‘Leaping Darkness’ exhibit exposes provoking connections

Jump into the world of thought-provoking, life-size photograms in the altering exhibit Leaping Darkness at the Littman Gallery, led by artists Anna Daedalus and Kerry Davis, through April 29.

The first-time display of abstract and cinematic figures was the third artistic reflection inspired by their research of atomic destruction and environmental demolition.

Both members of the inter-disciplinary collaboration, 13 Hats, Davis and Daedalus first started working together in 2011. Since then, they have been creatively motivated by the destruction seen in the Pacific Northwest environment and how that relates to similar damage in Japan.

“Before, I didn’t know about the close connection with Nagasaki,” Daedalus said. “Apparently the plutonium in the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki was developed at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, right here, secretly.”

The idea of using photograms artistically started with their creation of a shadow box, displayed during the Hiroshima anniversary, Aug. 6. Utilizing a box in a public space, people were able to get their picture taken as a shadow, recreating the victims’ shadows that were imprinted on the buildings and ground when the bomb was dropped.

Leaping Darkness is evocative of those shadows. Although those photograms were not sculpted, Leaping Darkness is magnificently large and three-dimensional.

“We went out there to [Hanford] and did a tour of the site, and while we were there we did our first water shadow,” Daedalus said. “The idea around that was to draw connections between the Pacific Northwest and Japan, present nuclear issues and historical ones, and also to talk about the Columbia River as the life blood to our region and how it is being polluted in a very serious way.”

Davis and Daedalus were surprised to continuously find devastating connections between their home and Japan. Some of the water shadows taken at the Columbia River revealed plastic and trash. A lot of that debris, a reminder of the tsunami in Japan, is still showing up on the Pacific Northwest coast.

Since then, Davis and Daedalus have been moved to get more involved artistically and educhationally within environmental issues close to home.

“After we did the water shadows, we would ripple the paper and make them look like water, like they were wavy,” Davis said. “And we really found that to be an interesting way to present the material besides it just being a traditional, flat, two-dimensional photograph that’s pristine and always in perfect condition.”

This idea started the work of the yearlong process to create Leaping Darkness.

“When you walk around the gallery you should get a feel that each piece is moving and that they are all interconnected,” Davis said.

The abstract sculptural treatment of the paper in Leaping Darkness makes the static art appear as if it is active and alive.

“We are interested in this idea of finding a way to get back to the material world of things leaving a trace of their physical presence on paper,” Daedalus explained.

Davis and Daedalus are focused on future collaborations with other artists. However, they both prioritize involvement with the Portland community.

“We like the idea of giving back and working with the community besides just being a part of the gallery world,” Davis said. “Nothing against that world, but there are other ways to show our work.”

Davis and Daedalus enjoy dialogue with the public because they are curious about the dynamic between what the artist and the spectator can bring to each other and what can be formed through that interaction.

“We are always interested in people pushing their envelope and their use of materials if they’re an artist,” Daedalus said. “Or their perceptions if they’re a non-artist. There are endless variations and opportunities.”

Led by Davis and Daedalus, there will be a chance for Portland State students and the Portland community to share their inspired thoughts through a talk on April 21, 6:30–8 p.m., in the Littman Gallery, further explaining the artistic process that led to the creation of Leaping Darkness.

In the meantime, Davis and Daedalus are focused on opening a unique art exhibit very shortly within their Sellwood workplace, Roll-up Photo Studio and Gallery.