Julie Keefe Sends Messages to Mr. Trump
Text and Photos by Joe Riedl
On the Wednesday before the inauguration, student assistants by her side, Julie Keefe marched into Building 5 at Rock Creek and enlisted passersby to participate in her newest project, Messages to the President.
Keefe is a local artist seeking change in the form of community-based projects, assembling ordinary people and compelling them to ask questions and think deeply on the topics that affect them day-to-day.
“I want him to see our faces and hear our voices,” she said on a short break between shooting.
Students and staff alike took a moment to read an overview of the project on their way to lunch. They learned from the blurb (stood neatly posted on a wooden easel) that Julie was taking portraits, printing them, and letting participants write directly on them a message of their choosing to the 45th President, Donald Trump.
“Whenever I have an issue that I want to address, I use art, usually community-based projects, to address them,” said Keefe, who has made photos and photo projects in Portland since the 80s. “I like people to feel valued and respected, and I believe that when voices are heard, everybody wins.” Those voices, she believes, can be expressed through artwork.
The ongoing booth and project are not exclusive to PCC. Julie has set up her photo booth all over Portland, at events like the MLK Day celebration, Native American pow-wows, City Hall and elsewhere. She has recruited a diverse set of characters ranging from college administrators and fifth grade students to Indigenous Americans and Portland Commissioner Eudaly. To date, Julie has collected 400 portraits. Some messages to the president are as simple as “Listen” or “Smile.” Others are to “please prove me wrong” and “become the President we all need.”
She continues to collect and archive the photos with plans to tweet them directly to the President. For now, a portion of her collection is set up at Helzer Gallery on Rock Creek Campus for the Assembly show. The show, curated by Art History Professor Prudence Roberts, delves into the idea of assembly, that is, “the right to, freedom of, act of,” represented in forms including painting, photography and video. The show is open to the public and runs through February 18th.