Sunday, August 28, 2016

Alpha Helix

The next public art we're looking at is Alpha Helix, a red sorta-corkscrew in front of an old house at SE 40th & Hawthorne. It looks like yet another random abstract sculpture, but there's a bit more going on this time.

Alpha Helix is a tribute to Nobel-winning chemist Linus Pauling, who grew up in the house here, and an alpha helix is a fundamental protein structure that Pauling co-discovered in 1951. He received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1954, primarily for this discovery. I have never been accused of being a biochemist, but my understanding is that this was a key building block leading up to figuring out the structure of DNA in 1953. (Pauling narrowly missed out on that acrimonious discovery.) Pauling went on to win the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize for his nuclear disarmament work, and he spent his later years promoting eccentric ideas about Vitamin C as a universal cure-all.

In any case, the house is now home to Portland's Institute for Science, Engineering and Public Policy, which runs an annual Linus Pauling Memorial lecture series. The sculpture was created for them by Portland-based sculptor Julian Voss-Andreae.

Stonehenge Memorial, July 2013

So here's an old photoset I'd lost track of at the bottom of my drafts folder. For any non-local readers, this is the Columbia Gorge's somewhat low-fidelity Stonehenge replica, built in 1918 as Klickitat County's World War I memorial. It was widely believed at the time that the original Stonehenge was built for human sacrifices, and I gather the memorial was meant as a sort of bitter comment that humanity hasn't progressed in the last few thousand years. Though the fact that they had the archeology all wrong kind of muddles the intended message. In any case, it's quite a scenic location and not at all depressing in person, and I thought some of my photos turned out ok, so here they are.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

N. Polk & Crawford

Here are a few photos of Portland's new-ish city park at N. Polk & Crawford in St. Johns, just north of the railroad bridge. The city bough the land in June 2015, but the parks bureau says they aren't planning on developing it or even naming it any time soon. Which generally means they don't have any money to spare on a new park. Still, that's essentially what they've done with the Skidmore Bluffs for the past couple of decades, and that seems to have worked out pretty well so far.

Silver River

Next up is Silver River, an 87' rendition of the route of the Colorado River in cast silver, created by Maya Lin in 2009 for the Aria hotel/casino in Las Vegas. I was going to chalk this up as another only-in-Vegas thing, but it's actually part of a wider series of cast-silver rivers, including the Mississippi, Missouri, Hudson, and Housatonic.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

This All Happened More or Less

One of the newer public artworks in Portland (at the time of writing) is This All Happened More Or Less, a collection of tiny figures scattered along inner SE Division St. These were created in 2014 by artists Crystal Schenk and Shelby Davis for a city streetscape project that also added bioswales and other gentrifying goodies. The RACC press release described the project thusly:

Appropriately titled “This All Happened More or Less,” the bronze characters created by the artists were inspired by their observations of activity along Division. The scale of these bronze figures (much different than the scale usually seen in public art) can draw a viewer in close enough to imagine a story behind each of the figures that vary from active, such as a kid on a skateboard, to inactive, such as waiting for a bus or sitting quietly with a pet dog. The artists have said, “We are merely suggesting stories and we want people to draw their own conclusions, to fill in all of the details, and to follow their imaginations.”

The title is almost, not quite, the opening line of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. Which I admit I haven't read since high school, so the allusion sort of escapes me at the moment.

Vita Mensae, Living Mind, Life of Thought

Ok, next up on the ongoing public art tour is another stop at OHSU. This time we're looking at Vitae Mensae, Living Mind, Life of Thought, the giant spooky half-head in front of the university's Medical Research Building. This was created circa 1993 by sculptor Larry Kirkland, who also did Capitalism, the stacked-coins fountain outside the Lloyd Center mall. There's a longer post about Vita Mensae at an OHSU history blog; the author wonders whether the Latin name is quite correct, and whether it would have been more appropriate to depict the other half of the head. Which are concerns that I guess a doctor would have about it that I never would have thought of. The post includes a photo of a sign explaining the sculpture, located inside one of the adjacent buildings. Oh, and the old Portland Public Art blog hated it (as usual), calling it "astonishingly ugly" and "a booby prize, probably selected by a committee of department heads as a perk for putting up with construction delays". The rest of the post continues in a similar vein. I used to aspire to that level of invective now and then, not so many years ago; now I'm just happy when I remember I still have a blog and ought to hit publish at least once a month.

