Tuesday, September 29, 2015

keepalive (again)

So it's been another ultra-busy month at $REAL_JOB, and I haven't posted anything here since late August. I've never gone an entire month without posting anything at all; back in March I posted a short "keepalive" thing just to have a nonzero post count for the month. I think I'm going to have to do that again this month. I mean, I reserve the right to go on a huge writing binge between now and midnight tomorrow, but I have to say the odds don't favor it. Maybe next month...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

SE 9th & Yamhill

Every June-or-so, a few more City Repair painted intersections pop up here and there around Portland. To be honest I haven't put a lot of effort into locating this year's crop of new ones; given the size of my Drafts folder right now, I wouldn't say I'm in desperate need of new material, and Real Job stuff keeps absorbing what would otherwise be free time to pursue this. In short, I've found precisely one of them so far, and only because I stumbled across it. So with that intro out of the way, we're at freshly painted SE 9th & Yamhill, where a big hops-and-barley design graces the intersection. This intersection's kind of an unusual case in that we're in a light industrial area, not a residential neighborhood. One corner of the intersection is home to Rogue's Green Dragon Pub, while diagonally across is a large Rogue warehouse. So the relevance of the design to its surroundings is kind of obvious here. (And yes, I noticed the thing when I came by for lunch and a beer or two or so.) So this is the bit where I tell you I told you so: A year ago, in a ranty bit in a post about the NE 12th & Beech intersection, I predicted that companies would eventually get in on the act, and the painted intersection thing would evolve away from being a community volunteer effort. I figured tech companies would do it eventually. I didn't figure it would happen the very next year or be arranged by a local brewery, although that kind of makes sense in retrospect. Still, when it comes to predicting the future, when you have a chance to take partial credit, take it.

Speaking of hops, this summer I tried my hand at growing a hop vine for the first time. You can assume by the lack of gardening photos here that it's not going that well. I don't believe I've ever seen that many bugs on a single plant before. Tiny little pinhead-sized bugs, clinging to stems and the bottoms of leaves, sucking the life out of the poor vine. After investing in this plant, I came across a Michigan State extension document about "Hop Insects and Diseases", which begins with an old Kentish proverb about hop growing: "First the flea, then the fly, then the mould, then they die". The remainder of the document is equally encouraging. Still, hops are a perennial (assuming they survive), so maybe I'll have better luck next year.

SE 3rd & Morrison mural #2

Last summer, a colorful snail mural appeared on a City Liquidators building in industrial SE Portland, as part of the 2014 Forest for the Trees event. A few months later, a second mural appeared next to it, full of bright colors and swirling eagles. This new one was created by artist Yatika Fields for a Native arts event called Native+Portland. If you look closely, the mural includes an "#FFTTNW" hashtag even though it was painted months after the festival. The official festival Instagram also has a photo of Fields painting the mural, so I'm tagging this post accordingly. I figure if they're not going to get all pedantic about it, I probably shouldn't go there either.

EuroClassic Furniture mural

Next mural up wraps around the outside of the EuroClassic Furniture store at SE 66th & Foster. (I don't get out to SE Foster a lot, so I first heard of this place in a Kay's Bird Club post.) It's got vignettes of Venice, London, and other European cities, surrounded by painted-on arches and columns and whatnot. On the east side of the building, a large sign reads "русский мебельный магазин", which just means "Russian furniture store". Which isn't too unusual given the surrounding neighborhood's large Russian immigrant population. Going by the store's website it seems like a regular (and well-regarded) US-style furniture store that welcomes Russian speakers and has a loud wacky mural outside. I dunno, I guess I was expecting something a little more flamboyant given the exterior.

Manuel Levenson Rose

It's been a while since we've done any Weston rose murals, but I found another one recently, so another of this humble blog's ongoing projects is still ongoing, it seems. The Manuel Levenson Rose is located on the Columbia East office building, on SE Division at 100th, just north of spooky, mysterious Kelly Butte. I'm not entirely sure who the rose is named for, but it's dated 1974, and a quick search comes up with someone by that name who lived in Portland and died in 1974. So that seems like a reasonable guess.

I occasionally wonder what future archeologists might think if they stumbled across a few of these rose-and-flag designs. Like, maybe the Portland area saw a renewed Lancaster vs. York civil war spanning the last quarter of the 20th century and the first couple of decades of the 21st. If they kept digging around the city they'd eventually bump into someone's discarded SCA/cosplay armor, too, and we'd go into the textbooks all wrong. I mean, unless this humble blog survives centuries into the future to set the record straight(ish). (Hey, this site does get archived by the Wayback Machine, so I can't totally rule that out. Howdy there, future historians!)

