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Traveling light: Erika Blumenfeld's exhibit at Portland Institute for Contemporary Art runs through April 21. Click on the photo for a link to PICA's Web site.
Guest Writer

Erika Blumenfeld / Moments of Light
by Jeff Jahn

Portland Institute for Contemporary Art's current exhibition of Santa Fe artist Erika Blumenfeld is so crisp it is like visual silence.

The challenging Blumenfeld creates by exposing Polaroid film to light, without a camera or lens, for a measurable period. Many Polaroid squares are then arranged together in a chronological array, like a modern Mayan calendar.

In a purely visual sense, works such as the ongoing "Light Graph: Winter Solstice" give viewers a sensation of being blinded by the rising sun while sitting in a glacial crevasse. This is sublime -- nothing else needs to be said.

Upon closer inspection we find that each Polaroid is tacked to the clean white wall with four clear plastic pushpins. Blumenfeld feels the pushpins highlight "the elusiveness of time and the absence of certainty."

I partly agree. In effect, the Polaroids become a display of specimens tacked to the wall. This highlights how impossible the fourth dimension is to bottle, store and display without losing the liveliness of the original moment.

The Cubists ran into this same problem with paint. Thus, pushpins turn transcendence into an obvious, descriptive exhibit -- making Blumenfeld's "elusiveness" purposefully moot and within grasp.

"Light Streak Variation #2

This exhibit presents inconclusive, flawed information and creates a bottomless pit of bad data for "certainty" to fall into.

The final work, "Light Graph: Reflection for Muted Skies," lies on the floor and redeems any incongruencies. It needs no pins and reflects the natural obscuring glare up at the viewer, who has a clear view of Portland's demolished Brewery Blocks -- and the promise of new development outside the museum walls.

Thus, the sublime elusiveness of light and an absence of certainty over time are finally unobstructed, both in art and life.

Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) is at 219 NW 12th Ave., #100. The exhibit runs through April 21.

E-mail Jeff at pivotofjade@hotmail.com, don’t miss his recent columns and be sure to see his April essay, Art and Threat: Untaming Humanism.

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