I cut MAX art a lot of slack, possibly too much, but this one has always reminded me of a cheesy 1990s home decor knickknack grown to enormous size. This must have seemed like a good idea back in 1998 when the MAX line went in. I suppose the trophy fits because of the whole county fair thing (though I think the fair gives out ribbons, not trophies), but if you're really going for a giant 90s look, a 20 foot tall copy of one of those winged cat gargoyles would have been a lot cooler. Relatively speaking.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
The next installment of our ongoing public art project is Heart Beacon, by Joe O'Connell and Blessing Hancock, located at the Emergency Services building next to Ed Benedict Park. The artists' description of the piece:
Heart Beacon is an interactive enclosure of light, color and sound that senses and artistically displays the heartbeats of visitors who lay their hands on the piece. This highly interactive sculpture takes the literal and metaphoric ‘pulse’ of the Portland community. The sculpture takes inspiration from the life-saving mission of the Emergency Coordination Center.
The heartbeat widgetry just made a weird banging noise when I tried it, and I didn't notice any sort of light show. But I didn't know what the device was for at the time, and I didn't see any instructions, so it's entirely possible I was doing it all wrong. Either that or I was doing it right but the machine got confused by my heartbeat and was trying to warn passersby that an alien walks among them. At least the heartbeat thing shows I'm probably not a vampire, so there's that, I guess.
Next thing we're looking at today is Three Creeks One Will, the giant blue cylinder in front of Beaverton's new City Hall building, next to the Beaverton Central MAX station. The city's Public Art Tour Map describes it:
The art of Devin Laurence Field brings together universal and archetypal symbolism, the vernacular of a given site or culture, and natural forms to communicate ideas about the evolution of the complex relationship between the built environment and the natural world.
The name sort of weirds me out, for some reason, even if the One Will isn't doing any triumphing. Anyway, the current City Hall building was once home to Open Source Development Labs, which was meant to become the center of the Linux operating system universe, putting Beaverton on the map next to Microsoft's Redmond and Apple's Cupertino. It turned out the Linux universe didn't really need or want a center, so that effort eventually fell by the wayside. And many years before that, the Beaverton Central area was home to a municipal sewer plant. The city eventually concluded that a centrally located sewer plant wasn't popular among people with noses (a key voting demographic), so they moved it and the land sat empty for a few decades until the long-troubled Beaverton Central project came along.
Next up is Intersection, a sculpture by Michael Passmore located at the SE Clinton/12th Ave. MAX station. TriMet's Orange Line art guide describes it: "Landmark sculpture constructed of repurposed freight rail references the historic impact of transportation infrastructure on the neighborhood."
A few photos of Aril, the tall red sculpture at the new PSU/OHSU lab building next to the South Waterfront MAX stop. Aril was created by German artist Christian Moeller, whose website describes it thusly:
The idea that served as inspiration for this sculpture on the grounds of the new Life Science Building of Portland’s State University was the highly geometrical and abstract visual representations of molecular structures. Like a tree, the sculpture will consist of a trunk and branches made of cylindrical tubes holding one hundred colored spheres.
A quick note for pedants: I've tagged this post "orangeline" since it's next to the new MAX line, but the sculpture was actually funded as part of the university building, not the MAX line. So it's not MAX art in the strictest sense, but I figured people should be able to find this post even if they don't know who paid for the art. I just thought I should point this out before anyone complains & tries to out-pedant me. Which does occasionally happen, never successfully..
Next up is a mural on the back of Portland State's Art Annex building, facing 4th Avenue near Lincoln. There doesn't seem to be anything about this one on the interwebs, unfortunately; the temporary art for the MAX Orange Line opening included a mural, but it was a different one located in the vacant lot behind the main art building.
Next mural up is titled Questions for Humans: Curiosity Wall, one of a series of four "Questions for Humans" murals by Gary Hirsch located around SE Portland (I have yet to locate the other three). This is an RACC-sponsored project, and their info page for the mural includes a set of user instructions:
Hello humans! We are Bots from a distant galaxy that have arrived with wonder and curiosity about your species. To help us understand humans, we have posed a series of questions throughout your city. Operating Instructions:
- Stand in front of a Bot and ask someone to take your picture (or take a “selfie”).
