THERE AREN'T a lot of galleries in Portland that focus on contemporary artists working in a photographic tradition. Melanie Flood Projects, run by eponymous curator/artist Melanie Flood, is one. "There's such a rich history of photo in the Pacific Northwest, I feel like that sometimes overshadows what's going on in the larger [photography] dialogue outside of the city," she says.
Flood's a fast talker who's good at making quick connections. Part of the impetus for her gallery is indeed to foster new connections. "We're all spread out in Portland, [so] it's nice to try to bridge and introduce people that are from different parts of the art scene—the photography scene is very separate from the art scene," she says. "And then there's the video art and media crowd, and there's the social practice crowd. Even though we're all related under this umbrella of being invested in art, we're still a little separated."
Flood moved to Portland from New York, where she ran Melanie Flood Projects out of her apartment in Brooklyn. While in New York, she worked for zingmagazine, and as a photo editor at the New York Observer. In 2010, Flood moved to Portland; four years later, she rekindled Melanie Flood Projects. This new incarnation of the gallery is located on the third floor of a building a block away from downtown's 5th Avenue food cart pod.
Previously, a number of the space's shows have been from non-local artists, but that will change later this year. Currently, the space is on a break; shows will resume in September. In the meantime, Flood's working as a mentor on a new project called Prequel. Begun this year by artists Ryan Woodring and Alexis Roberto, it's a free "artist incubator" program that aids young artists with mentorship and professional development—a subject that often gets skipped over in art school. It runs from May through August, with weekly meetings and workshops.
Talking to Flood is like a breath of fresh air; she's full of ideas and moments of optimism. "I know so many artists that come from this photo background, and they have these traditional photo skills, but they're like, 'This is a limiting language, how can I manipulate it?' It's endless what can be done in photo, and I feel like that's one area in town that's not getting as much exposure. There's always a photo emphasis in this space, but they'll always be something else. It's artists who are working with photo in exciting ways," Flood says. It sounds like just what the city needs.