Sunday, January 25, 2015


The next art whatzit we're taking a look at is Dekumstruction, at NE Dekum St. & Durham Ave., right outside Breakside Brewing, and just down the street from Woodlawn Park. This is public art that doubles as a bike rack for a brewpub, and triples as a stormwater management device. It's hard to dream up a more Portlandia thing than this, and naturally it's won all sorts of national awards. The artists' statement from their website:

Dekumstruction is a sculptural artwork installed on top of a custom bike rack, also designed by artists Peg Butler and Buster Simpson. The art installation works as an overhead shelter for the bike rack and uses materials and imagery related to petroleum. Twenty halved oil barrels that serve as planters represent the culture of big oil and reconnect the petroleum product with the earth. The barrels also receives roof water from an adjacent building which is fed through the planter to a downspout that flows onto an upended oil barrel, beating the drum during rainy days. The installation relates to shifting attitudes about energy, consumption, and stormwater management.

Simpson also created Host Analog, the slowly-decaying log installation outside the Oregon Convention Center.

Jeffrey Weston Rose

Our next Weston rose is the Jeffrey Weston Rose, on the old Portland Bottling Co. Building in the 1300 block of NE Couch. Going by the name this is probably another one named for a family member, but that's all I know.

Tiffany Weston Rose, Sandy Plaza

The next Weston rose on our mini-tour is the Tiffany Weston Rose, on the Art Deco Sandy Plaza Building at NE 18th & Sandy. This is the second rose named after the owner/developer's daughter, the first being the circa-1994 Tiffany Weston Rose on the Tiffany Center in downtown Portland.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Flowering Legacy of the Civil Rights Leaders

The next mural on our ongoing tour is Flowering Legacy of the Civil Rights Leaders, in the Brooklyn neighborhood on SE 13th at Powell. The RACC description:

The mural project was made by students from the Oregon Leadership Institute at Portland State University. It features a Portland Rose with petals showing the faces of civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony, Chief Joseph, Ceasar Chavez, and Mahatma Ghandi. Other images of freedom are also included in the mural.

To be perfectly honest, the faces-growing-out-of-roses thing looks a bit like a mad science experiment gone awry. I'm sure they meant well, though.

The winged figure on the left appears to be the statue atop the Victory Column in Berlin, a 19th century German war memorial. I imagine it's here as an "image of freedom" because a.) the column's located near the Brandenburg Gate, where the Berlin Wall once stood, and b.) Brooklyn was once a German immigrant neighborhood. At one time it even had streets with names like "Bismarck", although most of them were hastily renamed during World War I.

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Neighborhood in Motion

The next mural on our tour is another "celebrate our neighborhood" design: A Neighborhood in Motion is in the Roseway neighborhood, at the fun six-way intersection of 72nd, Sandy, and Fremont. The mural's on the 72nd Ave. side of the Missing Link bike shop. This area may sound kind of familiar if you've been reading this blog for a while, since we've been here couple of times before on other quixotic wild goose chases, I mean, projects. The first time was in 2008 for the Roseway Parkway, the wide sorta-Park Blocks down the middle of 72nd north of Sandy. A couple of the photos above were taken from the parkway blocks, in fact. More recently, last May I stopped by for photos of the untitled Lee Kelly sculpture at the US Bank branch across the intersection at 72nd & Fremont, as well as the nearby painted intersection at 77th & Beech. For what it's worth, I've also been to the nearby Roseway Theater a few times, albeit without writing about it. Unfortunately I wasn't looking for murals on these previous visits, so I didn't clue in on this one, even though it takes up the entire side of a building. So I had to make another trip back, and I can't decide whether I'm being extremely thorough or extremely inefficient. If I ever decide to start a project on historic buildings, I'll probably have to make yet another trip here.

Anyway, the the RACC description of the mural has this to say:

This mural reflects the surrounding community, brought together by the mural process. A winding road with trucks and cars, a barbershop, grocers, soda jerk, war time workers, and unicyclist are among the many neighborhood images shown.

The website of one of the artists has more closeups of the mural. As I mentioned in another recent mural post, the drug store across the street still has a working soda fountain. I'm not sure why I keep mentioning that, other than that it's an odd anachronism that's somehow survived into the 21st century. But then, a couple of downtown Portland buildings still have manual elevators, and they employ people to operate them. Or at least they did as recently as 2012.