Capt. George Vancouver statue

Next up is the Captain George Vancouver statue in VanWa at W. 6th & Esther, across the street from Esther Short Park. This was created back in 2000 by local sculptor Jim Demetro. As I suspected, this is far from the only statue of George Vancouver out there; there's one in front of City Hall in that other city of Vancouver, and one in King's Lynn, Norfolk, UK, and a gold one atop the British Columbia provincial parliament. The one we're looking at here is by far the most goofy-looking of the four.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Johns Community Garden

Next up are a few photos of the Johns Community Garden in St. Johns at N. Edison St. & John Ave. A lot of community garden photos that show up here are taken in the off season and are kind of unattractive for that. So the good news is that these were taken in August, the bad is that they were last August and this has been sitting in drafts all this time, unposted. But that's sort of part for the course these days. Anyway, on a related note that only I really care about, this is also the latest installment of one of this humble blog's more dubious projects: At one point I ran across a cryptic list of really obscure places in the city's online archives, and set to tracking them down. This was listed incorrectly as "John Garden", so it took quite a long time to figure out what that referred to. So, mission accomplished on yet another one of these places, unless maybe I ID'd it wrong.

art fence, omsi max stop

Some decorations on a chain link fence around a vacant lot next to the OMSI MAX stop. I don't know anything about who created it, and I'm sure it's only meant to be temporary until the lot gets developed. PortlandMaps says the museum owns it. Come to think of it, I vaguely recall that they either bought the lot or had it donated back when I worked there, about 20 years ago. So I wouldn't exactly hold my breath waiting for a futuristic new museum expansion anytime soon.

Working Class Acupuncture mural

Large, recent mural outside an acupuncture studio on SE 92nd north of Foster, near the Lents MAX station. Also near the Zoiglhaus brewpub, which was the primary reason I made the trip out to Lents. I'm not really in the restaurant review business, but I thought it was worth the trip.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

june keepalive

Ok, I got busy again with $REAL_JOB this month and didn't get around to finishing a single blog post, so this here is the standard ritualized post so I'll have posted at least once this month. It probably hasn't helped that I've spent an inordinate amount of nonwork time watching ROV livestream from the Okeanos Explorer, a NOAA ocean research ship. They're currently exploring interesting bits of the seafloor in the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument. It's less work than owning a fish tank, and you get to eavesdrop while the science team tries to identify the rocks and creatures they're observing. Every so often they run across a probable new species, something nobody's ever seen before. I remember reading about early explorers visiting the mysterious and unknown Mariana Trench as a kid, and now in 2016 we get to watch live video from there. Once I even fired the livestream up on my phone so my cat could stare at some weird deep sea fish, which he seemed to enjoy. Say what you will about 2016 in general, but now and then living in the future has its moments.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Vancouver Arches

Photos of VanWa's Vancouver Arches, of which the city says: "These three brick arches were installed in 1984 to create a landmark for downtown Vancouver.". They're maybe not the most ambitious civic landmark ever, but hey. They're actually quite visible from Interstate 5 northbound into the city, so the designers at least got the location right. It's just that I always sort of assumed the arches belonged to a bank branch or an office complex or something.

Pioneer Mother

In this installment of the public art tour, we're looking at VanWa's Pioneer Mother, an Avard Fairbanks sculpture on the north side of Esther Short Park. Unusually, Pioneer Mother has an extensive Wikipedia page, which is great since I can just point readers there instead of doing a bunch of research myself. Fairbanks's work has appeared here a couple of other times, for monuments in Portland Firefighters Park and Milo McIver State Park, and I know of a couple of other public examples of his work around Portland that haven't made it into posts, such as the doors on the old US Bank building on SW Broadway.

Contemplative Place

The next stop on our ongoing public art tour is Contemplative Place by Michihiro Kosuge, located in Ed Benedict Park next to the skate park. The city's blurb about it says "A granite and basalt sculpture entitled Contemplative Place by Michihiro Kosuge was installed in 1996 at the west end of the park. Each of the four stones is placed to represent the four directions.". The RACC description has a bit more to say:

Kosuge describes “Contemplative Place” as establishing “a relationship between the stones and natural phenomena: the movement of the sun, the seasons, and an awareness of the cardinal directions, ”fostering “contemplation, spirituality, and quietude.” Each of the four stones is placed to represent the four directions.

Unfortunately the skaters next door were arguing loudly over something or other when I visited, so contemplation and quietude were not really being fostered at the time. And spirituality has never been my thing, so I have no idea whether that was being fostered or not. Your mileage may vary, obviously.

Untitled, OHSU

Next up is another bit of OHSU art, an untitled Bruce West sculpture in the Kohler Pavilion's sculpture garden. The university's wildly incomplete art page lists a different West sculpture titled Oregon Fabric. The page doesn't give a location, but it looks like it's indoors somewhere. (Also, the photo links on that page point at huge .TIF image files for some reason, so you might want to not click on them.)

