The Day Portraitlandia Stood Still

Kirk Crippens, “Jedediah Aaker,” (2013) (all photographs courtesy of the artist)

Kirk Crippens, “Jedediah Aaker,” (2013) (all photographs courtesy of the artist)

CHICAGO — Kirk Crippens’s photographic series Portraitlandia is a visual manifestation of that surreal moment when quotidian life, a hit television show, and a curious photographer converge. Shortly after he shot this series of typical Portlanders, he actually did have a moment of watching the very people he documented appear on the television showPortlandia. But Crippens didn’t mean for his project to be an odd reflection on Portland’s likeness to the television show Portlandia. It just kinda happened that way.

Crippens’s series is simple in its premise and beautiful in its inception, and it came about in a pretty obvious fashion. Crippens went to Portland for an artist residency at Newspace Center for Photography, and wanted to reflect on ways he might connect with the city during his visit. As every artist who does a residency knows, it’s awkward to visit a new place for a period of time, take it all in, and then promptly leave with an attachment to the place through an art project. Artist residencies are uncanny vacations, in that way.

Crippens decided to use a view camera to photograph what he calls “interesting Portlanders,” or what I like to call the typical Portland freaks & geeks next door mixed with a dose of “regular folks.” Interesting is one of those words that could mean anything and nothing, which is why it works in this context. One of the subjects of Crippens project is Tres Shannon III, founder of Voodoo Doughnuts, which reminds me of The Simpsons episode The Day the Earth Stood Cool from the 24th season of the show, in which hipsters overtake Springfield. Terrence and his wife, voiced by Portlandia‘s Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, start it all by bringing their artisanal donut trailer Devil Donuts, a direct reference to Voodoo Doughnut, to the town of Springfield. It’s so familiar that it must be Portraitlandia.

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