Heléna Dupre Thompson

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Tue, 02/14/2023 - 11:30am to 12:00pm
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Unintentional Spectacles

On Tuesday, February 14, 2023, at 11.30am Joseph Gallivan interviews artist Heléna Dupre (PRONOUNCED he-LAY-na doo-PREE) Thompson about her photography show called Unintentional Spectacles, which is on now at  LAURA VINCENT DESIGN & GALLERY until February 25. Thompson takes extreme close-up photos of the scuffed, many layered paint of Portland skate parks, and of weathered posters and flyers on wooden utility poles. She talks about the idea of making an abstract painting with a photograph, when to intervene in the subject matter, and being a former skateboarder trying not to get in the way of current skateboarders.

This interview was recorded on Feb. 9, 2023, using a Zoom HN2 recorder and engineered by KBOO volunteer Ray Bodwell. https://kboo.fm/blog/55224






2 - 25 FEBRUARY 2023


My upbringing in an industrial city (Providence, RI)  and career as a firefighter have had a great impact on how I value and perceive my surroundings. My work looks at the archeology of mark making, history, and the detritus of contemporary civilization. It centers around the spectacles that manifest when human made objects and materials transform as a result of time, action, and forces of nature. Sometimes apocalyptic and sometimes optimistic, these images reflect the mood and state of the environment they are taken from.


With photography, the human brain often wants to know the subject in a photograph. My artistic intent is not to document or tell a story of my subjects. Instead, it is to distill the converging factors of action, time, nature and material transformation, into an image that contains the rich history and energy of the original subject, but that stands unbound from practical understanding of its origin.

The Unintentional Spectacles exhibit involves two long term, ongoing studies (Bridge City Diary, One Eighty Compulsion).


Bridge City Diary


A seven-year ongoing study, Bridge City Diary examines Portland’s street utility poles. These poles serve as sounding boards for community to advertise bands, art gatherings, and laborer services. They’ve been utilized to advocate for affordable housing and equity. They absorb the forces of nature and the physical expressions of Portland’s population-scribbling, ripping, torching, spitting, etc. In addition, efforts to “clean up” the utility poles often add to the constant change and tension of these communal canvases.


One Eighty Compulsion 

A “One Eighty” is a term used in skateboarding where you spin on a skateboard one hundred and eighty degrees. As a teenager, I obsessively practiced “one eighties”, three sixties and many other skateboard maneuvers. Although I am no longer a skater, I’m still drawn to skateboarding environments. These locations give space for physical expression, communal support, and in my eyes, a type of meditation.

In this five-year ongoing study of skateparks in Oregon, I redirect my own passion for skateboarding. I examine it not from the deck of a skateboard but from the perspective beneath the wheels. These photographs focus on one-two inch surface areas. They portray complex patterns, generated through the actions of skaters in their pursuit of adrenalin, satisfaction, and release. These discrete manifestations are artifacts of the tension, action, and passion that is infused in the paint-covered concrete when it meets with the impulses, energy, and force of the skaters.




Heléna Dupre Thompson is a visual artist and musician based in Portland, OR. Focusing on the detritus of contemporary civilization, her visual work challenges the foundational ideas of appeal. It centers around the spectacles that manifest when human made objects and materials transform as a result of time, action, and forces of nature. Sometimes apocalyptic and sometimes optimistic, her images reflect the mood or state of the environment they are taken from.

Heléna’s upbringing in an industrial area of Providence R.I., and career as a firefighter have had a great influence on her work and her way of seeing. She spent her early years mostly focusing on music and touring the United States and Europe.

In 2002, she founded Purest Spiritual Pigs; an umbrella project that involves collaboration in multiple genres: music, performance art, visual art, and time-based art. This project has been featured on All Things Considered (MPR) and presented internationally in multiple publications. In 2014 she retired from the Minneapolis Fire Department to pursue art full time.  

 In 2016 she founded Surveillant, a multidisciplinary event that involved thirty artists and occupied three buildings. Until recently, Surveillant was an annual art event during the PVDFest.

 Since 2017 she has focused predominantly on photography. She has been a guest lecturer at PNCA (Pacific Northwest College Of Art) and Portland State University School Of Art + Design. Her work has been featured in publications including Yield Magazine (Snite Museum Of Art), Lenscratch, and OneTwelve. She has exhibited her work throughout the US and internationally.



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Joseph Gallivan has been a reporter since 1990. He has covered music for the London Independent, Technology for the New York Post, and arts and culture for the Portland Tribune, where he is currently a Feature Writer. He is the author of two novels, "Oi, Ref!" and "England All Over" which are available on Amazon.com



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