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.
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.