|Title||Bless This House|
|Artist / Creator||Laura Russell|
|Artist's Nationality||American (b. Saginaw, Michigan)|
|Place of Publication||Portland, OR|
|Subject||Social Documentary, Trailer Parks|
|Author of Text||All text for this version of the book was written by Nicole Bowmer.|
|Contributors||All photos by Laura Russell.|
|Process / Technique||Digital Print on Demand|
|Structure / Binding||Perfect Bound Paperback|
|Number of Pages||62|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||9 x 7 inches|
|Edition Size||Open Edition|
|Signed & Numbered||No|
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 the Print on Demand (POD) version of the Bless This House project, 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 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.
Nicole Bowmer is a writer in Portland, Oregon.
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.