Terry Toedtemeier, Untitled (Chaco Canyon)
I think Terry Toedtemeier would have been amused and proud that his Unfinished Business show at PDX Contemporary
ends in just two days, but that is the recursively zen and improbable way the gregarious curator of photography rolled until his untimely death in 2008
Unitled (Kiva at Chaco Canyon)
As is common with curators with significant bodies of their own artistic work, it is only after they have passed that we start to truly take stock of that other important part of their life's work. In Terry's case it's obvious he was a man of the road, not the destination. For example, when he photographs the remains of a giant Kiva at Chaco, he depicts a yawing chasm before us and our viewpoint seems to be that of a spirit hovering above the expanse. It doesn't feel deserted at all even though not another living soul can be seen. In that way I suspect it is because Toedtemeier knows it is still considered an active holy site by many people. He doesn't record the structure so much as the feeling of place in use. One still senses the curatorial sensitivity here and it's perhaps why a lot of curators take up photography, they aren't that dissimilar as activities.
Untitled (Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ)
Yet his sense of humor pervades this work, such as in Untitled (Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ). There isn't any sermonizing here, just an oblique equivalency and if this photograph were a wine it would be a very very dry one with a lot of structure.
Rimrock Slab, Wool Lake, Lake County, OR
This holds doubly true for my favorite photograph in the show, Rimrock Slab, Wool Lake, Lake County, OR. The scene reminds me of a lost Michael Heizer earth work with its huge slab seemingly dragged from the rim to the valley floor by some kind of alien technology. Instead, the path has been cut by the action of animals who use it as a landmark in an otherwise undifferentiated landscape. Terry chose to depict this slab in an indeterminate way, rather than to record its geological history... perhaps the secret life of a rock. It is poetic, opportunistic and retraces the pragmatism of the unseen animals in the landscape. To me that is a hallmark of Toedtemeir's work, which suggests perhaps that his most lasting legacy is still awaiting discovery. Honestly, I miss the guy but I'm truly enjoying the chance to discover his work this way. If and when there is a retrospective, I hope it has the scope and sensitivity Terry's still emerging legacy deserves. This was a tantalizing revelation.
Show ends August 27th 2011
"If and when there is a retrospective"
I'm am happy to let you know that through the efforts of Prudence Roberts, Brian Ferriso, Julia Dolan and Bruce Guenther, The Portland Art Museum will mount a Terry Toedtemeier exhibition in spring of 2013 !