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(Them) Changes I by Arnold Kemp

  • Title: (Them) Changes I
  • Artist: Arnold Kemp
  • Medium: Archival pigment print on Arches paper
  • Size: 45"h x 21"w
  • Creation date: 2009
  • Added to collection: 2016
  • Donor: Purchased by Portland Community College, Rock Creek Campus
  • Campus: Rock Creek
  • Location: B5/1 Hallway gallery rm 121

This photograph comes from a 2009 series titled (Them) Changes and (Them) Trees, in which each image depicts a dense crowd of tangled, leafless tree branches against a white sky with an equally sized, empty white space below. Each of these images offers a different composition of the same branches, implying a shift in perspective. The implication could be simply a reference to the act of looking up and walking, but Kemp, a gay man of Bahamian descent living in the United States, may be implying something darker: are we looking up at the trees where the lynching of gay or of black men have taken place?  Can that blank space imply all that has been hidden or whitewashed from our histories?  The photograph was included in Kemp’s 2009 exhibit This quiet Dust, Ladies and Gentlemen at PDX Contemporary Art (Portland). Kemp, a voracious treader as well as a published poet, took the title from this poem by Emily Dickinson:

This quiet dust was gentlemen and ladies

And lad and girls;

Was laughter and ability and sighing,

And frocks and curls;


This passive place a summer’s nimble mansion.

Where bloom and bees

Fulfilled their oriental circuit,

Then ceased like these.