Exploring Development and Loss: Blue Sky Artist Talks

By Emily Albertson, featuring Seiya Bowen and Aleksey Kondratyev

It’s the beginning of the month, which means new art has found its temporary home on the walls of galleries across Portland. This past week I spent some time at Blue Sky gallery for artist talks by the two newest exhibiting artists, Seiya Bowen and Aleksey Kondratyev. Their work may be based in two different parts of the world (Bowen’s work was made in Japan and Kondratyev’s in Kazakhstan) but these two artists have more in common than meets the eye: both immigrated to the United States, graduated with BFAs in photography in 2014, and are showing work focusing on people and cultures affected by the constantly expanding socio-economic landscape of today.

Seiya Bowen

For Bowen, a Japanese American based in New Mexico, visiting his grandparents in his hometown of Nadachi, Japan has been an exploration of identity and loss. As more and more people move to large cities for jobs and more promising futures, Bowen has seen Nadachi disappear under shadow of the bullet train line, shrinking in population by over 400 within a year. His intimate portraits of a shrinking village, featuring portraits of aging locals and forgotten keepsakes, show not only an ever present change in the socio economic landscape of Japan, but also the quiet passing of a home that is so strongly rooted in his childhood and Japanese identity.

Aleksey Kondratyev

Born in Kyrgyzstan, Kondratyev works between Detroit and Central Asia, but most of his work focuses on geo-political narrative of a central Asia affected by the colonization by the Soviet Union. Kondratyev explores these narratives by photographing architecture and people in the middle of these culture clashes, but his series “Ice Fishers” being shown at Blue Sky, almost removes any evidence of a contextual landscape. In each large print, one or two men hunch over inside a large plastic bag as they fish in frozen Ishim River in Kazakhstan, one of the coldest populated regions on Earth. The images are minimalist and mainly monochromatic; each man is isolated within the large frame of ice, wrapped in their own little bubble of plastic as the harsh wind rages around them. We can’t see any of their faces, but we know these are men of tradition, patiently waiting hours upon hours in -30 degree temperatures for their next catch.

Seiya Bowen’s “Nadachi” and Aleksey Kondratyev’s “Ice Fishers” will be up in Blue Sky Gallery until May 28th.

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