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VIZ CITY BLOG: Audio, photos, transcripts & more by Terry Way and Sandy Brown Jensen.Airs every other Wednesday during Morning Edition and Here & Now.

Beauty and Power at the Emerald Art Center

Ugandan woman holding a sledgehammer
By permission of the gallery


  This is Sandy Brown Jensen, and you’re listening to Viz City, KLCC’s arts review program. You only have two more days to catch a pretty special exhibit at the Emerald Art Center, and I hope you do. Sponsored by Photography at Oregon, it’s called “HeadStrong: The Women of Rural Uganda” by photographer Dan Nelken.


Ugandan woman with bright smile
Credit By permission of the gallery

The first thing I did was look at the entire collection from afar to see what I noticed. I noticed a series of striking African faces and torsos in brightly colored clothing. Each was photographed in her village standing in front of a mosquito netting, which softened the light.  Each woman holds the tool of her occupation and looks directly into the camera lens, evoking emotions from delight to defiance, despair to determination. 

The second thing I did was just zoom in on the first portrait that really drew me and gave it my complete attention. I was drawn to the awesomely powerful biceps of Stella Lamunu with a sledge hammer slung over one shoulder. Her cocked arm and the sledgehammer make a triangle, and over it, her eyes give a direct challenge to the viewer. She is soul sister to Rosie the Riveter, self-contained, with a strength beyond my comprehension to understand.

Ugandan woman with baby
Credit By permission of the gallery

Another quarry worker draws my eye, Vicky Aciro. This portrait is in visual thirds starting with a yellow bucket of broken cement that Vicky is carrying. Then the sky blue of her baby wrap--she has a toddler on her back--then the rich chocolate skin tones of her 18 year old face. There is no avoiding the despair in Vicky’s eyes. You can read her horrific story, but the art of the photograph takes you through the window of her eyes to her well of anguish.

Ask yourself, “What do I love about this image?” then take time to let the image come into you, inform you, change you.


Ugandan woman with pink blouse
Credit By permission of the gallery


This is Sandy Brown Jensen for KLCC.


Sandy Brown Jensen has an MFA in Poetry and is a retired writing instructor from Lane Community College. She is an artist and a photographer with a lifetime interest in looking at and talking about art. Sandy hosts KLCC's long-running arts review program Viz City.
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