Saturday, April 25, 2015

Aeolian Columns

Here's a photo of Aeolian Columns, a Lee Kelly sculpture in front of the Portland Veterans Hospital at OHSU, in a landscaped median between two buildings. Kelly's website describes it:

Aeolian Columns (1989), stainless steel and porcelain enamel columns fitted with organ pipes, c. 198 inches high; Collection Veterans Administration Medical Center, Portland OR. With composer Michael Stirling.

This is about the same vintage as Kelly's better-known (and similarly musical) Friendship Circle (1990) in Waterfront Park, and the family resemblance is uncanny. Sadly, I have a long track record of bad luck with local musical art, and I have never heard either of these sculptures in action. Or any other musical sculptures in town for that matter, except for the Weather Machine in Pioneer Courthouse Square. I'd claim to have some sort of anti-musical superpower, but in reality it's a combination of the art often being broken, and me being too impatient to wait around for it to do something. Anyway, a 1988 Oregonian article has a bit more about Aeolian Columns:

Oregon City artists Lee Kelly and Michael Stirling have been selected from among 64 contestants to create the $40,000 art-in-architecture project for the new Veterans Administration Medical Center, according to Barry Bell, center director.

The artists have created Aeolian columns, a collaborative sculpture and sound artwork created by sculptor Kelly and composer Stirling. The sculpture consists of three stainless steel columns between 15 and 16 feet in length, with bands of porcelain enamel providing splashes of color and highly reflective material.

The interior of the columns will be fitted with two tuned pipes that will produce the continuous series of tones scored by Stirling. The three pieces will be placed in the parklike setting at the entrance to the center, to create a man-made physical and musical grove.

I actually first heard of this sculpture in a Portland Public Art post about OHSU art that mentioned it briefly; the mysterious 'C' behind the blog was even less of a Kelly fan than I am, and said: "There’s an old rusty Lee Kelly in front of the nursing school, and another shiny one in front of the VA. Both hideous." I wouldn't go quite that far; "eyeroll-inducing" is more like it, and in general I do like Kelly's stainless steel stuff better than his rusty work. More importantly, I just hope the organ pipes play something pleasant and soothing, for the sake of the VA staff and patients.

Chiba Clock Tower

Here are a couple of photos of the Chiba Clock Tower at the north end of McCarthy Park on Swan Island. A sign at the base has a short inscription:

This solar clock tower was presented to the people and Port of Portland by Mr. Takeshi Numata, Governor of Chiba Prefecture and the administrator of the Port of Chiba, on June 5 1987. The Port of Portland and the Port of Chiba became sister ports in November 1980 to enhance the friendship and prosperity of the United States and Japan.

Apparently a "sister port" is like a sister city relationship between local port authorities, and Portland has several of these, also including Ulsan, South Korea (which also a sister city of ours) and Tianjin, China. This is in addition to Portland's half a dozen or so "regular" sister cities.

Apart from what the sign tells us, I don't know a lot about this clock. I found a city document comparing Port of Portland recreation facilities w/ other West Coast cities, which mentions the clock in passing, but that's about it. The library's Oregonian newspaper database doesn't seem to have anything about the clock, specifically, but it does tell us the gift-giving was mutal, as Portland shipped a Lelooska totem pole to Japan in 1986. (Lelooska also created the large totem pole next to the Chart House on Terwilliger, and various others around the area.)

You'd think a solar-powered clock from Japan would be a beloved local landmark in 2015 Portland. You'd think hipsters would ride their fixie art bikes to the solar clock and picnic on artisanal donuts and PBR while strumming their ukuleles, and then the tourist guidebooks would find out about it, and senior tour groups from Kansas would show up in giant buses to view Portland hipsters in their native habitat or something. But due to the weird out-of-the-way location, none of this seems to have happened, at least not yet. But at least this way I can talk about the Chiba Clock Tower and say "you probably haven't heard of it", for whatever that's worth.

