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The Cultural Landscape: Part 8

Photographer K.B. Dixon continues his series of portraits of Oregon cultural leaders with parks activist Randy Gragg, playwright Lava Alapai, mixed-media artist Erik Geschke, writer Erica Berry, and choreographer/dancer Samuel Hobbs.

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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.

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.

I have returned to an earlier visual approach. The environmental details have again 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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Randy Gragg

Gragg is a writer, editor, producer, and activist. He was formerly editor-in-chief of Portland Monthly and an arts, architecture, and urban issues columnist at The Oregonian for 17 years. He was awarded a National Arts Journalism Fellowship at Columbia University in 1994 and a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in 2005. He served as executive director of the John Yeon Center for Architecture and Landscape at the University of Oregon and is now executive director of the Portland Parks Foundation.

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Lava Alapai

Alapai is a playwright, director, and photographer. She was born in Okinawa, Japan, and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. She has been creating theater in Portland for over a decade. Her writing credits include Middletown MallThe EventT.I.N.A, redline, and Mutt.  Some of her recent directing credits include The King of the Yees for Profile Theatre; Stains for Ashland New Plays Festival; Beatrice for Portland Opera; Midsummer Night’s Dream, a co-direction for Anonymous Theatre; a stage-to-film production of Wayfinding for Willamette University; School Girls, or; the African Mean Girls play for Portland Center Stage/Artists Repertory Theatre co-production; The Chinese LadyThe Revolutionists, and An Octoroon (co-direction) for Artists Repertory Theatre. She was director of photography and editor for Alex Getting Better, Oregon Children’s Theatre; Salt for Shaking the Tree Theatre; November Project for ManyHats Collaboration; and the multimedia pandemic project Touch for Portland Center Stage.

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Erik Geschke

Geschke is an award-winning mixed-media artist whose work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. Venues include the UCLA Hammer Museum of Art in Los Angeles; ZieherSmith Gallery in New York; The Navy Pier in Chicago; the FIAC International Contemporary Art Fair in Paris; and the Seattle Art Museum’s SAM Gallery. In addition, his work has been featured in publications such as SculptureNew American PaintingsNY Arts MagazineThe Seattle Times, and The Oregonian. He has received awards, grants, and fellowships from the Seattle Art Museum, the Oregon Arts Commission, the Ford Family Foundation, and the Regional Arts and Culture Council, among others. He is a professor of art and coordinator of the sculpture area in the School of Art + Design at Portland State University.

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Erica Berry

Berry’s writing has appeared in The Guardian, The New York Times Magazine, The Yale Review, Outside Magazine, Catapult, The Atlantic, Guernica, and elsewhere. Winner of the Steinberg Essay Prize and the Kurt Brown Prize in Nonfiction, she has also received fellowships and funding from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Tin House, the Ucross Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources. A former writer-in-residence with the National Writers Series in Traverse City, Michigan, she is currently a writer-in-the-schools with Literary Arts in Portland. Her new book Wolfish was published by Flatiron Books.

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Samuel Hobbs

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Portland Playhouse A Christmas Carol Portland Oregon

Hobbs is a dancer, choreographer, composer, and teacher. He is the founder and artistic director of the contemporary dance company push/FOLD and the Union PDX Festival of Contemporary Dance. He has performed regionally and internationally in various venues such as the Dancing on the Edge Festival in Vancouver, B.C., and the International Festival of Contemporary Dance in Mexico City. He was named a 2023 performing arts fellow by the Oregon Arts Commission, and recently commissioned by Oregon Ballet Theatre to premiere a work in Portland in 2023. He serves as a board member of the Multnomah County Cultural Coalition.

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EARLIER IN THE SERIES:

  • 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. 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. 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. 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. Theater 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, 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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