From Mark Rothko, to the sea and back


I took this photo at a fish ladder in Oregon many years ago. Looking at this fish ladder from the observation area as I did, it resembled a painting by my favorite mid-century artist, Mark Rothko.
It turns out that after his family emigrated from Russia, Rothko spent a good part of his life in Portland, Oregon. But I think that is just a coincidence.
A year or two after I photographed the fish ladder, I designed a set for Ariel Dorfman’s “Death and the Maiden” at San Diego Repertory Co. I needed an iconic image to represent the sea, which is like an ever-present character lurking, aurally, in the background of the narrative. I designed a backdrop based on a painting by Mark Rothko, which you can see in the picture below.

After some time had passed, I stumbled across both the photo of the fish ladder and the production shot from “Death and the Maiden.” Then, for the first time, I realized there might be a connection between the two images and the life and death struggles portrayed within…..

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