PDXpendables Photographers Blog hosts a retrospective of the work of photographer Jim Leisy from 1973-2013. David Bluford and partner Don Rohrbacker established PDXpendables Stage & Studio Supplies in 2014. The company provides professional lighting and grip equipment for film, stage and video productions. It is located at BluSpace, 311 B Avenue, Suite O, Lake Oswego. The retrospective will be on display from Monday, May 9 through Friday, July 1, with an open house on Sunday, May 22, 2 – 5 PM.
Jim Leisy, who died in 2014 at the age of 64, was a founding board member of the Photography Council of the Portland Art Museum. He served as president of the Council and also created the highly popular Brown Bag Lunch Talks, a free program in which Northwest photographers present and discuss their work at the Museum on the third Wednesday of each month. David conceived the exhibition as a parting tribute to his longtime friend and fellow Council board member as he prepares to leave Oregon for Kansas.
PDXpendables regularly showcases the work of Portland photographers. In thinking about this show, David wanted to expose little-known aspects of Jim’s work. Many have seen images from Jim’s exhibited and published work such as “Amateur Physics,” “Lives of Trees,” “Recycling the Great Basin,” “Matter. Light. Spin,” or his 10 years of dynamic performances shots for Chamber Music Northwest. But, having known Jim since high school in Woodside, California, David knew there was much more.
The earliest image in the show is from the summer of 1973 when Jim, with another Woodside friend and photographer, John Earle, took a road trip to Lewiston, Maine and captured the people and places of a fading factory town. The show is bookended by a 2013 series, “Working Men,” in which Jim shot solemn, hauntingly lit portraits in his Sherwood storefront studio. The exhibition ranges widely over Jim’s photographic obsessions — trees, cars, politics, Utah, life on the road — and styles, from black and white to color, film to digital, unretouched to photoshopped. It encompasses landscapes, still-lifes and portraits, including family. friends and fellow artists.
There’s a fascinating backstory — and road map extending from California to Kansas to Chicago to Oregon and back to Kansas — to this show and its underlying friendships. David and Jim became friends in the 1960s at Woodside High School in California. Jim met Vicky Kaufman at Bethel College in Kansas. In the mid-70s, the three found themselves in Chicago. Jim introduced David to Vicky; later Vicky and David moved to the Bay Area and married. Jim, too, eventually returned to California but moved his family and publishing business to Oregon in 1990. David and Vicky’s daughter, Sophie, attended the University of Oregon. Shortly after David and Vicky moved to Lake Oswego in 2009, Jim recruited David to the Photography Council board. Now, Vicky and David return to Kansas City to be close to Vicky’s mother.
In a parallel and eventually converging trajectory, Jim met Cynthia Kirk in Chicago in 1973 as each began work in book publishing. They followed their careers to the East Coast, commuting for a year when Jim was in Philadelphia and Cynthia, in New York. More than two decades later, they resumed commuting — bicoastally! — until Cynthia moved to Oregon to be with Jim in 1999. While spending summer 2016 in Chicago, Cynthia will visit David and Vicky in Kansas City.
Jim Leisy (1950-2014), artist, photographer, musician, publisher, began making photographs at age eight and worked in many different formats. His worked has been published in a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, including Poetry Magazine, The Chicago Review, Diffusion, High Desert Journal, The New York Times and The Oregonian, where he contributed performance photos of Chamber Music Northwest concerts for more than 10 years. He participated in Photo Reviews in Portland, Houston and Los Angeles and was included in the cohort of American photographers featured in the 2013 Lishui International Photographic Culture Festival. The American exhibition, curated by Yan Li and Blue Mitchell, focused on alternative printing processes. Jim showed “Amateur Physics,” his Van Dyke-printed portfolio of witty explorations of scientific principles. In January 2014, ”Amateur Physics” also took him to a residency at Caldera, an artists’ retreat in central Oregon, where he was awarded an additional Spotlight grant from the Ford Family Foundation to print the project in 3-D. Jim’s work has been widely exhibited and is held in private and museum collections, including the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the Portland Art Museum. Jim was a founding member of the Photography Council at the Portland Art Museum and created its highly-popular “Brown-Bag Lunch Talk” series. jimleisy.com