Xander Marrow

A map of East Burnside spreads across the north wall of the PSU White Gallery. It’s part of a two-person photography show called Germination in which black-and-white 35mm film photographs separate north and south sides of the directionally divisive street, creating a mind-map of Xander Marrow’s relationship with the Northeast and Southeast neighborhoods.

Marrow’s portion of Germination draws from a collection of more than 14,000 photos taken over the past four years. Handwritten comments lace the collages, tying groups of images together. Scrawls like, “Fight a war like the gays do” pair with images of Portland’s Pride Parade. It feels like a combination of fond memories and a familiar call-to-action. In other images, shadowy, statuesque faces relate with the visage of the water tower on NE Prescott. Beneath them is an ambiguous phrase: “Everything dies. It’s been happening for like forever.”

The White Gallery is a contemporary-focused, student-run gallery, so there’s always a youthful feeling to their shows. Marrow, meanwhile, is an increasingly accomplished photographer with a skill for translating emotion through photography. Marrow’s installation feels like a goodbye to the Pacific Northwest and an exploration of their journey to the level of craft they show today.


Marrow’s nostalgic theme, paired with the show’s other photographer Rocket, is a charming juxtaposition. Despite her decade-long roots in Portland’s community as a burlesque dancer and producer, the portraits Rocket contributes to Germination are her photographic debut.

The neat, black-framed Holga portraits lining the gallery’s south wall immediately contrast with the fanning shapes of Marrow’s map. Rocket’s photos ask the viewer to come in close: Each image captures the moments of transition between an ordinary person and their stage self, right before the performer takes the stage.

Support The Portland Mercury

Rocket’s Germination debut coincides with other fruits, including a zine, Backstage, which features many more photos not found in her White Gallery show, as well as interviews with some of the portraited entertainers.

The White Gallery’s reception for Germination happens a little late in the show’s run, but White’s sister space, the Littman Gallery, will be holding a reception for its futuristic, Killjoy Collective art show Sun Kittens & Moon Puppies—reportedly “inspired by queer and womanist utopias”—at the same time.