First Thursday Reception, June 4, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
EVERYTHING IS OURS is an exhibition that presents the culminating work of 9 students graduating from The University of Oregon Department of Art Digital Arts Program. From pencil on paper to digital animation to video installation, the wide variety of work on display pushes the collective understanding of digital arts.
The Digital Arts Program at the University of Oregon encourages students to combine new media practice and visual art theory, with strong technical sophistication, a rich sense of visual design, and an ability to articulate artistic research. The UO program in digital arts emphasizes creative thinking, experimentation, visual communication delivery systems, and intense research. The clear and honest visual communication of an idea requires a fluent understanding of the visual language and the ability to articulate it.
Presenting work by artists,
TAYLOR LORRAINE WILSON
WHITE BOX 24 NW First Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97209-4038
When Willamette Week arts critic, Richard Speer wrote his WW swan song and prepared to vacate his long-held position as arts-man-about-town, First and Last Thursday aficionado, and bastion of the Portland art scene to direct his insight towards several book projects, he first published a list of Portland’s top ten art exhibitions, 2002-2015. His taste and preference was readily apparent in this list—visual extravagance and fantasia reign supreme….and a sort of checklist for Portland’s favored exhibitions during a 13 year period was remarkably established as Speer lauded the extravagant or what “used to be better.” Into this list came the Portland2010 exhibition curated by the one-and-only Cris Moss. It was an extraordinary show, by any means, a “jaw-dropping” group collective with the likes of Shelby Davis and Crystal Schenk, Marne Lucas and Bruce Conkle, among others. And in a list that only includes ten exhibitions for an entire city and for an art critic’s career, as Speer gleefully points out, Portland played host to “146 (Speer-attended) First Thursdays and more than 3,120 exhibitions,” being included is no small feat.
Well done, Mr. Moss.
This same week we also read of Cris Moss in an online forum called PORT. Here there are a few words wrangling with the idea of Moss as a wanted entity…and a brilliant curator, or words to that effect.
And, so we come to the story of Cris Moss, highly sought-after curator, lauded gallery director, himself a multi-media artist who with one simple swipe of a google search engine comes up as something of a fantastic individual, (“Moss’ programming is considered to be some of the most notable in the Portland area”). The University of Oregon’s White Box recently brought on Moss as the new gallery director and curator, or in the words of one Portland arts writer, “the UO likely snagged Moss…” Indeed, perhaps we did, and it was a good move, to be sure. Already Moss is connecting, concocting and devising ways to move forward with the White Box with strategies and plans that would, I imagine, make Richard Speer pause. Speer challenged Portland galleries and gallerists to clarify their missions, focus programming and include local as well as international artists as a way to connect with the Portland populace. Calling for a cross-pollination of arts, dance, music, Speer left us with a sage prediction: the only way to save our city’s arts scene is to infuse it with public interest and active participation.
If Moss continues to rely on his pluck and circumstance, things, undoubtedly, will go well. He has much to call upon to help guide his position at the White Box. Hailing from the remoteness of a Billings, Montana upbringing, Moss remembers as a young child his parents constantly traveling and toting their offspring to historical museums, arts experiences and cultural excursions all over the eastern United States. The family always returned to homebase in Montana which only accentuated the remoteness and isolation to a youthful Moss. Surrounding the family with a plethora of “artist friends,” the Moss family saturated their children in a vibrant atmosphere of arts appreciation and comfort.