- Think about your answer to the question being asked by the Bot that you are posing with. when you have your answer, post it along with the photo of you in front of the Bot to your human social media platform of your choice (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) include #qs4humans and #botjoy. Check in online to see how the resulting community portrait is forming.
I'm afraid I kind of disobeyed the instructions, and just took photos of the mural instead of taking selfies, because that's just how I roll. The intergalactic bots are just going to have to deal.
Next up is a gigantic mural on a warehouse at SE 7th & Division Place (though the street address says 8th). This was created last year by New Zealand artists BMD, in honor of the annual World Naked Bike Ride, which has become a huge event in Portland in recent years. I realize you didn't ask, but I've never participated in said ride. It's not that I'm squeamish or embarrassed or anything; it's just that I'd be too afraid of crashing -- road rash, stuff getting caught in gears, that sort of thing.
Mural at SW 12th & Stark, by by Troy Lovegates & Paige Wright. Wright also created one of the murals at SE 23rd & Morrison for the 2014 edition of the festival. I had this one confused with the nearby mural at 12th & Washington and had the artists backwards, but I think I've got the credits right now, & I've corrected the other post.
Mural at SE 11th & Oak by Blaine Fontana & David Rice, on the same building as a couple of other murals we've looked at before. Similar to how some people can't stop with just the one tattoo, I guess. Though I imagine these buildings will be torn out and replaced with luxury condos in a few years, and the analogy sort of breaks down at that point.
Next up is a giant mural of the words "Nothing Good Comes Easy", on the upper stories of a building at SE Grand & Pine. This was created for the 2015 Forest for the Trees event by Ola Volo & Zach Yarrington. I'm not a huge fan of the "ginormous motivational affirmation" style of mural, but they've been proliferating across the city in recent years, so obviously someone likes them.
Next up is a 2015 Forest for the Trees mural by Josh Doll, located way out at SE 50th & Franklin, a couple of blocks north of the Foster & Powell intersection. I'm not usually a big fan of murals that feature big sorta-inspirational sayings, but this one gets partial credit for including a dog. This area isn't exactly suburbia, but the intersection does feature a Taco Bell, a Taco Time, and a Burger King -- and I have to admit I ran across the mural by accident while making a drive-thru taco run. I realize Real Portlanders are supposed to eat nothing but artisanal kale-quinoa nuggets, washed down with artisanal kombuchatinis. Corporate tacos are just so downscale and inauthentic, after all. But hey, this is a pseudonymous blog, I can admit it here and nobody can pin it on me.
A 2015 Forest for the Trees mural by Insa, John Gourley, & Zach Johnsen, located on the back side of the Ford Building at SE 11th & Alder. The building was originally a Ford car factory (albeit a rather small one), believe it or not.
Saturday, April 30, 2016
To be honest I'm sort of trying to decide whether to just bulk post the contents of my drafts folder as-is, just so I can stop stressing over it.
Sunday, March 06, 2016
Next mural up is a large sunflower design on SE 9th, between Ash & Ankeny, outside an educational carpet company (which is something that exists, turns out). This was created in July 2013 by Jose Solis (the FB post's external photo embed looks dead, unfortunately). Solis's work has appeared here once before: He also created the murals at SE Portland's Andy & Bax store.
Saturday, March 05, 2016
Here's a mural I ran across recently on Mississippi Ave. just north of Interstate, at the end of a fenced lot on the Widmer Brewing campus. I haven't been able to find out anything about this one. The internet has failed me yet again. Maybe nobody else has noticed it?
Yet another painted intersection, this one wayyyy out at SE 130th Place & Ramona, a bit west of Powell Butte. Unfortunately this one's a bit worse for wear, so I only took this one photo. An artist involved in the project has a page up about it, with photos from when the book-and-butterfly design was first painted in May 2013.
Another painted intersection, this time a fish-and-rainbow design at SE 37th & Bybee. 37th is not really a street here, rather just a stretch of unused city right-of-way. So the intersection is basically a weird wide spot in the road with an island in the middle. The 2015 City Repair guide explains they've been slowly transforming the unused stretch of 37th into a "food forest and garden" over the last few years. I didn't really notice anything that looked like a food forest or garden when I was there, but gardens are never very photogenic in late winter anyway.
Painted intersection with a flowers-and-bees pattern at SE 86th & Glenwood, a couple of blocks south of Duke St. This is another new painted intersection, first painted in June 2015, sponsored by a couple of local community groups.
