|Bless This House
|Artist / Creator
|Simply Books, Ltd.
|American (b. Saginaw, Michigan)
|Place of Publication
|Social Documentary, Trailer Parks
|Author of Text
|Laura Russell and Nicole Bowmer
|Process / Technique
|Digital ink jet printing.
|Number of Images
|55 original color photographs
|Structure / Binding
|Accordion text block with case-style cover. This limited edition artist books is accompanied by the open edition Print on Demand (POD) Book which is a 62-page paperback, perfect bound book.
|Red River Polar Matte paper
|Number of Pages
|6.25 x 16.25 x .5 inches extending out to 55 inches
|Edition of 25
|Signed & Numbered
In the summer of 2006, nearly 250 families received notice that their three adjoining mobile home parks in Beaverton, Oregon would be closed and demolished to make way for redevelopment. Bless This House is a social documentary project witnessing a community on the brink of extinction. The front side of the large accordion “map” shows photographs of the park and it’s families in the months before demolition. The backside of the accordion shows a progression from left to right from a dreary winter of empty trailers, to demolition and finally to a land laid bare by bulldozers. Sadly, the bulldozers pulled out and the land was cleared in the summer of 2008. Then came the market crash in September 2008. The promise of affordable housing replaced by the failed promises of a strip mall.This book is accompanied by a four-page color copy of a newspaper article about this project plus a copy of the 62-page, full-color, perfect-bound paperback Print on Demand (POD) book which includes expanded writings telling more detailed stories about the residents we met at the trailer parks, as written by project partner Nicole Bowmer.
Bless This House. The poem featured on the inside front panel
Bless This House.
Bless this neighborhood, safe, quiet, peaceful.
Bless these kids, riding their bikes as birds chirp and dogs walk on a warm summer night.
Bless the young, the old, the frail.
Bless Sheila whose fear of bees is well known by her neighbors who watch out for her every day.
Bless Maria with a new coat of paint and new windows on her pretty white trailer.
Bless Nancy who babysits so many of the kids while their parents work to pay rent on the land that holds the trailer they own.
Bless Jeanette in shock as the letters arrive. Move out. Six months. Start now.
Bless Cindy and Janice, neighbors who just sit there and cry as their world falls apart.
Bless Joe who has a $19,000 mortgage, who will be paid $5,250 for his double wide that is too old to move.
Bless Virginia who has lived here 52 years and who will probably die here.
Bless Big John who visits his wife in a nursing home every day, who promises only to leave his home to go to heaven.
Bless Sharless, whose adopted sister was fed alcohol in her sippy cup.
Bless Jeff who isn’t afraid because, after all, he’s lived on the streets before.
Bless Gabby, the Korean war vet who prays for a tornado to just take it all away.
Bless Lorna who is not able to comprehend what is happening to her and probably never will.
Bless Debbie, who helped move 13 seniors, who stayed up at night stalking the thieves who strip the metal, the pipes or anything of value from trailers vacant or not.
Bless Joe Cole, who drives the truck that moves the trailers, who says, “it ain’t Park Place, but it ain’t Baltic Avenue either.”
Bless them all. 247 families. Forced to move. No options but bulldozers for their homes. The homes they own.
God Bless the American Dream.
Bless This House: The Back Story
In the summer of 2006, nearly 250 families received notice that their three adjoining mobile home parks in Beaverton, Oregon would be closed and demolished to make way for redevelopment. For two years, photographer Laura Russell and writer Nicole Bowmer documented the stories of this community as lives were uprooted. They drove out to the parks and spent three or four afternoons a month walking the neighborhoods, interviewing the residents and witnessing the devastation. Bless This House is a collection of landscape and portrait photographs, combined with the personal stories of the residents to create a revealing account of a community on the brink of extinction.
The project evolved into two different books. First, a perfect-bound, paperback version was produced that included both Laura’s photographs and Nicole’s writings. This version was created in 2009.
But, from the very beginning Laura knew this book would also need to evolve into a hand-bound artist book. Finally, in 2010 she designed the artist book version of Bless This House. This book was originally conceived to become a map of the parks and indeed the photographs of the residents sit in the approximate location of their home, with a little bit of artistic interpretation on the map grid. The artist book version includes an original poem written by Laura that serves as a narrative to the map telling the human stories behind the photographs.
The front side of the large accordion panel shows photographs of the park in the months before demolition. Happy children play, birds chirp and a nice, safe neighborhood is documented as a social landscape. The backside of the accordion shows a progression from left to right from a dreary winter of empty trailers, to demolition and finally to a land laid bare by bulldozers. Also on the front is a Google Earth map of the three parks taken after the land was scraped off and cleared for re-development.
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.
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.