But despite a vibrant social exposure to arts and culture and a fairly affluent rural-based life (at those formative years committed only to the pursuit of snowboarding), Moss found the beautiful but desolate environment only propelled and heightened his curiosity and intrigue with what he saw on those frequent family vacations to large cities. His youthful exuberance culminated in his leaving home, he says “running away” at the age of 15, relocating to Seattle, Washington where very briefly he became a homeless kid of the streets. It was rough living for the teenager and Moss recalls eagerly returning to a high school situation in order to complete his education. He attended Garfield High School in Seattle’s Central District and experienced, for the first time, a diverse student body where Moss, as a Caucasian raised in the rural climate of Billings, Montana was now in the minority. He left the school dropping out again. But by his late teens, Moss was enrolled at NOVA high school, an alternative learning experience in Seattle. Here, he thrived taking courses in photography, and surviving on his wages earned working at night for various Seattle restaurants in jobs from dishwasher to lead cook; his mode of transportation, simply, a skateboard.
Eventually, Moss ventured back to Montana to attend University of Montana and turned his attention to a focus on the arts. He enrolled as a non-degree student excelling in his courses in ceramics, environmental studies, probability and statistics, and judo. He found himself immersed in his ceramics studies and entered a competition, NCECA, National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts –a competition his entry won.
Ceramics captivated Moss and he studied toward a BFA from the University of Montana in ceramics. Stopping mid-way through to move to Minneapolis where he worked for a snowboard shop and took classes at the local community college, Moss returned to UM, with the intention to finish his studies, however, friends had migrated to Oregon to Mount Hood and the snowboarding scene in the mid-1990s. Moss followed relocating to Mount Hood and living the life of a snowboarder on the mountain daily. A year later he moved to Portland where he got a job as a bike messenger and enrolled at Portland State University studying photography. From PSU, Moss transferred to Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) where he worked with and studied ceramics (mostly sculpture) and pursued his growing interest in video, combing the two. He still had plenty of time on the slopes and worked part-time as a lift operator and snowboard instructor to support season passes at Mt Hood.
Moss’ education in the arts quickly took precedence over his snowboarding lifestyle and he ceased boarding competitively to turn his attention to art school. By 2000, Moss had graduated from PNCA with a BFA in general fine arts. He had begun working closely with Portland gallerists and arts leaders, Elizabeth Leach, and (when he had been at PNCA) with Sally Lawrence (PNCA president), Gerry Snyder (PNCA dean) and the Philip Feldman Gallery. It was while working with the gallery directors that Moss was given the opportunity to work directly with the artists. This experience allowed him to learn the formalities of getting work into a gallery and instigated a broad range of connections. His interest in gallery work and representing artists quickly blossomed into the series of Donut Shops Moss opened –the inaugural shop being at 2nd and Alder in the SE Industrial area of Portland.
Moss used his experience and expertise he had learned from teaming with Feldman Gallery and working with artists in the Donut Shop ventures to combine video with sculpture installation and work in new ways with artists on the cutting edge of these technologies. Moss attributes the success of his Donut Shop exhibitions to “not being afraid, just talking to people.”
As his career grew and the success of his collaborations became evident, Moss was carefully formulating his philosophy on working with artists and creating meaningful exhibitions. The turning point came in the early 2000s when his work was written about in Seattle’s The Stranger,
All right, it’s in Portland. But gallery founder and curator Cris Moss is doing something I’ve heard a lot of artists talk about, but never finally do: starting a gallery that changes location with each show. This not only alleviates the ever-present real-estate problem, but also creates the challenge of a changing space. The first show, which concentrates on alternative media, features the work of Moss, Seungho Cho, Cynthia Pachikara, Nan Curtis, and Ginelle Hustrulid. Opening reception Fri Aug 4, 6-9 pm. The Donut Shop, 630 SE Third. Through Aug 18.–The Stranger
In June of 2001 Moss was invited to bring his Donut Shop #4 to the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington in what Moss describes as “[his] career taking a turn…[he] was getting attention in The Stranger..and now Whatcom was offering [him] a budget.” Being offered financial incentive to launch his Donut Shop was a somewhat revolutionary concept in the career of Moss who thus far had existed on the precipice of funding and accomplished most of his installations sans monetary assistance.