SE 23rd & Morrison mural #2

Next up we're visiting the second mural at the old gas station at SE 23rd & Morrison. This one was created by artist Paige Wright for the 2014 Forest for the Trees, and you'll notice that it includes a large ceramic face in addition to the painted bits. The festival's Tumblr calls it a "ceramic mural", which is an odd-sounding term even if it's basically accurate.

SE 23rd & Morrison mural #1

Our ever-ongoing mural tour is paying a visit to a former gas station at SE 23rd & Morrison, where a pair of murals were painted for the 2014 Forest for the Trees event. This is about a block due north of the warehouse on Belmont where we looked at The Fall and another unnamed mural earlier today (well, the posts went up today. I took the photos months ago.) So the first one here on Morrison is this giant robot mural, created by local artist Blakely Dadson. A big Forest for the Trees photoset at Empty Kingdom has lots of photos of last year's crop of murals being painted, including several of this one. I gather, from this, that you want to color in the laserblasts first thing. Rembrandt neglected to do this, and viewers barely even notice his laserblasts.

Hawthorne Fish House mural

The next mural up is outside the Hawthorne Fish House restaurant on SE Hawthorne near 44th. This was painted by Portland artist Matt Schlosky, sometime before November 2013 (since some of his photos of it are dated then.)

My usual policy here that posting about someone's mural isn't an endorsement (or otherwise) of the business inside. Or at least I've intended to say that, whether I actually have or not. I'm going to make an exception this time, however, because tasty Wisconsin-style fried fish (oh, and deep-fried cheese curds). Happily endorsed, for whatever that's worth.

Hawthorne Literary Mural

Next mural up is the Hawthorne Literary Mural, a collection of author portraits on the side of a building at SE 33rd & Hawthorne. This was painted back in 1997 by New Orleans artist Jane Brewster. The building it's on used to be a large, rambling used book shop, but it's evolved into more of a general vintage store in recent years, so the connection with the mural isn't as clear as it once was. I've seen this called the "Sylvia Plath mural" more than once as hers is one of the more prominent (and spooky) portraits. Turns out that it and many of the other portraits are now available in t-shirt or coffee mug form via Cafe Press.

Warehouse mural, SE 23rd & Belmont

The next mural up is at SE 23rd & Belmont, on the same warehouse building as The Fall. This one's on the opposite (west) side of the building, facing the La Calaca Comelona restaurant. I didn't see a signature on this one and I don't really know anything about it.

The Fall

The next mural on our ongoing tour is an autumn-themed one on SE Belmont near 23rd, on the side of a small warehouse building. The Fall was created for the 2013 Forest for the Trees event by Australian artist Reka One. A 2013 Vandalog post has a few photos of it and a larger Reka One mural in San Francisco, along with a TV interview clip about the latter.

OR-7 mural

Next mural up on the tour is the OR-7 mural outside the Alleyway Cafe & Bar on NE Alberta at 24th. The design's based on the famous Oregon wolf OR-7 (a.k.a. "Journey"). Here's a blog post about the mural by Roger Peet, one of the artists.

Transformation, Integrity, Community

Next mural on our ongoing tour is Transformation, Integrity, Community, on a Concordia University building at NE 30th & Ainsworth. The brief RACC description:

This mural was painted by Concordia University students. It prominently displays an open book with the words transformation, integrity and community under a flowing tree. The mural is physically situated where the campus meets the community.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Ciao Vito mural

The mural tour is still on its extended visit to NE Alberta St. -- I thought that for a change I'd do a few in the same area instead of hopping randomly around the city. This time we're checking out the bright design outside Ciao Vito, an Italian restaurant at Alberta & NE 22nd. This is directly across the street from the To Oregon With Love mural we looked at a couple of posts ago. The old Murals of Portland site mentioned that this is by Tom Cramer, who also created the Machinery mural on Williams Ave. that we looked at recently. I don't know the exact date on the mural here, but a 2012 Willamette Week profile of Cramer seems to indicate it's at least as old as Machinery, and is much older than the current restaurant. So technically I probably shouldn't be calling it "Ciao Vito mural", but I haven't seen any other name for it, so I'll have to go with that.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Keep Your Chin Up

The next stop on the mural tour is on NE Alberta once again; in fact it's on the opposite side of the same building as the last installment (To Oregon With Love), and the artist behind that mural co-created the subject of this post too. So this is Keep Your Chin Up, painted for the Forest for the Trees event by Portland artists Blaine Fontana & Zach Yarrington, and Tokyo's Jun Inoue.

