RVW | Portland Porches
We express ourselves as much through our homes and living spaces, as we do through our clothing or appearance.
By Tyler Peterson, MFA AC+D ’15
Portland Porches is an ongoing series of work by PNCA faculty member Teresa Christiansen, now on display in PNCA’s Corner Gallery, a small gallery space tucked off the back corner of PNCA’s Swigert Commons. Encountering The Corner Gallery feels like being invited into a cozy and welcoming place. Christiansen’s work takes advantage of the intimacy and closeness of the space. Images of porches cover the walls. Varying in size and shape, Christiansen’s photographs are framed simply in thin white frames that allow the images to take front and center stage.
The images in Portland Porches could be described as a cross between portraiture and landscape or architecture photography. This may seem like a slightly strange concept, but after further contemplation it begins to make sense. We express ourselves visually through our homes and living spaces, much as we do through our clothing or appearance. Christiansen makes these visual identifies apparent in Porches. One photograph of a porch shows the owner’s vast collection of stone sculptures while another displays a clever play on words possibly signifying that a lover of spoken word lives there. At the same time, another porch is empty of anything and appears to serve the completely utilitarian purpose of a covered walkway. Christiansen’s images elaborate on the idea that our living spaces, especially those out in public view, identify us to others as they pass by.
While each image by itself is a portrait of the person or people who live there, the true power of the series comes into focus when it is viewed as a whole. By standing in The Corner Gallery and slowly rotating around the space, the visitor begins to gain a sense of where these porches may be located. Each quadrant, section, or neighborhood in Portland has its own style and distinct “flavor.” These porches represent the many different communities that make up Portland. As I stood there and looked around, I began to notice possible connections. Maybe the porch full of plants and vines was the neighbor of the porch screened off with old window frames and wooden rocking chairs. Who knows? Only Christiansen and her subjects. For the rest of us who have not caught a glimpse of some of these spectacular spaces, we can only imagine who lives there and what sort of community they are creating with those who live around them.