, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater, and Reed College assistant professor of dance Oluyinka Akinjiola. Photo: K.B. Dixon

Oluyinka Akinjiola is a dancer, choreographer, and educator. She is the founder and artistic director of Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater, a platform to create Black contemporary dance, and an assistant professor of dance at Reed College. For many years she was an educator and curriculum builder with Portland Public Schools. Her work has been featured at the International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference (Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles), Carnaval 2014 (Salvador, Bahia, Brazil), TEDxMtHood, and the Newmark Theatre, among others.

Brian S. Ellis 

Poet and storyteller Brian S. Ellis. Photo: K.B. Dixon

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Brian S. Ellis is an award-winning poet, storyteller, and educator. He is the author of four collections of poetry. A fifth collection, Against Common Sense, is coming from Limit Zero Press in 2023. He is a producer for Back Fence PDX, a live storytelling series. He teaches writing at Portland Community College.

Lauren Bloom Hanover

Actor and executive director of Portland Revels Lauren Bloom Hanover. Photo: K.B. Dixon

Lauren Bloom Hanover is an actor, educator, and producer. Classically trained in England and at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, her work has focused on Shakespeare and other canonical writers both onstage and in the classroom. In 2013 she moved to Portland to assume the role of director of education and community engagement at Profile Theatre. She served as the company’s associate artistic director until the end of 2017. Her credits include The Actors Company Theatre (New York), the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Capital Stage (Sacramento), and Just Theater (Berkeley). Locally she has appeared in productions at Portland Center Stage, Profile Theatre, CoHo Productions, and in staged readings at Artists Repertory Theatre and Portland Shakespeare Project. She is the executive director of Portland Revels.

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Earlier in the series:

  • The Cultural Landscape: Part 10. Portraits of All Classical Radio President and CEO Suzanne Nance, poet Carlos Reyes, playwright and librettist Andrea Stolowitz, visual artist James Minden, and flutist and Aligned Artistry founder Amelia Lukas.
  • The Cultural Landscape: Part 9. Portraits of illustrator and educator Kate Bingaman-Burt, visual artist Dan Gluibizzi, novelist and nonfiction writer Cecily Wong, essayist and journalist Aaron Gilbreath, and choreographer and Oregon Ballet Theatre artistic director Dani Rowe.
  • The Cultural Landscape: Part 8. Portraits of writer and Portland Parks Foundation leader Randy Gragg, playwright/director/photographer Lava Alapai, mixed-media artist Erik Geschke, writer Erica Berry, and dancer/choreographer Samuel Hobbs.
  • The Cultural Landscape: Part 7. Portraits of singer/actor Susannah Mars, violinist Tomás Cotik, Native Arts and Culture Foundation leader Lulani Arquette, sculptor Ben Buswell, and artist, costume designer, choreographer, and filmmaker Fuchsia Lin.
  • The Cultural Landscape: Part 6. Portraits of Profile Theatre’s Josh Hecht, Pacific Northwest College of Art leader Jennifer (Jen) Cole, opera singer and teacher Hannah Penn, novelist Tony Ardizzone, and make-up, prop, and effects artist Christina Kortum.
  • The Cultural Landscape: Part 5. Portraits of musicians Marv and Rindy Ross, artist David Eckard, actor Maureen Porter, and writer Todd Schultz.
  • The Cultural Landscape: Part 4. Portraits of Oregon Symphony’s Scott Showalter, Renegade Opera’s Madeline Ross, theater leader Michael Mendelson, poet Genevieve DeGuzman, roots music legend Lloyd Jones.
  • The Cultural Landscape: Part 3. Portraits of Reser Center Executive Director Chris Ayzoukian, Shaking the Tree Theater Artistic Director Samantha Van Der Merwe, Oregon Public Broadcasting President and CEO Steve Bass, photographer and head of Pacific Northwest College of Art’s photography department Teresa Christiansen, choreographer and interim artistic director of Oregon Ballet Theatre Peter Franc.
  • The Cultural Landscape: Part 2. Portraits of musician and composer Kenji Bunch, opera leader Priti Gandhi, actor and theater director Dan Murphy, contemporary art leader Victoria Frey, dancer and choreographer Shaun Keylock, landscape and urban design leader Zeljka C. Kekez, visual artist Barry Pelzner, poet and editor Susan Moore, musician and composer Cal Scott, writer and indie filmmaker Kelley Baker.
  • The Cultural Landscape: 11 Portraits. Portaits of heater leader Marissa Wolf, musician Darrell Grant, museum film leader Amy Dotson, Red Door Project leader Kevin Jones, bookstore owner Emily Powell, philanthropist and art collector Jordan Schnitzer, visual artist Jef Gunn, actor and singer Ithica Tell, guitarist Scott Kritzer, publisher Rhonda Hughes, and poet John Beer.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

K.B. Dixon’s work has appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers, and journals. His most recent collection of stories, Artifacts: Irregular Stories (Small, Medium, and Large), was published in Summer 2022. The recipient of an OAC Individual Artist Fellowship Award, he is the winner of both the Next Generation Indie Book Award and the Eric Hoffer Book Award. He is the author of seven novels: The Sum of His SyndromesAndrew (A to Z)A Painter’s LifeThe Ingram InterviewThe Photo AlbumNovel Ideas, and Notes as well as the essay collection Too True, Essays on Photography, and the short story collection, My Desk and I. Examples of his photographic work may be found in private collections, juried exhibitions, online galleries, and at K.B. Dixon Images.

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