Hand in hand with his burgeoning career, Moss was developing a keen sense of how he wanted to work and the best practices in the field—and he was finding himself devoted to the idea that “each artist must be compensated and when there is funding, each artist must receive a cut of the money, a stipend,” he says. This is the Moss Mantra, so to speak, and is key in the support of visual artists —they are not just to be capitalized upon for their work– people need to make a living,” Moss encourages. The early 2000s were a time of Moss focusing on work of others, helping artists begin and maintain careers, and establishing connections with institutions, as he comments, “I had stopped putting my own work in the shows.” This was about to change.
Moss, now back in Portland, wanted to go to graduate school. Within a year he was heading to New York to study at NYU for studio practices and working as the director of the Steinhart Gallery in NYC.
In his first week of graduate school at NYU, Moss enjoyed a prestigious studio in the East Village where he had a pristine view of New York’s Twin Towers….until the fateful September 11. When the towers fell, Moss’ view changed, metaphorically and literally. He became interested in how this event saturated and effected different markets and sought to explore more the use of space, the absence of tangible objects and the presentation of physical entities and the interrelation of objects placed into spaces. Moss continued working with an internship at the Swiss Institute of Contemporary Art where he was involved in cutting edge exhibitions and helped with the installations and assisted the artists individually by brainstorming and “having fun with” the projects. Moss was delving further into his own work ethos and his philosophy on “inviting artists to go crazy with the spaces” was really taking shape. He encouraged the artists he worked with to “push the bounds of what the work is and to explore what [their] next level is…”
This work allowed Moss to realize that his “larger projects are wonderful to develop smaller projects and to let people see [one’s] talent in a different way.” As his curatorial practice flourished, Moss noticed that his “curating was becoming [his] own art practice.” And that his belief in the artist, first and foremost, as a person to be treated with respect and in a fair and considerate transaction-like process of monentary compensation, was surfacing as tantamount to his work practice.
In 2005 Moss was back in Portland, this time a willing-to-put-down-roots father and soon to be the curator at Linfield College’s gallery. He was offered teaching positions at Linfield as well, to instruct students in art and studio classes for digital photography and graphic design, gallery management and curatorial practices.
Ten years passed. And, this winter a career move back to the metropolis of Portland: Moss joined the White Box staff in January 2015. He comes to the University of Oregon with a varied work background where he has learned from his experiences to make good use of his education based in the arts. Addressing his education, he asserts, “it is a degree in problem solving, a degree in which you take your own steps and a degree in which you have to keep your head in what’s going on, build networks, and stay involved. You can’t be afraid, you have to look for your own solutions and promote your own ideas…don’t be afraid.”
Along with his new career at the White Box, Moss is delving into videography projects that began while he was still at Linfield. Paradoxically, and yet another curiousity-inspiring aspect of the Moss career path, he has been the executive director of production and videographer for the Ultimate Cage Fighting (Sportfight) events –filming the fighters in the ring, directing the camera crew and creating commercials for sport cage fighting.
I asked Moss to comment further on his goals for the future and for the White Box and, just for fun, on his dream job. He responded with a mindfully delivered statement punctuated by reason, and experience. His reliance on drawing from an adventuresome and fearless life well-lived and an education grounded firmly in the very essence of what he loves and holds dear stands as evidence of Moss’ genuine dedication to his field, his craft, his art. He practices what he preaches.
The Portland art scene has a long history of supporting contemporary and cutting edge exhibits. With the unique location, non-profit status, and facility (there is nothing that compares to the Gray Box in the region), the White Box stands in a position to build a foundation and reputation that pushes the Portland art scene even farther. By bringing in local, national , and international artists, the WB can promote and challenge some of the preconceived notions of what qualifies as art. The curatorial role of the WB will serve as a platform to make the WB a renowned venue for consistent, quality programming.