Painted intersection at SE 28th Place & Pardee, next to a small private school. This one looks quite old and beat up, but apparently it was just painted in July 2015. So I suppose the winter hasn't been kind to it. The link goes to the neighborhood association's painting project & shows what the design is supposed to be: A woman riding a bike, with buildings and trees in the background.
Monday, February 29, 2016
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Here are a few photos of OHSU's Alumni Fountain, located in the plaza in front of Mackenzie Hall. A plaque at the base explains that it was a gift from the alumni association for the school's 75th anniversary in 1962, and it was designed by architect Lewis Crutcher. The fountain wasn't actually installed until August 1963, though; an Oregonian article about the new fountain proudly noted it was the first new public fountain in the city for over 40 years (and what the previous one might have been doesn't come to mind immediately). The article continues:
Pumps will send a 25-foot gusher into the air, then the water will flow back into the basin through 10 cuts in the upper side of the fountain, so there will be a dual sound. Colored lights will play upon the fountain at night.
The fountain is clearly not sending a 25-foot gusher into the air in these photos. OHSU has some vintage photos of the fountain online, and it was obviously spraying higher in 1968 than it is now. So they must have dialed it back at some point. Looking at the old photos, I suspect you wouldn't have wanted to walk past it on a windy day. I haven't visited the fountain at night, so I have no idea whether the colored lights are still there or not.
I wasn't familiar with Crutcher's work, but the interwebs have a few interesting tidbits. His 2000 obit in the Daily Journal of Commerce is largely devoted to his 1950s campaign against garish billboards and neon signs, cluttered sidewalks, and other civic ugliness. As this was decades before PowerPoint was invented, Crutcher illustrated his campaign with watercolors of European landmarks blanketed with the commercial clutter of 1950s Portland. The February-March 1959 issue of Old Oregon (the UO alumni magazine) [PDF] included an editorial by Crutcher about the many ills of the modern city, illustrated with a few more of these paintings. (Incidentally, his complaint about utility companies' hack-and-slash tree pruning practices is something that hasn't really improved over the last 60-odd years.) The city sign code largely adopted his ideas after a few years, although as fate would have it the few neon signs that survived are now seen as civic treasures to be protected at all costs.
Another aspect of his anti-ugliness campaign has survived the test of time a bit better: At some point, decades earlier, the city had decided that all Portland bridges must be painted black, no exceptions. The Broadway Bridge was black, the Ross Island was black, along with the Hawthorne and all the others. Crutcher had the bright idea that maybe a little variety wouldn't kill us, which led to the range of colors we see today. Except the Steel Bridge, which is owned by a railroad and not the city, and frankly looks like it hasn't been repainted since before the current color scheme went into effect.
Other projects Crutcher was involved in included restoration work at Skidmore Fountain Plaza and the Railway Exchange Block (which is currently being transmogrified into yet another boutique hotel), and the design of Memorial Coliseum. As an architecture student in the 1940s, he designed the houses for an early desegregated subdivision in Claremont, CA, which are now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Next stop on our public art tour takes us a bit off the beaten path. If you're heading out of Portland on SW Barbur, right after the tangled intersection with Capitol Highway and I-5 you might catch a quick glimpse of a statue of a Colonial minuteman, bravely guarding the low-rise brick offices of a local mortgage company. I noticed this a couple of times on rare trips out to the 'burbs and made a note to check it out, which I did on a subsequent rare trip. (It's at SW Barbur & Huber St.; the geotag for this post points at the exact location.) The statue's base includes an inscription "Carlton Bell 1976", along with the names of a few assistants, which I can't quite make out in my photos, unfortunately.
The only info I've found about this statue comes from an almost decade-old Portland Public Art post. Or rather, from the comments to the post. Several comments are by people who had known Bell in years past and had googled around trying to figure out what ever became of him. Go read the whole thread. It's kind of fascinating. And be sure to look at the dates: The post is from April 2006, but comments keep trickling in; the most recent one (as of right now) is dated July 2015.
I wish internet comment sections worked like that more often. I still get occasional (and generally interesting) comments to my original Kelly Butte post (which also dates to 2006), but that's pretty much the only example I've got here. Alhough to be honest this humble blog often goes months without a single comment, even to the most recent posts. I prefer to think that's because I've done such a thorough job that nobody has anything more to add. That may even be true sometimes...