Spike Flower

One of the long-running ongoing projects here at this humble blog involves tracking down local public art, taking a few photos, and writing about it. I deny having any particular expertise on the subject, but it's been a consistently interesting project, at least for myself, and hopefully for a few Gentle Reader(s) out there. I've run a bit low on new material within Portland city limits, so I've started looking at the 'burbs too. Recently I realized the city of Vancouver, WA has a small public art collection of its own, mostly concentrated in the city's small downtown. At some point -- I'm not sure when, exactly -- the city closed a block of E. 9th St. between Broadway & C St., and turned it into a sculpture garden featuring a number of mid-20th Century Portland-area artists. The thing that jumped out at me was that they had something by Manuel Izquierdo, whose work I'm usually a fan of (albeit in a non-expert fashion, as I keep pointing out). You can check out the blog's "izquierdo" tag for quite a few other examples.

So, with all that explanation out of the way, here's a slideshow of Spike Flower, at Vancouver's aforementioned Broadway St. sculpture garden. There isn't much about it on the net other than the city's art page, so we have to rely on the little sign next to the sculpture for info. The sign doesn't give the year Spike Flower was created, but notes it was donated to the city in 2001 by a local nonprofit, and includes a quote from Izquierdo:

The possibility that there is such an accurate mechanism in the creation of an object that expresses and amasses an unknown geometry of feelings, ideas, and aspirations, which are unclear at the very beginning of conception and are discovered through the process of creation, is one of the wonders of human endeavor. These human efforts are driven by a sublime need to reveal the spiritual reality which humans have experienced from the beginning of recorded time.

Our Ancestors left a record of their lives, their myths, and their gods painted and carved on cave walls and cliffs. These paintings and carvings show an immediate and revealing visual language which was created out of the pure need to communicate with other humans.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Doernbecher Rose

Believe it or not, I still have a few posts about Weston rose murals sitting around in drafts. Honestly, when I started this mini-project I had no idea there were so many of them. So the next one up is the Doernbecher Rose, on the sprawling U-Store complex east of NE 28th, next to I-84. As I've mentioned in an earlier post or two, the storage complex was once home to the Doernbecher furniture factory, which closed many decades ago. The mural's visible from I-84 and the adjacent MAX tracks. I actually hopped on the train just to take these photos, in fact. Which sounds kind of silly, and afterword it occurred to me that MAX occasionally hosts nosy TSA VIPR Teams, and explaining this weird little project to those guys might have been a challenge.

Aprisa Mural

The next commercial mural on our ongoing tour is a long, low painting of various fresh vegetables, located on a retaining wall at the Aprisa Mexican restaurant at SE 8th & Division. The mural's by Oregon artist C.H. Wilhelm, who either painted or repainted it in August 2013. Wilhelm's Instagram page includes more examples of his work. As for the restaurant, I haven't been there for several years, but I seem to recall it was pretty good. I'd try it again, but I always forget this corner of town has restaurants now. I'm used to it being a sketchy industrial area, and even today there's no sign of the city's gentrification tsunami in this corner of the Central Eastside district. Though I expect that won't last forever.

Gilbertson Machine Shop mural

The mural tour pays another stop in inner SE Portland, this time at the Gilbertson Machine Shop at SE 8th & Belmont, where a large mural shows a collection of classic American cars. Unlike a lot of murals done for businesses this is actually signed by the artist, but it's done in traditional graffiti style and I can't make out the name. Google's no help either in this case, so I can't tell you who did it, much less link to their Tumblr blog or Facebook page, or LinkedIn profile I guess. I've seen an increasing trend of artists including an URL or Twitter handle along with a signature. I'd like to encourage more people to do that, if for no other reason than making my job here a little easier.

I'm sure my dad would be able to identify all the cars on the mural, but I can only pick out a few: Model T hot rod, VW Bug hot rod, a mid-60s Corvette, maybe a 1959 Cadillac next to the Vette (though I could be wrong about that one). And what looks like a mid-1960s Lotus F1 car on top. The others I'm not sure about.

dusting this thing off...

Ok, so last month I only managed a single blog post, and it was just an explanation/gripe about being too busy with Real Work to put any real posts together. Things have settled down a bit since then, so I'm going to try to resume semi-regular posting. In truth I probably could have done this a couple of weeks ago, but I saw the sheer size of my drafts folder and shrank back in alarm. I'm starting to think my genius New Years idea of consolidating everything into a single huge drafts folder was possibly unwise. A good idea organizationally, but bad in terms of staying motivated. Anyway, let's try this again, shall we?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Hey, so my Real Job has been extraordinarily busy over the last month-and-change, and I haven't gotten around to finishing a single blog post in all of March. Which is kind of annoying, considering how ridiculously huge my Drafts folder is these days, but it can't be helped, apparently. It turns out that I've never gone an entire calendar month without a blog post in the entire history of this humble blog, and I don't really intend to start now, so I thought I'd throw together something brief and trivial (which is what you're reading right now), and haul up the Mission Accomplished banner for the month.