So there's sort of a local mural subgenre centered on upbeat, inspirational phrases: This one, obviously; the huge Everything is Everything in industrial SE Portland; the phrase "You are confined only by the walls you build yourself" on To Oregon With Love, and probably a few others I'm forgetting offhand. I have to say I have mixed feelings about this subgenre. I can't quite put my finger on what it is, but Alberta was the core of a historically black neighborhood that's now gentrifying at warp speed, displacing many longtime residents in the process. In this context, murals coaching people about unlimited personal achievement seem a bit... problematic, if you ask me.

To Oregon With Love

The ongoing mural tour returns to NE Alberta St. again (and not for the last time), and this time we're looking at To Oregon With Love, at the corner of NE 22nd & Alberta. This was created in 2014 by Blaine Fontana, who also did the cool Koi mural on SE Hawthorne (which has since been partially painted over, unfortunately). The RACC description:

This mural represents many of my favorite aspects about Portland and Oregon, but is collectively a quilt representing our independent spirit, our vibrant attitude and tremendous pride we all carry as Oregonians.

If the title sounds vaguely familiar, you might be thinking of "From Oregon With Love"/"Oregon kara ai", a 1980s-1990s Japanese TV drama set in Central Oregon. Some sort of corny heartwarming thing about an orphan from Japan who comes to live with his aunt and uncle in America. YouTube has part of a 1992 episode in which the now-teenage kid tries his hand at logging and driving a semi. I'm not actually recommending it, but here it is:

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Tango Berretín mural

The next mural up is on SE Foster again, this time at the Tango Berretín dance studio at SE 63rd & Foster. The mural on the building was created in 2010 by artist Remedios Rapoport. (A short video of the mural being painted is on Vimeo here.) Its RACC description:

Tango Berretín is one of the only all-Argentine tango studios in the US and exists not only to teach the dance, but doubles as a cultural museum. Argentine filete, an art style native to Buenos Aires, and Argentine tango are culturally inseparable. The idea of this mural is to showcase this connection. Also, as both art forms are descendant from European traditions, and as the Foster-Powell neighborhood becomes more culturally diverse with many European immigrants, it seeks to embody the essence of the community. The mural with tango dancers’ feet on the dance floor and a bandoneón—an accordion-like instrument—playing tango shows what is happening inside the building. The colors and faux Buenos Aires look will create an enjoyable cultural exchange within the neighborhood by putting the vision out for all to see.

Pal-Do Market mural

The next mural up is the Pal-Do Market mural, outside of the eponymous Korean market at SE 61st & Foster. The RACC description:

This mural, located on a popular Korean market, is the first mural in Portland designed specifically on behalf of the Korean community. The artist, Una Kim, chose the image of a dragon because it is a powerful and positive symbol of good luck in Eastern art. Recognizing the role public art can have in recognizing specific communities, Kim sought out artists from differing minority groups residing in the surrounding neighborhood to complete small vignettes on the dragon using text and images to represent their cultures. She also invited a graffiti artist to contribute an element of street art to the mural.

The artist is a professor at Portland State, and she also created the Alive mural on SW 2nd, on the back side of Keller Auditorium.

Bridgetown Aikido mural

The next stop on the mural tour is at the Bridgetown Aikido building at NE 28th & Flanders, where we find a "monkey king" design created by Portland artists Jessie Weitzel & Brianna Farina. The RACC's old, defunct Murals of Portland website said there was a mural here, so I came looking for it, but I gather that one was replaced by the current mural at some point, since the listed artists are different.

Jolly Roger Skull mural

A while back I was putting together a post about the big Arch Angel mural at SE 12th & Madison, and noticed a brief aside in a writeup about it by Meggs, one of its co-creators: "Also had extra time to Jam with Gage Hamilton on a quick Skull piece on the side of the Jolly Roger Dive Bar, opposite the main mural!" (links added by me, btw.) I completely didn't notice this skull at the time. I would have noticed if only I'd turned around and looked behind me when taking Arch Angel photos. But I didn't, so I had to make another trip to go find it. And voila, here it is.

Giant Rabbit mural, NE Alberta

The mural tour is visiting NE Alberta again, and this time we're taking a look at the ginormous rabbit mural on the side of a building between 18th & 19th. This was painted by LA-based Brazilian artist Mateu Velasco for the 2014 Forest for the Trees event.

