Arts Writing Artist Features

Terri Warpinski

Terri Warpinski. 2014 Individual Artist Fellow, Oregon Arts Commission.

Photo: Sabina Poole

Originally published January, 2014

Terri Warpinski is a celebrated photographer and the most senior member of the group of Oregon Arts Commission Fellowship recipients. Her decades-long career has been anchored in academia even as she has traveled widely and regularly shooting primarily landscape photos, but landscapes that most often speak to shared cultural histories.

Warpinski works in series, some of which have been in process for more than a decade. Surface Tension is one such series of composite prints, the subjects of which are borderlands: that of the United States-Mexico border, the occupied Palestinian territories and present day Berlin.

These photos depict lonely scenes of a dry land, but the scenes are almost never without traces of human intervention, from tracks on the ground, to plastic gallon jugs of water along a border fence, to dozens of crude wooden crosses attached to cyclone fencing.Warpinski said that the series began in 1995 when she was crossing the US-Mexico border regularly while working on another project. A few years later she went to Israel just as the2nd Intifada was beginning. The two experiences folded together, as she says, in the spring of 2009, marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. That year she moved to the US-Mexico border where she saw and photographed “the dramatic changes to that landscape,” wrought by the new border fence.

Warpinski has been a member of the University of Oregon faculty since 1984 where she is head of the photography department. She was also the longtime Academic Dean for the University’s School of Architecture and Allied Arts. She holds a BA degree from the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay, and an MA and MFA degree from the University of Iowa.

Helen A. Harrison of The New York Times has written of Warpinski: “She is especially attuned to the often subtle evidence of human impact on nature. . . . (Her work) invite(s) speculation about the secrets that may be revealed by close scrutiny and creative speculation.” Her work Warpinski’s photographs have been widely exhibited in galleries, institutions, and international festivals at venues including the Pingyao International Festival of Photography in China; the United States Embassy in Jerusalem; Houston International Fotofest; the Oregon Biennial at the Portland Art Museum; the Center for Photography at Woodstock; and the University of the Arts, Philadelphia. Warpinski served two terms as Chair of the national board of directors for the Society for Photographic Education.

Warpinski had a residency at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming and in 2001 was awarded a Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellowship to travel to the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel where she was artist-in-residence. More recently, she participated in the Playa Residence Program at Summer Lake, OR.

Last year Warpinski received three grants and awards through the Oregon Arts Commission that supported her return to Israel to work on her Surface Tension series in preparation for a solo exhibition this year at Lincoln Center in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Her work is in a number of collections including those of the Center for Photography at Woodstock, NY;, the Erie Art Center, University of Wisconson; and the Miller Brewing Company. She has received numerous commissions for public works through the State of Oregon’s Percent for Art Program and the Washington State Art Commission Purchase for Art in Public Places.

Courtesy of The Oregon Arts Commission.

Artist Credit: Terri Warpinski

Exhibition: Oregon Arts Commission Fellows

Project Website

Oregon Arts Commission