One fun thing to mention in passing, though: As part of all this Real Job business, I've had to poke into some of the darker corners of Windows Registry APIs. I haven't had to touch those in a few years, so it involved a bit of refresher Googling, and one particular search actually led back to a blog post I wrote back in 2006, back when I had the occasional notion this might evolve into a tech blog, rather than photos and history and weird hobby projects. So anyway, it still contains a lot more than you'll ever want to know about this particular esoteric Windows feature, so enjoy, or feel free to shrink back in horror, or whatever you prefer.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Everything is Everything

The next mural up is Everything is Everything, which is basically just an enormous painting of the words "Everything is Everything". It's located on a warehouse facing SE Division next to the MLK/Grand Viaduct, and was created by Zach Yarrington for the 2014 Forest for the Trees mural event.

It's tempting to chalk the phrase up as some sort of empty hipster affirmation, but it's also the title of a 1998 Lauryn Hill song:

Sunday, February 15, 2015

United Finance flag mural

One of the longtime landmarks along E. Burnside is the United Finance building at Grand Avenue, the building with the giant neon "LOANS" sign on top. This building is our next destination, not because I'm doing a neon project, as potentially interesting as that might be, but because of yet another mural. The back of the building has a giant US flag painted on it, facing the building's parking lot. I noticed it when I was looking for the Cthulhu mural a block or so east of here. Which was sort of a fun contrast. I'm sure the giant flag has been there for years, possibly decades, but I'd never had any reason to pay attention until this little project got going. I figured I was there anyway, and the question of whether a painting of a US flag is art was settled by Jasper Johns sixty years ago, so I took a couple of photos, and here they are. And now that I have photos for comparison, it's pretty clear this comes out ahead of the Marquam Building flag mural in downtown Portland, or the flags that are often paired with Weston roses for some reason. Unfortunately it's not signed, and I don't have a date for it, so I don't know who gets the prize for Best US Flag Mural in Portland That I Know Of. But of course that's a provisional award. There could easily be an even better one at a VFW hall out in the 'burbs or something like that.

Salvation Army Rose

The next Weston rose (and if you're surprised how many there are, you aren't alone) is the Salvation Army Rose, on the church's building at NE 18th & Sandy. The building looks like it might be a warehouse, so I'm guessing it's where they keep the old stinky Santa suits in the off season. I bet the place smells amazing in August.

PortlandMaps says the church owns the whole block, so I don't know why they might have a Weston rose. Maybe Weston's company was the previous owner, and they kept the rose when they bought it? Or maybe he's a member or a big donor. I don't have an answer for that.

I suppose I could have gone inside and asked about the rose, but going inside churches isn't something that comes naturally to me. And I dunno, a church where you have a pseudo-military rank and uniform, and you dress up as Bell-Ringing Santa for Christmas? Charity or not, that sounds like something out of a Monty Python sketch, frankly. The whole thing would actually be kind of cute if it wasn't for their retrograde anti-LGBT policies. That attitude is the main reason I don't give them my pocket change over the holidays.

Union Market mural

The next mural on the ongoing tour is at the Union Market at NE MLK and Beech. Back in 2012, the store's blank wall facing Beech was being repeatedly hit by taggers. The market's owners were tired of this and brought in artists Dylan Kauz and Arise Rawk to do a mural on the wall, on the idea that this would prevent tagging. I gather that tagging someone else's art is generally considered bad form, although I've seen plenty of exceptions to this rule.

The market neglected to get a city permit for the mural first, though, so City Hall demanded they paint over it or face very large monthly fines. The King Neighborhood Association lobbied the city to let the mural stay, on the theory that permit or no, a mural is always better than a blank, graffiti-covered wall. I couldn't find a followup article explaining how that was resolved, but the mural's obviously still here, so they must have worked it out somehow.

