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Photographs by Edward Curtis inspire young artists to create

High school students will display their work tonight in a show centered around this year's Lake Oswego Reads selection


REVIEW PHOTO: CLIFF NEWELL - Katie Brink (from left), Heather Chrisman and Amy Burnham will give young artists a place to shine tonight at a show and reception at Chrisman Framing. The event is part of the citys Lake Oswego Reads program.Photographer Edward Curtis was willing to risk everything in pursuit of his art, and that makes him the perfect inspiration for high school students who will show their work tonight as part of Lake Oswego Reads.

Curtis is the subject of “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher,” the nonfiction book by Seattle author Timothy Egan that is the focus of this year’s citywide reading program. He was a dashing, charismatic, passionate mountaineer and famous photographer who set out in 1900 to pursue his Great Idea: to capture on film the continent’s original inhabitants before their old ways disappeared.

“Curtis gave his life to do this,” says Heather Chrisman, who has coordinated the high school art show and reception since its beginning 10 years ago. “Without him, some tribes would not have much history.”

Tonight’s art show, sale and reception, which is scheduled from 5-7 p.m., will be held at Chrisman Framing in Lake Oswego.

“My students are creating work that has been inspired by the ideas in this book,” says Amy Burnham, an art teacher at Lake Oswego High School. “I’m seeing a lot of diverse work. Because this book was about an artist, my students were especially interested in it.”

In addition to the 40,000 photographs he took, Curtis and his team created more than 10,000 recordings of the songs, music and speech of more than 80 tribes throughout North America. For 30 years, he devoted his life to producing the 20-volume “The North American Indian.”

“The type of photos that Curtis did turned out great,” says Katie Brink, also an art teacher at LOHS. “What is so great is that Edward Curtis is making kids re-think what portrait photography is. Today, a portrait photo is usually a selfie. We’ve been talking about portrait photography a lot.”

Brink encouraged the young artists to do daguerreotypes, just like Curtis did. Their reaction has been enthusiastic.

“I told them, ‘He did daguerreotypes, so let’s do daguerreotypes,’” Brink says. “These were more open to the personal interpretation of each student.”

Shannon McBride, an art teacher at Lakeridge High School, says she also asked students to think beyond selfies and consider the world around them. As a result, she says, “they’ve created a photography show of their own portraits.”

“Their portraits range from capturing the imagery of the unique peoples of the world to their little sisters dressing up,” McBride says. “In their own way, as Edward Curtis did, they are documenting their time, their place and the people who are in it.”

Curtis created memories that otherwise would have been lost, Burnham says, and so her ceramics students were encouraged to create art with an emphasis on memories.

“Their work explores the visitation and revisitation of memory in the form of reliquaries,” Burnham says. “These reliquaries (containers of relics and sacred objects) explore the preciousness of moments gone by and how these memories have shaped our lives and inner thoughts.”

Egan, whose fascination with Curtis and his work led him to many of the locations and Native American tribes studied by the photographer, says Curtis wanted to make sure the people he tried to capture with his camera would live forever. The young artists featured in tonight’s show share that same desire to have their work seen.

“We have kids who yearn to display their work,” Burnham says. “This is a good opportunity to do that.”

Brink agrees.

“They work hard and deserved to be recognized,” she says.

Another motivation: All of the artwork created by the students will be for sale tonight.

“The students get all of the money paid for their work, even if it’s only $5,” Chrisman says. “We’ve got really talented high school kids doing wonderful work.”

Chrisman Framing is located at 480 Second St. in Lake Oswego. For a list of other Lake Oswego Reads events, see Page B6 in the Feb. 11 issue of The Review or go to www.ci.oswego.or.us/loreads/2016-lake-oswego-reads-events.

Contact Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..