Saturday, January 23, 2016
Our next art stop is on the OHSU campus again: This time we're looking at The Bearer, a small James Lee Hansen sculpture lurking in the shrubbery outside Baird Hall. The Maryhill Museum did a retrospective of his work in 2014, including a study for The Bearer dated 1974. Which I imagine gives us a rough date for the final product too.
I've probably said this before, but Hansen's style somehow always reminds me of a 1960s science fiction paperback cover. It's not fashionable contemporary art in 2016, by any stretch of the imagination, but I've sort of warmed up to this look over time. In any case, I think we can all agree the location's doing it no favors. An old Portland Public Art post noted it and assumed it was somebody's little vanity project:
This little thing peeks out of the bushes in front of Baird. No tag, no nothing. I bet a dollar it’s a Arts & Crafts Society project a beloved Dean or Director made while in mid-life crisis. Prove me wrong. About two and a half feet high, bronze, late 1970’s by the style. Hmm. A cubist mother pushing a futurist baby stroller.
A commenter took the bet and explained that it was actually by a (locally) famous artist. No word on whether the promised dollar actually changed hands.
For the past year and change, new posts here have been about Portland murals to the near-exclusion of everything else. I think it's gotten a little monotonous, frankly, so I think I'm going to switch gears and work through some of the non-mural stuff I've had lying around for a while. I'd been planning on doing those after I got to zero mural posts in Drafts, but I think I could use a little variety right about now.
The previous big project here (if you remember back that far) involved tracking down public art around the Portland area (specifically excluding murals, at first, on the grounds that there are a whole lot of them around, and more all the time). As part of that project, I made a trip up to the OHSU campus on Marquam Hill, since the state's medical school has a ginormous art collection, including a few outdoor sculptures scattered around here and there.
The example we're looking at this time is Scribner II, a rusty Lee Kelly whatzit from the 70s in his usual chunky style, at a bus stop across the street from the Nursing School. This one reminds me of Kelly's Arlie outside the Portland Art Museum, which looks kind of like Scribner II up on stilts. I couldn't find a lot on the interwebs about this one; it only merited a brief mention in an old Portland Public Art post about OHSU art: "There’s an old rusty Lee Kelly in front of the nursing school, and another shiny one in front of the VA. Both hideous." (The one at the VA Hospital is Aeolian Columns, seen here last April.) That mention wasn't much of a clue, but I eventually located it in Street View, and later tracked it down in person. And here it is, in all its semi-groovy 70s glory. On the plus side, if you're waiting for a bus here and happen to cut or scrape yourself on Scribner II, you can just pop across the street for your tetanus shot. I dunno, maybe the whole reason it's here is to help drive demand for tetanus shots.
The only other mention of this sculpture I've seen anywhere on the net is a vintage photo from the Pacific Northwest College of Art, with Scribner II squatting in a snowy field, and that page contains no further information about the thing. So I can't explain the title, I'm afraid. I imagine it either refers to Charles Scribner II, the 19th Century publishing magnate, or there's a Scribner I lurking out there somewhere.
Every January, I pay a visit to the two cherry trees at NW 19th & Lovejoy, just as they're starting to bloom. These two trees bloom absurdly early for a cherry tree here; it'll be weeks before the usual early-spring flowers like daffodils and crocuses appear, and normal cherry trees don't do their thing until April or so.
At first I couldn't explain this phenomenon. Then I blamed it on global warming. Then I noticed a maple tree on the same block that doesn't lose its leaves over the winter, and blamed it on some combination of global warming and a weird one-block microclimate. When I posted this year's photos on Twitter right after taking them, someone pointed out that there's an oddball variety of cherry tree from Japan that normally blooms around now. Which is a disappointingly un-magical sort of explanation, if you ask me, though I suspect it may be the correct one. Though that still doesn't explain the weird maple tree down the block. So I have two competing hypotheses now:
- We're seeing the combination of three independent factors: Early-blooming variety, weird microclimate, and global warming.
- The maple tree is an oddball cold-climate variety that barely notices Pacific Northwest winters, there's no weird one-block microclimate after all, and whoever planted the trees here may have done it to troll people.
I have no idea which of the two is more likely.