Oregon is one of the lowest ranked states for money allocated to the arts. I believe at one time it was the second lowest, it still might be. I am working on building a large enough operating budget that can support artists by not charging them to use the venue and in turn even giving them honorariums. As an institution that promotes and teaches professional art practices we need to treat artists that we work with in a professional manner. It is their profession, we house it, we should support it.
Recent meetings on the main campus in Eugene with the Department of Art and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art have illustrated a desire to forge strong ties between UO Eugene campus and the WB. The individuals that I spoke with share my concept to bridge any gap and are eager to start the process. I would like to initiate a format that brings visiting artists that are exhibiting at the WB to Eugene for artist talks and one-on-one studio visits with both faculty and students, and vice versa, bringing Eugene-planned lectures to Portland. The Schnitzer and WB could collaborate on exhibitions. This format will help in securing funds that allow us to pay traveling expenses and honorariums for the artists. The benefits of quality programming should benefit all of UO.
I’m not sure what my dream job would be. My thoughts change on a regular basis. I think that is good. As the world changes so should our involvement. Although, it would be nice to be a guide for extreme back-country snowboarding. –Cris Moss
Thank you to Cris Moss, for your time and insight.
A Selection of Work by Cris Moss….
Craig Hickman at the White Box with Portland Creative Community 1.0
Images of Life, Love, and Politics: Early Photography of Craig Hickman
“Portland Creative Community 1.0”
at the White Box, Fall 2013
As a young man of 17 in 1960s Portland, Oregon, Craig Hickman carried around a camera—without much in the way of rigorous intention and devoid of a strict or limiting sense of an impending project. Hickman, instead, gently wielded his Nikon- F pointing it at friends, lovers, places, and people, many times strangers, he saw around him. The camera operated as an extension of himself, a way to casually document day-to-day life and a way to capture moments that intrigued him. At times, fully immersed in a moment of fun and experimentation, he would hand his camera to a friend who would turn the lens on Hickman himself, producing an unprompted photograph of the photographer.
Hickman followed an early path that would continually fuel his passion for photography and would branch out to include his development of significant computer software (Kid pix), becoming a professor in the University of Oregon Digital Arts program (Department of Art) and a career as a successful, highly acclaimed photographer known for his playful and insightful integration of word and image, and the digital manipulation of images. In the 1960s and 1970s as a student, Hickman worked on the Portland State University yearbooks (yearbooks that with the influence of Hickman and his core cadre of comrades at PSU were artistically designed and intended more as “photobooks” than conventional yearbooks). These photobooks were lively publications rife with journalistic documentation of the assemblies and protests of 1960s, honest portrayals of student life and campus involvement, glowing and sensitive portraits of fellow students, at work, at play, in love.
Leaving PSU in the 1970s, Hickman continued his education and immersion in photography becoming a staff photographer at Evergreen State College (Olympia) and teaching courses at ESC in photography. Intertwined in these pursuits, Hickman would find the time to commute back and forth from Olympia to Portland to initiate and help launch Blue Sky Gallery along with close friends, Chris Rauschenberg, Ann Hughes, Bob DiFranco, and Terry Toedtemeier. Eventually, with Blue Sky set well on its way to emerging as an international, leading photographic gallery, Hickman decided to enroll in graduate school in the early 1980s and pursue studies towards a Master of Arts in photography from University of Washington.
From those early days of capturing unscripted, candid images, and from rarely being without a camera, Hickman’s circle of friends, his subjects, as it were, in most of his photos, explored Portland, New York, and the environs of the Pacific Northwest with an active and curious enthusiasm forming affections and attachments –some that would last and evolve over the next half century. It was a group of close associates in their 20-and 30-something years that included people like Tom Taylor (who would eventually bring about the establishment of the Northwest Film Center); Frank Foster (first head of computer graphics division at Sony Pictures); Chris Rauschenberg (co-founder of Blue Sky, son of Robert Rauschenberg, and himself a renowned photographer); Terry Toedtemeier (co-founder of Blue Sky, Portland Art Museum photographer curator, and lauded photographer); musician Linda Waterfall (folk musician and singer-songwriter); Lynda Winman (co-founder of Lynda.com); Lauren Van Bischler (founder of Portland’s The Real Mother Goose); and many more. These people formed the core of Hickman’s work during this period from the 1960s to the 1980s. It is a collection of images of which the original pictures were never printed nor inspected, until now that is, having been pulled from Hickman’s early career photographs to blanket the walls salon-style at the University of Oregon in Portland School of Architecture and Allied Arts’ White Box visual laboratory. The exhibition has been aptly titled, Portland Creative Community 1.0. With a nod to the connections to sequence based-software versioning, that “1.0” is said, “one point ‘Oh’.”