Mary Stephens Rose

The next Weston rose we're looking at is the Mary Stephens Rose, on the side of an otherwise nondescript building in the 2000 block of NE Broadway. I'm not sure who this rose is named for, which makes for a very short blog post this time around.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SE 45th & Henderson

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One of the more dubious ongoing projects here at this humble blog involves tracking down places on a weird list I ran across in the city archives. Some of these places are obscure city parks, while others are various landscaped bits that the parks bureau had a hand in designing or maintaining at one time. And then there are a few that I can't quite figure out, like today's installment. We're on SE Henderson St. at 45th Avenue, on a hillside a bit east of the swanky Eastmoreland neighborhood. The city's official neighborhood map says we're in a long, skinny part of the Woodstock neighborhood, between Eastmoreland and the far less upscale Brentwood-Darlington area. I'm describing this at length because this whole area was a blank spot on my mental map of the city, and I'm fairly sure I'd never been here before I came looking for the subject of this post.

The aforementioned hillside is the reason we're here, as it turns out; when the houses along this stretch of Henderson were built, the developers put a divider down the middle of the street such that the westbound lane is maybe 3-5 feet above the eastbound lane. I suppose this way yards and driveways on either side of the street don't have to be as steep. As far as I can tell, the divider is the reason this street is on the list. The divider is just solid concrete, without any landscaping or anything decorative, so I'm not sure what the Parks Bureau would have had to do with the place, but the list says they were involved somehow, so I went to take a look. An imaginative and unsupervised child could probably find something fun to do here, but calling it a park would be a real stretch. Maybe the bureau shrugged and said they couldn't work with this place, or they came back with a budget-busting landscaping plan that wasn't adopted, or something like that. I suppose that would still count as "involvement", if you defined the word broadly enough.

Monday, January 19, 2015


If you drive or ride along NE Sandy at night, you might have noticed the tall glowing spiky thing in front of the old fire station at 56th Ave. Portland fire stations often have a bit of public art on display, often thanks to "1% For Art" money from when stations receive seismic upgrades. I'm not sure whether that was the case here. In any event, today's post pays a visit to Araminta - Carrying People to Safety by James M. Harrison. The RACC description:

Araminta was Harriet Tubman's given name at birth. The piece is designed to be a light beacon and to inspire our better nature -- to remind us that we should be strong rather than fearful in moments of crisis.

I'm not sure I'm sold on how Harriet Tubman, firefighting, and abstract art are all interconnected, but hey.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Bell Circles II

A couple of earlier posts here talked about the pair of bells in front of the Oregon Convention Center, donated by Portland's sister cities of Sapporo, Japan, and Ulsan, South Korea. I mentioned there was also an acoustic art installation connected to the bells: Bell Circles II is an automated system that rings the bells every so often. Signs simply say the bells ring without warning, but they allegedly operate on a set schedule. Supposedly the Sapporo bell rings hourly, while the Ulsan bell rings on a schedule that evolves over time and resets on each solstice and equinox.. I say "allegedly" and "supposedly" because I was at the Convention Center recently and I had the idea of filming the Sapporo bell ringing. I'd checked YouTube and couldn't find any video of either of the bells ringing, so it seemed like this would fill an important cultural gap or something. So I started filming just before the top of the hour, and kept filming for four minutes, and came away with a boring video of the bell just sitting there, doing nothing. Later it occurred to me that "hourly" doesn't necessarily mean "at the top of the hour". Still, I feel like I've made a good faith effort to record the bell doing its thing, and I don't really feel like going back and hanging around for an hour or more to see if it ever actually rings. So I'm just going to go with the video clip I already have, and imagine that the bell's playing a famous John Cage piece. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Solar Flare

The next mural on our ongoing tour is on SE Ankeny, right next to the Giant Snail mural we just saw, and it may or may not be titled Solar Flare. It's hard to be sure because even though it's a recent mural, the artist's website is down (and doesn't have it), and the Twitter handle listed on the mural seems to belong to someone else entirely. I did run across a Facebook profile of an artist with the right name, but I don't know if it's the same person or not. In short, I don't know a lot about this one.

I actually didn't realize this was a separate mural at first, and somehow only got one photo showing this part of the wall the first time I visited. So I had to make a special trip back to get a few photos of this mural. Well, this and a sort of graffiti skeleton design on a nearby garage, which seems to have been painted over already. I've gotten used to that. Unlike traditional public art, which in theory sticks around forever, off the top of my head I only know of a handful of murals that have been around longer than a decade. Before the early 1990s there weren't a lot of them to begin with, and generally speaking they're more likely to be painted over than restored. Sometimes a mural's host building is demolished, and I've never heard of a mural being salvaged when a building here is torn down. That's happened before in New York, or maybe it was in the UK somewhere; a doomed building was home to a Banksy, so when the building was leveled, the mural was rescued at the behest of a well-heeled art collector, or maybe it was an art dealer. I'm hazy on some of the details, but in any case we have no (known) Banksys here, nor has any local street artist achieved that same level of global fame, so when a building goes, anything painted on it goes too.