Stereoscopic terror

A chilling murder takes place. Images of the victim, a young factory worker in 1930s Chicago, are taken as evidence. Seventy years later, the images and story of her death are told in Portland, Ore.

A chilling murder takes place. Images of the victim, a young factory worker in 1930s Chicago, are taken as evidence. Seventy years later, the images and story of her death are told in Portland, Ore.

Quiet and thrilling, Christopher Schneberger’s show at the 3D Center of Art and Photography, < i>Magic and Murder at the Candy Factory: The Story of Anna Sula, features images of the violent murder. Polarized 3-D glasses are provided for your viewing pleasure.

In the show, Schneberger, a Chicago-based artist, introduces never-before-seen evidence related to Sula’s murder, including eyewitness accounts that hint at the victim’s telekinetic abilities and reveal a new theory as to who may have been behind the murder.

“A lot of my work has to do with blurring the lines of fact and fiction,” Schneberger claimed in a recent interview, yet the accompanying narration to Magic and Murder is so straightforward, in a public broadcasting reenactment style, that it is difficult to see the historical and fantastical images together without asking the question: is it all true? Reality is very flexible for this artist.

Originally conceived for Printworks Gallery in Chicago, where Schneberger lives and works, Magic and Murder approaches the story of Anna Sula through newspaper clippings highlighting her murder and photographs taken by the people surrounding her life and death. Some of the photos are stereocards –3-D photos that people kept in their homes, like a type of 19th century TV–which the National Candy Factory boss allegedly took of Sula during the after-hours s퀌�ances he held on the fifth floor of the factory.

At the Printworks opening in 2006, these images were displayed in handsome wooden frames and period furniture filled the room, along with National Candy Factory memorabilia, revealing that the gallery was housed in the original site of the factory where the murder took place.

In the original Magic and Murder show, Schneberger said, “you walked into the gallery and you were in the room [where the events took place], and you were also submersed in the picture.”

Instead of attempting to recreate the “original” gallery experience, which had everything to do with its location, Schneberger used the documentary-style 3-D slideshow here in Portland to great success. Besides explaining the circumstances of the Printworks exhibition, the documentary format becomes its own genre, one that is appropriate for framing Scheneberger’s images.

Schneberger has traveled with a similar site-specific piece and reconstructed the environment for a different gallery. However, for the 3D Center of Art and Photography, a non-profit with little to spare for hanging fees or commissions, displaying the show in a digital slideshow format made more sense.

Paul Brenner, the center’s talented new director, said that Schneberger’s exhibit arrived easily, as a download. While the other exhibits currently on display require hand-built viewers, which are fascinating works of art in their own right, Schneberger’s exhibit required little setup.

Schneberger’s ability to adapt his subject to various mediums has given him greater exposure with niche audiences, such as the National Stereoscopic Association, which awarded him the Best in Show prize for his first entry, a slideshow of images titled The Strange Case of Dr. Addison, in 2005.

Along with exposure, Schneberger’s multiple formats can provide more accessibility: a set of three View-Master sets of his 3-D work cost $55 (viewer included) from his website,, and are both individual and reproducible.

“I always loved View-Masters as a kid,” said Schneberger, who saw the sets as a fun and affordable way for friends to own a piece of his work. “I thought it would be a nice curiosity at the show, but they’re really popular. They go over really well because people know exactly what to do.”

At the 3D Center, View-Masters go over well too and the center is hosting a class starting this November on making custom View-Master reels with a digital camera.

Since the center displays contemporary work for a month alongside its extensive collection of antique cameras and 3-D images, Schneberger’s slideshow–and custom View-Master sets in the gift shop–appear initially as a history lesson before driving gently toward Schneberger’s more surrealistic tendencies.

Photography is used here as evidence in the real story of how Chicago’s River North District evolved from an industrial growth along the railway tracks nicknamed “Smokey Hollow,” to a richly dense neighborhood of galleries and boutiques in cool refurbished warehouses with shining wooden floors. But it’s also used in the ways 19th century photo buffs feared and loved most: to trick, conceal, and expose. In short, to both alter reality and preserve it at the same time.

Magic and Murder at the Candy Factory, Sept. 13 to Oct. 28 at the 3D Center of Art and Photography, 1928 NW Lovejoy Street, in the darkened Studio Theater. The First Thursday reception is Oct. 4, admission is free, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The center is open Thursday to Saturday 11a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults and $7 for families.

The 3D Center for Art and Photography, now under the directorship of Paul Brenner, is looking for an intern interested in arts administration and non-profit gallery ownership. Contact the gallery at 503-227-6667 or