All Sinners Welcome by Laura Russell


All Sinners Welcome explores do-it-yourself or "DIY" religion in America. Photographs of storefront churches, quirky handmade church signs and expressions of faith in the landscape have captured my eye over six years of travel and are a segment of my favorite topic: our commercial and cultural landscape. Raised a Catholic, organized, sanctioned religion is familiar territory. As an adult I consider myself an agnostic and find "disorganized" religion much more interesting. The motivation to hang a sign on a building and call it a church is fascinating even beyond my usual interest in typography and signage in the landscape. This book is a celebration of our country's freedom of religion, freedom of speech and our undying do-it-yourself, entrepreneurial spirit.

Page two of this book features a "word cloud" poem created using an InDesign script called Wordilyzer. The words in the poem are taken from the tag lines and sayings on the nearly 200 signs that I photographed over the last six years. The script generates a word cloud of the most frequently used words. The larger the word, the more frequently it was used on the signs. The book has been in progress for a few years. Its first incarnation was as a slide video I created for a Slideluck Potshow event here in Portland. This video is what I like to call an "artist book unbound."

Artist Bio

Laura Russell is a photographer and book artist who creates hand-bound, limited-edition artist books that incorporate photographs of our urban landscape and tell a story about our culture and our communities. She has participated in national and international book arts and fine art exhibitions. Her books are collected by individual collectors and are in major collections at museums, libraries, universities and corporations. Laura is also the founder of 23 Sandy Gallery, a fine art gallery in Portland, 2007-2020, which is now owned and operated by Erin Mickelson.

Artist Statement

My goal as an artist is to open our minds to the visual and graphic landscape we look at every day but never really see. If we pay attention, we find that our urban landscape has a story to tell about our culture and our communities. For many years I have photographed vintage neon signs, brick wall ghost signs, graffiti and other examples of language and graphics in our environment. Recently, I have since expanded my photography to our urban social landscape. I use these photographs to create limited edition, hand-bound artist books that are at once a celebration of the vernacular and my own small effort to preserve our social, cultural and commercial landscape.