Given the subject matter, I have to put in a plug for an old blog post of mine about the movie "Night of the Lepus", a not-very-scary 70s monster movie starring DeForrest Kelley (Star Trek's Dr. McCoy). This was from the short period of time when I thought this might evolve into a blog about bad movies. Eventually I realized that writing about bad movies was a lot of work, or at least I made it into a lot of work, and this humble blog eventually morphed into today's photos-of-stuff format. The current all-mural thing is not a permanent feature of this blog, by the way; it's just the current project, which turned out to be a bit larger than anticipated. Eventually I'll move on and do something else, though I'm not sure yet what that might be. Maybe historic buildings or something like that. Dunno.

Lost Cause mural, SE 34th & Belmont

The next mural up is another Forest tor the Trees one, located on SE Belmont just east of 34th, at the far end of a parking lot facing Belmont. This was painted by The Lost Cause for last year's edition of the Forest for the Trees festival. The 2015 edition is coming up in a few weeks, with a whole new batch of murals to cover. I still have several unfinished posts about previous years' murals sitting around in Drafts. Hopefully I'll have those done & dusted before the new batch arrives, but you never know.

Dragon, SE Alder

Next mural up is this whatzit on the D&J Imports building on SE Alder, between 11th & 12th. wiredforsound32 says it's a dragon, and was painted by Klutch (who also did the large mural at Buckman Field). I think it looks more like a firebreathing Left Shark, but what do I know?

Nectar Cafe mural

The ongoing mural tour takes us back to the Hollywood district again. A few weeks ago we visited the Velo Cult mural, which faces a parking lot near NE 41st & Hancock. The same parking lot is also home to the smaller mural shown here, on the back of the Nectar Cafe, an artsy/healthy neighborhood coffee place. The mural's signed "Notes", which is basically impossible to Google (or Bing, if you prefer). Luckily the cafe's Facebook page had a couple of photos of the mural being painted, back in October 2013, and the captions explain that it was painted by artist Derek "Notes" Leitch. If I was in a grumpy mood (which I'm not), I might complain about people choosing more distinctive artist nicknames, but hey, I managed to follow the breadcrumbs this time, and I actually kind of like a little detective work now and then.

Saturday, August 01, 2015


The next Portland mural on our tour is one of the oldest ones I'm aware of. Machinery, at N. Williams & Shaver, was painted wayyy back in 1989 by Tom Cramer, and restored in 2003 just as gentrification started to take hold along Williams. Cramer later painted a similar mural at Ciao Vito on NE Alberta. (I have a draft post about that one, so it'll show up here eventually, but I couldn't begin to guess when.) Somewhere around town there's also an 80s-era vintage BMW that Cramer painted to look like Machinery.

If I hadn't known the date, I would have guessed it was from the late 1980s, or more likely inspired by the 80s. There was a common aesthetic in the 80s that involved lots of jumbled angles and primary colors (think Keith Haring for example), and it's kind of fun to run across a surviving example in the wild.

A bit about the design, from the 2003 Tribune article about the restoration project:

[Cramer's] original vision was to make something bold and colorful that could stand up to the neighborhood, he says. In the 1980s the area was harder-edged, and there was a lot of gang activity.

What Cramer continues to like about the mural today is that it's not trying to sell anything, either commercially or politically. But it still has an 'upbeat edginess.'

'It's improvised. It's like jazz, and it just kind of goes for it,' he says, adding that given its absence of a larger message, the mural probably wouldn't stand a chance of being approved by an officially sanctioned public art committee today.

NE 28th & Davis mural

Ok, our next stop on the mural tour is on NE 28th near Davis. This abstract design is signed "Seak Joker Daim" for the trio of artists who created it. The RACC's defunct Murals of Portland website [archive.org link] says it was painted back in 2003. That was during the time when City Hall was paranoid about allowing murals anywhere, for fear of having to allow billboard ads everywhere. So I'm not sure how this one came about in that climate. Joker is a Portland-based artist (interviews at Graffuturism & Futurism 2.0), while Daim and Seak are German and I gather are fairly prominent in the street art world over there. So maybe that's our answer: I could easily see 2003 Portland bending the usual strict rules a little if an artist was famous enough, for fear of getting a bad reputation in the art world.

Community Cycling Center mural

The next mural on our tour is a large RACC-sponsored one on the Community Cycling Center at 17th & Alberta. The RACC description:

The main focus of the mural is a child-powered apparatus, accompanied by a range of locomotion machines for children of all ages and varying physical abilities. The machines form a parade that includes a tandem bicycle, wheelchair, reclining bicycle, tricycle, unicycle, and other various bicycles. The imagery in this mural is inspired by the Community Cycling Center’s dedication as a non-profit service organization that teaches bicycle safety and provides bicycles to those in need.