Gathering In

The next bit of MAX art we're looking at is Gathering In/Gathering Rail by Christine Bourdette, at Hillsboro's Hatfield Government Center station, the far end of the Blue Line. The link above used to go to an RACC project page with a brief description of the art, but this part of the RACC website's been broken with a PHP script error for several months now, apparently without anyone noticing -- or figuring out how to fix it. So instead here's a hilarious page explaining why PHP is "a fractal of bad design".

The Three Graces

Next up, we're back at the OHSU campus again, looking at a small fountain called The Three Graces, in the Kohler Pavilion's outdoor sculpture garden. The fountain was created by Oregon artist Bill Kucha, and is dedicated to the late Leonard Schnitzer.


The next bit of MAX line art we're looking at is Comets, an installation along the Vanport Bridge over the Columbia Slough & Columbia Blvd. TriMet's Yellow Line art guide describes it:

Spencer T. Houser and Chris Rizzo present two approaches to the nearly 4,000-foot light rail bridge. Ninety flaming comets inspired by the car culture of the '50s blaze northward from Kenton. Blue metal panels on the north end of the bridge allude to the Columbia River.

I imagine the blue panels on the north end of the bridge are officially a separate piece with a different title, but I don't know what it's called, and I don't think I have any good photos of the panels right now anyway.

underground garage mural, sw 3rd & yamhill

A mural I ran across inside an underground parking garage on SE 3rd between Yamhill & Taylor. I don't know anything else about this one, and as far as I can tell the rest of the internet doesn't either.

La Calaca Comelona mural

Mural outside La Calaca Comelona on SE Belmont. This is another one that's been in drafts for quite a while; I posted photos of another mural next door back in August of last year, which seemed late already because the photos were taken in January. Still, I'm fairly sure a year and a half in drafts isn't even a record here, but then I've never claimed to be a breaking news outlet. I take photos when I feel like it, and I post them when I feel like it, if I get around to it.

La Sirenita mural

Mural outside the La Sirenita taqueria on NE Alberta, by Portland artist Pablo Garcia. He was actually busy painting it when I wandered by (which kind of tells you how long this has been floating around in my drafts folder). I suppose I could have stopped and said hi and asked a few questions or something, but I admit I'm not really in the interviewing business here at this humble blog. I've gone over a decade without ever doing one, and I don't think I'd be very good at it if I tried to start now. Even if I wanted to, which I don't, because antisocial.

Port City Gallery mural

Next up, a large mural outside the Albertina Kerr Center's Port City Gallery at N. Williams & Thompson. I managed to locate someone's Instagram photo of it that lists the artists who created the mural. It turns out several of them also worked on the Keep Our Rivers Clean mural on SE Powell.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

World's Greatest

Continuing with the current theme of MAX line public art, here are a few photos of World's Greatest, Bill Will's giant trophy thing at the Fair Complex/Hillsboro Airport MAX station.

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.

Heart Beacon

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.

Three Creeks One Will

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.


PSU Art Annex mural

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.

Questions for Humans: Curiosity Wall

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.

Naked Bike Ride mural, 2500 se 8th

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, 312 se stark

Mural at SE MLK & Stark, by Dutch artist Joram Roukes

mural, se 10th & oak

Mural by Klutch at SE 10th & Oak

mural, 1005 sw park ave.

Mural at SW Park & Salmon, by Rustam QBic. Incidentally, the other side of this building is home to the sole US location of a Japanese izakaya (pub) chain. It's pretty good.

mural, 221 sw 6th ave.

Mural at SW 6th & Pine, by Spencer Keeton Cunningham & Jaque Fragua.

mural, 412 sw 12th

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, 412 nw couch

Mural on the upper floors of a building at NW 4th & Couch, by Tokyo artist Nigamushi.

mural, 524 se ash

Mural at SE Ash & MLK, by Peruvian artist Jade Rivera, near the "Nothing Good Comes Easy" mural we looked at a couple of posts ago.

mural, 1302 se ankeny

Mural on a church building at SE 13th & Ankeny, by Andrew Hem.

mural, 417 se 11th

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.

mural, 200 se mlk

2015 Forest for the Trees mural at SE MLK & Ash, by Michael Salter.

Nothing Good Comes Easy

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.

mural, 706 se mlk

A 2015 Forest for the Trees mural by Aaron Glasson & Celeste Byers, located at SE MLK & Alder, outside the River City Bicycles store.

mural, 1129 sw washington

A large mural at SW 12th & Washington, created for the 2015 Forest for the Trees event by Michael Reeder.

The Journey Itself is Home

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.

bird mural, se 11th & alder

A recent mural of birds at SE 11th & Alder, by Portland artist Klutch


mural, 2505 se 11th

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.