While the importance of this early social context and history cannot be ignored this exhibition has many facets. Undoubtedly, there is something so fascinating about images of some of Portland’s now well-lauded creatives captured on film some 40 years ago, capering about, full of youthful exuberance and the in the rudimentary stages of what would become remarkable careers. Indeed, you will most likely never again stumble upon a photo of Terry Toedtemeier experimenting playfully with his very first camera en plein air or see individuals like Ann Hughes or Chris Rauschenberg caught spontaneously in the moment, personality and visage bare and vulnerable. Or even the day Craig Hickman was introduced to his very first computer…..yes, these images, and more, are all here.
Yet, the impact of this exhibition far outlasts a nostalgic recognition of faces and places or any sense of self-congratulatory Portlandia-like mythology. Much of the beauty and power of this exhibition lies in the fact that many of its viewers will not recognize a single face, nor know a single name, and will have never have seen the preachers, teachers, intellectuals, leaders, policy makers caught here on film, or printed on paper. And, that is fine. As, with any great art and with any exhibition worth one’s time and contemplation, Portland Creative Community 1.0 will pique curiosity and encourage thought. This is an exhibition of truly democratic proportions and Hickman by not captioning his images, nor titling them allows us to view the entire show from our own perspective.
Admittedly, this is the essence of Hickman’s work: it has a current of life coursing through it, a quiet, unassuming joie de vivre, paired with a sensitive reflective quality (look at those close up portraits—the expressions are real, the moment of authenticity embraced by both photographer and his subject). The images of political protest are not so much angry or supportive but have an “I am standing here and seeing this” reflective quality or as Hickman says, these are images of “Whoever came my way and made the best picture.” The images of politicians stand not as propaganda neither scathing nor patriotically nationalistic; the images of Hickman’s friends not contrived, not staged; the images of women Hickman loved, not glamorous, but real, occasionally playful: women, you get a sense were appreciated, looked at with compassion and wonder. These pictures tell a story—in a series of spontaneous moments unfolding with the purest of intentions—blown-up snapshots taken of life-sized humanity doused with a pervading sense of community.
And, so we come to the question of size. You will immediately notice there is a size issue at play here. Hickman boldly asserts that the selection of impressively large prints was intended as “fun—to not have the picture come to you—you get to walk into the situation.” Indeed, the walls of the White Box are collaged with a significant number of Life-magazine-like, life-size prints both printed and projected compelling one to wonder if there is notable intention in such monolithic reproductions. The emotional and visual quality delivered by the size of the images only lets us in closer….with a come hither temptation to sink our field of vision into one of these and see people, people just like us. In large format, the expressions are closer, the glances accessible—we see anxiety in one man’s eyes, and, in another, can that possibly be a sense of trepidation in the faces of young sailors surrounding a navy propaganda poster where an illustration of a strapping young sailor salutes with confidence and vigor? The message here is one of giving us the independence and courtesy to just look where we want. Hickman trusts his audience to see something of interest. Let your gaze wander, or stare at one and lose yourself in a single image, either way you will be drawn down a path where you are visually compelled to form a new sense of connection to the people in the images before you. Hickman’s photos have a warmth to them, a sense of understanding, of humility, of empathy. Enhanced by the simple palette of black and white, Portland Creative Community 1.0 appeals to our emotional connections by way of this inherent connectedness to humanity.