This was created in 2006 by Robin Corbo (who also created the MIKE and BARK murals elsewhere in Portland), and restored in 2008 after the building was rammed by a truck.

BARK Mural

Next up on the mural tour is the huge BARK Mural, the jam-packed nature scene at the Firestone store at 4601 SE Powell. I ran across this in a Kay's Bird Club post, though I'm sure I would have noticed it on my own eventually if I was on Powell more often. A 2011 Tribune article about it interviewed lead artist Robin Corbo (who also created the MIKE mural near Lloyd Center, and a couple of others I haven't posted yet). The article explains that the mural was created in conjunction with BARK, a nonprofit that works to protect the Mt. Hood National Forest, which explains the subject matter here. I imagine "created in conjunction with" means the group supplied volunteers to help paint it. Here and there you can kind of tell that community volunteers were involved, and the sorta-infamous 'Art Wall of Shame' Tumblr ranted about some of the mural's more uneven details. Ranting about well-meaning volunteers seems kind of meanspirited if you ask me. I suppose there's just no satisfying some people.

A tire store on Powell may sound like a weird location for a saving-the-world nature mural, but this was a deliberate symbolic choice; Powell doubles as highway US 26, which (eventually) is the main road to Mt. Hood and points east. (You could keep going on US 26 all the way to Ogallala, Nebraska, if you were so inclined.)

There Is Always Hope

The next stop on the mural tour is in Portland's Old Town, on NW Flanders near 6th. This large Art Nouveau-styled mural was painted in May 2015 -- I ran across it while it was being painted, in fact -- by artist Lydia Emily, as part of a national awareness campaign for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Lydia Emily (who has MS herself) painted similar murals in Los Angeles, Austin, and Louisville, KY as part of this campaign. A 2014 LA Weekly interview discusses some of her other work in the LA area.

Animal Crossing NW mural

A while ago, I drove out to SE 72nd & Harold to track down the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood's community mural, and I happened to park near a small neighborhood pet supply store. The entire front of the store was painted with a design full of cute animals. I figured since I was there anyway, I might as well take a couple of photos, so here they are.

Cartopia mural

Next thing on the mural tour is this design on a wall at Cartopia, the food cart pod at SE 12th & Hawthorne (which is home to a fantastic poutine cart, among other things). This was painted sometime in early 2015 or late 2014 by artist Dominatah, replacing a previous "Cash For Your Banksy" sign. I have photos of the old sign too but haven't posted them yet; murals seem to come and go faster than I can post about them. I suppose there are worse problems to have, blogwise, but it certainly isn't helping with the size of my Drafts folder.

Shop Small mural, SE 25th & Clinton

The next stop on our ongoing mural tour is at SE 25th & Clinton, where a bike-themed mural graces the side of a small commercial building (which apparently is not a bike shop, oddly enough). This was painted in 2014 by artist Stefan Ways, who also created the Green Hammer mural at SE 6th & Madison. The "Shop Small" on the bike basket is the key detail here: This was painted as part of a national campaign to promote Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday when you're supposed to do some holiday shopping at local small businesses.

In 2013, Ways painted another mural for the Shop Small campaign in Baltimore; that article mentions that the national campaign is actually sponsored by American Express, the huge global credit card company. (Their corporate Tumblr (which exists) has more photos of the Baltimore mural.) This is probably a way for them to try to reach millennials, who (it's widely believed) have less of an interest in "prestige" credit cards and other traditional status symbols than their elders did. The small business thing probably also reflects a desire to get more small businesses to take their card. Many businesses don't accept AMEX due to the higher merchant fees compared to Visa & MasterCard.

Anyway, long story short, when I started this post I figured this was yet another mural promoting our fair city's bike-based smug superiority, and/or a hip local bike store. I had no idea it was part of a national marketing push.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

International Meat & Sausage mural

Here are a few photos of the painted sign outside the International Meat & Sausage / Overseas Taste market at SE 64th & Foster, next to Laurelwood Park. Business signs usually aren't part of this ongoing mural project, but this one's cute, and includes a cute cat, so I bent the rules for it, just this once. Sadly, until they invent Smell-o-Vision you won't get to enjoy the full effect; the whole surrounding neighborhood smells like spicy Eastern European sausages. I maintain this smells amazing, and the scent is a valuable public service, freely provided at no charge. Though I can see how non-carnivores (or people on diets) might beg to differ.

Tropical mural, SE 72nd & Harold

I stopped at SE 72nd & Harold to locate the Mt. Scott-Arleta Community Mural and noticed this tropical design painted on a building across the street. I don't know anything else about it, but it's kind of pleasant and I thought it was worth sharing.