Heidi Kirkpatrick: The States Project: Oregon
This week we feature photographic artists from the state of Oregon, curated by Oregon States Project Editor Heidi Kirkpatrick. Heidi is a photographic life force: dedicated, hard working, knows how to laugh, and how to tap into wells of inspiration that are at once personal and significant. She is committed to the wet darkroom and has produced a wide variety of work that makes us rethink the presentation of the photographic. Huge congratulations to Heidi, as the Portland Art Museum has recently made a significant acquisition of her work — thirty two pieces from all areas and periods of her image making. In addition to this wonderful event, Heidi has a long list of upcoming shows that reflect her importance as a photographic artist.
Heidi has exhibited widely over the last ten years, and her work is held in numerous private and public collections including The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Springfield Museum of Art, Ohio; OHSU Corporate Collection, Portland, Oregon, and The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, Louisiana. Heidi was also selected for the Photolucida Critical Mass Top 50 in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and was awarded the solo show award by Hamidah Glasgow of The Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado in 2012. She is represented by G. Gibson Gallery, Seattle, Washington; Panopticon Gallery in Boston, Massachusetts; Wall Space Gallery, Santa Barbara, California; Dina Mitrani Gallery, Miami, Florida and High Noon Culture in Beijing, China. She is fine art photographer and educator based in Portland, Oregon.
I’m so excited to spend some virtual time with you and discuss your journey! To start off, congratulations on the Portland Art Museum Acquisition. How did it come about and why did they select the work they did?
Thank you, Aline. I am delighted you chose me for the States Project and also to talk about the journey and some of the people who helped me along the way.
The Acquisition. A photographer, a curator, plus a couple of patron saints equal dream come true. The acquisition includes 32 pieces from a 20 year time span, 1995 to 2015, made up of gelatin silver prints, toy camera, street photography, images from a trip to Iceland, photograms, studio imagery and photographs on found objects. I cannot tell you how amazing it is to hear: this is important, yes, I will back you, I believe in you, you deserve it. I have your back.
Dr. Julia Dolan, Minor White Curator of Photography at the Portland Art Museum, made several studio visits over the last several years. The first time she came over I was nervous, and at the same time very excited, that she was coming over to pick out something for the collection. I was very naïve about what was about to happen. The studio tour went well. She left empty-handed. I was crushed. She didn’t take anything. I thought for sure she was leaving with a piece, maybe two if I was lucky, for the permanent collection. Now granted, I had zero experience in dealing with curators. Zero. The next time I saw Julia she said told me she needed to think about things for a while. Honestly, that was comforting. People, these things take time, just keep working. The most important thing is to keep working.
Fast forward 2 years. Julia then told me she wanted to look at earlier print work in addition to my 3D objects. I spent weeks going through numerous bodies of work, prepping boxes of prints to show her. That, in itself, was eye opening and an exercise I highly recommend. The day Julia chose the work is a day I will never forget. She rode over on her bike; we went straight to the studio to look at the work. She stood across the table from me in my shop. Julia said she was going to look through quickly and then go back through and pull prints if there was something she was interested in for the collection. The first print she chose was one of the From My Window Seat images. I will never forget her holding that print out, looking at me, and handing it to me. She picked something; she picked a piece of my work for the permanent collection! I walked it into the other room, on my return she handed me another print, it happened 28 more times. 28! Unbelievable. Without a doubt one of the coolest days of my life, a definite high point in my career and an experience for which I am extremely grateful. Speaking of grateful, let’s get to the patron saint part.
In 2011 I attended PhotoNOLA, met a curator; he loved my work, told me if I could find a donor to buy the work he would put it in the permanent collection and show it. He told me it was better to have someone other than the artist donate the work. I had no idea. I also learned that not all museums are funded for acquisitions; again, I had no idea. On my return to Portland I asked my friend if she and her husband would be interested in helping me get into a museum collection in New Orleans by purchasing the work and donating it. They did. And they did it again and again. The Portland Art Museum is the third collection they have helped me become a part of. My patron saints are Peter Buck and his wife, Chloe Johnson; I thank them from the bottom of my heart. Thank you, Peter and Chloe, for your generosity, thank you for believing in me, thank you for spinning records on my birthday, thank you for being an amazing guitar player and for being friends. Thank you REM, thank you Universe, thank you God.
Let’s talk a little about what Oregon means to you as an image maker? I know from attending Photolucida over the years that Portland is a pretty magical place to be a photographer, with a strong community, photo center, galleries, and the home of one of the most exciting portfolio reviews–how does that affect your image making?
Oh Oregon, my Oregon, I came here kicking and screaming, I should have been begging them to let me in. I hope I never have to leave. Portland has nurtured me as an artist; the photo community is deep and rich here. Oregon is where I started my photographic journey and hopefully I will be ending it here as well, ‘til death do us part.
In our last interview, you shared that you came to photography in your thirties after moving to Portland from Dallas. I have a feeling that move was profound and initially left you feeling unrooted. Does that tie-in with the series shot from airplanes? There is a melancholy to that work that I’m not sure if it comes from the camera or from you…
The Move. Definitely profound, definitely uprooting and definitely the best thing that has ever happened to me besides the man I am lucky enough to be married to. From My Window Seat, from which Julia chose 9 images, comes from my love of travel. The work was made with a Holga camera, but I like to think the feeling of any work comes from the heart, not the equipment.
Your photographic journey shows your interest in a variety of processes in the darkroom and in camera. At this point, do you have one process that continues to excite you?
There has been a lot of playing, learning and experimenting along the way. It’s rarely ever one anything for me, I am a Gemini. I love it all but, darkroom work excites me the most; I never get enough time in the darkroom, ever. Printing on film making transparent images excites me. Being at my work table in my shop excites me, and last but not least, cyanotypes in my backyard excite me. I am so looking forward to summer.
Your work has been tremendously successful in the last five years, due not only to your unique approach to image making, but being spot on when the photography zeitgeist was ready to consider the photograph as object. Can you speak to this at all–what made you shift your images onto other surfaces?
I wanted to make unique pieces. I was tired of making the same thing over and over again. As much as I love the darkroom work, I needed something more, something else. I wanted to make work that could be handled, not prints behind glass. I wanted to make pieces that could be lived with in a different way. I love the spirit the object brings into the work, and the possibilities with the layering of the film positives are endless. It’s exciting. It’s fun. It’s a puzzle. And, it includes shopping.
Will color ever enter the picture?
Unlikely, for me it is all about the silver.
The future is full and bright. I currently have work at Panopticon Gallery in Boston in “Comforts of Home”. Next up is Classic Photo LA with Wall Space Gallery. I have 3 shows in March, “Found” in Richmond, Virginia at Candela Gallery, with my object work, “Altered Narratives”, at City Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina, showing my cyanotype work and my first big show at the Dina Mitrani Gallery in Miami, Florida opening March 10th which will be a combination of photo objects and cyanotypes. That takes me up to spring break! I am curious to see what the rest of the year has to bring. I am ready.
And finally, describe your perfect day.
Coffee. One. Cream and sugar.
Never leave the property.
If it is winter, it’s fire.
If it is summer, it’s hummingbirds.
Wine summer or winter. Chardonnay. More than one.
Doug cooks my dinner on the grill; he is also probably in his pajamas.
Still in my pajamas, maybe a movie or work a puzzle.
Time for bed, and conveniently, I am already in my pajamas.
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