The Photography of Heather Fulton
It was Friday, and even though I had to be at work at 8:00 the next morning, my fiancée and I decided to stop by Bare Bones on Belmont to see a small photography show featuring photos by Heather Fulton. One thing I love about Portland is that there are so many places willing to display local art, in an intimate setting, with alcohol. Bare Bones presents three artists every month. We ordered beers and walked over to the wall to inspect the prints.
There’s been a rise in mobile photography lately. The smartphone boom has put a high resolution camera in everybody’s pocket, but few take advantage of the opportunities they afford, choosing to shoot selfies, food, and their feet instead of to create art. Social media exists to serve the human need for external validation, so most of the photos in our newsfeeds are preoccupied with the photographers themselves, the subject only secondary.
This is not the case with Fulton’s photography. She sees the same world you and I do, but reveals it to be full of beauty and small delights. Her prints are small, just larger than a standard Polaroid, and they maintain the same simple 1:1 aspect ratio, but this tight frame means I have to step back or look closer to uncover the commonplace scenes they represent.
I was lost in a spattering of stars, a galactic rainbow of colors, when my keen-eyed fiancée told me I was actually looking at an oil slick on asphalt. The outline of a warrior mask stood stark against the sky, and I didn’t realize until I left that it was made of power lines. There’s another piece that looked almost like some dark mirrored hallway, except the ground was an impossible intersection of polygons. I never figured that one out.
Not all of her work is metaphorical, some are gorgeous studies of balance and symmetry, simplicity and quietude. Two pieces come to mind that demonstrate the patience that must have gone into the creation of this series. In one, a free-falling pendulum is rendered perfectly still in the perfect center of the circular structure around it. Another lines up the base and roof of a skyscraper so precisely that a straight line completely bisects the center of the photograph.
It being opening night, Heather Fulton was available for questions, standing to one side with a smile on her face and a drink in her hand. I didn’t want to ruin the surprise of any of the pieces I hadn’t figured out yet, but I appreciated the opportunity to thank her in person for her work. She let out a hearty laugh when I thought one depicted the imprint of a bird taking flight, embedded in concrete.
Her photos will be on display at Bare Bones Cafe & Bar until May 31st, 2017, and she’s selling prints if you want one for yourself.