A few years ago, something prompted Hickman to delve into boxes and boxes of his saved negatives—negatives that included his images shot decades ago at a time when Portland was a city contemplating urban growth boundaries, constructing freeways, grappling with controversial decisions made by the Portland Development Commission, and when students were sometimes more activist than academic, and our beloved Park Blocks could potentially play host to tumultuous scenes of riot police dragging resistant protestors. Into this socio-political urban landscape strode Hickman, camera always in hand ready to capture the closest image that looked, to him, the most interesting.
Without flash, planned or artificial lighting, or contrived situations, Portland Creative Community 1.0 reveals a subtle honesty—a mastery of the manual camera managing to find a brilliant way to mingle human-controlled aperture and shutter speed with today’s computer-based digital camera and all the trappings of modern technology. But that seems to add to the vitality and intrigue of this display of memory and reminiscence, so an explanation is in order. Most of Hickman’s photos from this 1960s-1970s era were never developed, no contact sheets ever printed. A fact that makes the first-time exhibition of these photographs all the more meaningful. For Hickman the last few years have been a journey into the past to see images he hardly recalled and certainly had no idea what would be found. Perhaps it was a romantic sense of melancholy reflection or the simple existence of spare moments, or a basic desire to see what he had been packing around all these years (in, as Hickman calls it, his “deep archive”). Whatever the impetus, Hickman began unpacking his deep archives, and literally hundreds of photos have now come to light. Concocting ways to unearth these black and white celluloid treasures and bring them to a new audience has, in itself, been a curious study in merging 1960s camera equipment and developing methods with modern technology and the vast, immediate land of social media. While the length of years has seen great movement in the technologies available to take pictures, a span Hickman has never stepped away from, it also produced the incredible opportunity to bring this series of images to life using techniques and process unknown when the images were themselves taken. And, of course, the ability to “post” his newly digitalized photos on Facebook, tagging them with names of those within the images: the subjects seeing the images for the first time, as well, effectively created quite a social media buzz.
The process of printing these photos and a placing them in a public place for eyes to view them beyond Hickman’s significant social media following has enveloped process and method unifying technologies and compelling Hickman to discover new ways of experimenting with images originally intended for the black depths of a darkroom. Upon unpacking the negatives, Hickman would place them under the scrutiny of fluorescent light bulbs shining from beneath a layer of plexi—the ubiquitous light table—a piece of equipment that somewhat awkwardly finds itself still in use but not always to light negatives, slides or contact sheets but moreso a fine surface to place the modern images of today—a work surface bridging eras. Onto this light table, the piece that would unify technologies, Hickman placed his negatives and proceeded to bring them to life. Negatives that once would have never seen the light of day until printed and dried, now were exposed on a light table and infused with an existence by millions of pixels. Hickman began by using a macro-lens on the light table and digitally photographed the negatives; he then reversed and restored the images to pristine condition using Photoshop, employing the tool to remove dust and scratches. Hickman comments that the black and white negatives had no fading and were preserved in excellent condition. As an element of this show, the bold melding of technologies and the way Hickman wove the computer digital age into this exhibition stands as a commentary on the history of photography and the changing methods and process that leads to a finished and viewable image. Blending old with new, Hickman expands the process and displays his remarkable ability to interpret photography from a truly inclusive standpoint. A stunning visual communicator, Hickman confidently embraces the best of both worlds using tools that exemplify an understanding of photographic technologies, and, perhaps more importantly, allowing his audience to glimpse his personality and feel a sense of integration with our past and our present.
There is a story embedded in each of Hickman’s images that you will be able to explore by flipping through and reading a printed and online catalogue of the prints in the exhibition. But maybe you don’t need that—each picture alone is worth a thousand words, quite conceivably, more.