Reflective Day in Portland

Reflective Day in Portland

Between stops on this research trip, I planned a few days in Portland, Oregon.  My extended family is from Portland, and I used to visit every few years.  Growing up, I always believed I’d wind up living in Oregon.  Still for me, there is a sense of coming home when I go to the Pacific Northwest.  My body relaxes into belonging.

On this visit, I stayed at my great-aunt and uncle’s house on the hillside.  I love this house — its energy and views and the way it admits daylight.  I wish I reserved the word love for places like this one.

I’ve learned on this research trip how important these few days of reflection can be.  For the most part, my research has been conducted on this trip at a pretty relentless pace.  In between Seattle and Japan, these few days in my great-uncle’s study overlooking the trees gave me an opportunity to gather my thoughts, to process information and impressions.

It felt right to do so in this space that belonged to my great-aunt and uncle, who had their own connections to both Japan and Seattle.  In the sunlit quiet of their living room, I looked through their 1930s jazz records, poured tea from their Japanese teapot.  It felt good to be connected with them across time through these shared spaces.



Every day I walk by the Persian carpet store down the street from my apartment.  A few months ago, I caught the reflection of the buildings in the rug store window.  It looks almost as though the Mt. Vernon row houses are a design emerging from the pattern in the carpet.

Of course, as a textile enthusiast, I am always going to be attracted to to the designs and textures of carpets — and I particularly like this one.  I also love to the architecture of these old, nineteenth century Mt. Vernon row houses, with their brickwork and arcs and ornate entrances.

So I am drawn this layering of pattern and texture.  The resonance of organic and geometric shapes and warm color in both the cityscape and the Persian carpet, the way they interplay.

The image feels right just now: this resonance, this layering of place.  Back in the fall I mentioned that I received the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance’s Ruby Grant.  This winter I’ll use part of that grant to take a research trip for the last two stories in my collection.

That means that I’ll be away from my much-loved neighborhood for a little while, as I complete this book which spans from Baltimore to Japan to Hawaii to Seattle.  This story collection that layers refractions of place as its characters move across a shifting globe in the wake of war, and transport their complex webs of belonging.


These photographs of Dulkarian’s Persian Rug Co. are part of an interest in Baltimore windows that seems to have taken hold this past year in my photography (see here).  In the coming weeks, I’ll write about my research travel, but I’ll also continue to post a series of these Baltimore windows.

In that way, I can layer place here in my studio space just as in my story collection.  I look forward to taking you all along on the journey!

Milk & Honey

I’ve been doing a lot of research for my book this week.  On Sunday afternoon, I decided to carry my research material across the neighborhood to Milk and Honey for some fresh air and a change of scenery.  I’ve been to this cafe a few times since I moved in last winter, but usually just as a brief stop on my way someplace else.  It was nice on Sunday to be in the open sunlight of those big windows with a wall of paintings and an expanding page of notes.

Last summer, on a stop in Milk and Honey, I took some pictures of their windows.  I love the industrial gold-dome lamps against the daylight, and the layering of cafe and church.

Window / Frame

On a walk with my friend John, we spotted this window in a Station North drycleaner.  I love that in this shot, the frames in the shop window play against the reflected windows in the buildings opposite, the sheet glass against the tactile brownstones, the 19th century arches against the spare wood frames.

Plus, I love that the site of this piece is in the window of the emerging arts district’s drycleaner.  Art is everywhere in this pocket of Baltimore.

If you look closely, you can see John and — if you look even a little more closely — me in this photo.  Which I think is kind of great.  Portrait of the artists, lingering in a Station North drycleaner.

I’ve noticed that there seems to be an interest in displaying frames in windows lately. We saw this frame display in a Mt. Vernon window the same day.

I like it: the concept suggests a playfulness about windowframes — and probes some larger questions about framing, the act of viewing, and art. There could be some good academic scholarship here. These pieces enact an age-old idea: Art as a window?

Portico: Industrial

For the first few months after I moved in to my apartment, this building nearby was covered in scaffolding.  I’ve been thinking about how scaffolding creates temporary spaces in the streetscape of a city.

This pedestrian archway holds its own beauty: the yellow-caged lightbulbs, one with its slight tilt, the slender gleam of the braces, the wood and rust.  The experience of partial enclosure, of being on and also apart from the street.

Over the past few weeks, the scaffolding has come down from this building in sections, until now it’s completely removed.  My experience walking this sidewalk is palpably different since.  There is a change in the way my vision focuses.  A way this pop-up urban architecture shifts the dynamic of place.