Portland - Blue Sky: Gay Block & Dorothee Deiss
Gay Block About Love
"I could not have learned about love without photography, and I am still learning."
Blue Sky presents a selection of original prints by photographer Gay Block from her most recent career survey publication, About Love (Radius Books, 2011). Included in this presentation are portraits from all of Block's major photographic projects since 1973, including "Bertha Alyce," "The Women the Girls Are Now," "Rescuers," and "South Miami Beach."
"Through photography I have learned about love. These are lessons I hadn't learned at home or in school. I began making portraits so I could ask people about their lives and their values. Their answers helped form and shape me. Through them I began to know who I could be and what indiscriminate empathy and love could feel like. I have been grateful that others pushed the medium of photography into new realms but that has not been my pursuit. I began with my mother because I had no other way to approach understanding her. It took me ten years after her death but it was a happy day when I began to miss her. Making other portraits fueled my hunger to know more people who would open me to love - the Yiddish community of South Miami Beach, the camp girls, their beauty and promise all over their faces, rescuers who risked their lives to save Jews, and all the people who generously allowed me to ask them personal questions, hard questions, that led to my feeling each was my best friend. Especially rescuers - they filled me with love and hope."
Gay Block began her career as a portrait photographer in 1973 with portraits of her own affluent Jewish community in Houston. The ever-widening expanse of her projects followed both family lines, in "Camp Girls", and the Jewish community, in "South Miami Beach". Her approach to portraiture is motivated by the desire to move beyond superficial representation, often making extensive audio and film recordings of conversations with her subjects. Block's multiple award-winning short film about her mother, Bertha Alyce, has been shown in over 25 film festivals and is included with her book Bertha Alyce: Mother exPosed. Her landmark work with writer Malka Drucker, Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust, both a book and traveling exhibition, has been seen in over 50 venues in the U.S. and abroad, including the Museum of Modern Art, NY, in 1992. Block's photographs are included in museums and private collections throughout the United States, including the the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; and the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson.
Dorothee Deiss As If Nothing Happened
"It is terrible and wonderful at the same time how fast life lets grass grow over history. But the scars remain."
The strip of cleared land on which the Berlin Wall once stood is 160 kilometers long. Twenty years after its fall, there are few traces of what had such a profound impact on the lives of so many people: how the construction of the Wall tore apart families in the course of a single day, how in the following years a common culture developed into a socialist and a capitalist world, and how closely hope and despair lay in attempts to overcome the Wall.
Today, this strip can be navigated on an almost continuous bike path. In the course of a year during 2007-2008, Deiss rode each section of the path countless times and photographed people she encountered there. "The invisibility of the death strip, the absurdity of this normality, the forgetfulness of the past were the reasons why I set out on this path. I portrayed and interviewed ramblers, recent newcomers and house owners, but also many residents who have spent their lives in the immediate vicinity of either the West or the East side of the Wall. The photographs taken there are all from the former border zone or its immediate vicinity."
Dorothee Deiss (b. 1961, Münsingen, Germany) studied medicine at the University of Medicine, Freiburg, and then worked as a pediatrician and pediatric endocrinologist in Southern Germany and Berlin. Following a desire to focus on a lifelong interest in photography, Deiss began studying photography in Berlin at Fotografie am Schiffbauerdamm and Ostkreuz- schule für Fotografie with Ute Mahler, Sibylle Bergemann and Robert Lyons. In 2010, she entered the Hartford Art School's International Limited Residency MFA in Photography program, studying with Alec Soth, Doug Dubois, and Jörg Colberg, among others. Deiss' work has been shown in several group and solo exhibitions in Germany, as well as at Photo Center NW, Seattle, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Gay Block & Dorothee Deiss
June 7- July 1, 2012
122 NW 8th Avenue,
Portland, Oregon 97209 USA
Regular hours are Noon to 5:00 PM, Tuesday through Sunday