Floral mural, NE 21st & Broadway

I was around NE 21s & Broadway a while ago looking for a couple of Weston roses: The Mary Stephens Rose, which I've posted about already, and the Frank Edwards Rose, which doesn't seem to exist anymore. While I was there I ran across a couple of other murals I didn't know about: The new-ish one at Swift Lounge, and the faded floral design you see here, located down a gated alley behind the 7-Eleven that faces 21st. Unfortunately I don't see a signature on it, and I haven't been able to find out anything about it. Feel free to leave a note down in the comments if you know anything about this one. Thx. Mgmt.

Dreaming Realities

The next mural up is Dreaming Realities, a 2010 Ashley Montague mural on a weird old building at NE 6th & Failing. This was listed on the RACC's now-defunct Murals of Portland site [link goes to an copy], but nowhere else that I've come across, including the main RACC website. That's often a sign that a mural's been painted over since the list was compiled, but it looks like this one just sort of fell off the radar somehow. So here it is.

Koken Market mural

Our next stop on the mural tour is the Koken Market mural, the hops-and-barley design outside the eponymous store at NE MLK & Dekum. This was painted by Adam Brock Ciresi, who also did the Frank Dekum & Birds mural across the street.

Frank Dekum & Birds

The next mural up is Frank Dekum & Birds, on a restaurant building at NE MLK & Dekum. The design honors(?) 19th Century Portland businessman Frank Dekum, the street's namesake. Downtown Portland's historic Dekum building (the one with all the weird gargoyle faces) is also named after him. And thanks to the street, Dekum's name has appeared here a few other times: The City Repair painted intersection at N. Dekum & Borthwick; Dekumstruction a few block east of here in front of Breakside Brewing; and the mysterious Dekum Court Triangle further east around NE 28th.

Anyway, the somewhat gory mural is a reference to Dekum's weird hobby of importing nonnative German songbirds to Oregon. His "German Song Bird Society" imported hundreds of thrushes, starlings, and nightingales and released them in Portland's city parks, in the hope that they'd go native and make Oregon more like Dekum's native Germany. This was, of course, a terrible idea. A similar effort in New York City led to today's enormous populations of invasive starlings all across North America. The Portland effort was mercifully less successful, and the introduced bird species all died out within a few years.

The mural was painted in 2012 by Adam Brock Ciresi. Photos of at Kay-Kay's Bird Club are clearer than mine, since it looks like a higher fence and a canopy have been added since 2013. A piece about the mural at PDX Street Art describes the project:

Adam wanted to present some of this place’s rich history in his mural. Playing with the image of Dekum, an old bearded capitalist, Adam wanted to “provoke viewers to consider different connotations of this history, and their geographical environment.” Adam is interested in how street art can form bonds between people and history. While painting the mural, Adam was excited by the number of pedestrians and neighbors who were interested in the piece and stopped to talk with him about it.

The Scrap Mural

Our next stop on the ongoing mural tour is The Scrap Mural on trendy Williams Ave. a bit north of Failing. The mural covers the entire front of a building that's home to Sidebar, part of the Lompoc Brewing empire. (Lompoc's larger Fifth Quadrant brewpub is around the corner on Failing.) The RACC description of the mural:

This mural colorfully depicts people engaged in painting, singing, writing, reading, sewing, and cooking. Directly above the building entrance a mother is reading a story to a child. The mural incorporates elements of the neighborhood and its creativity and reuse, and celebrates its civic pride.

The mural was created in 2005 by artist Bruce Orr, predating the building's current occupant by several years. The building was remodeled sometime in late 2014, and if you look at the photo on the RACC page, or this photo by wiredforsound23 taken last August, and compare those to my photoset, you'll notice that a large window has been added since then, and a large section of the mural has been removed. It strikes me that chopping up a community spirit thing to make way for the needs of business is kind of a metaphor for 2010s Portland in general. Maybe I'm overthinking this, I dunno.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


The next mural up is ITS_4_U at the Jupiter Hotel on E. Burnside. It's located along the hotel's back driveway, on the side of the KBOO building (which has a mural of its own on the front). This design was created in 2007 by "The Dotmasters"; the vines in front were smaller then, so their photo of it (in the first link) gives you a better look at the mural than mine do, and you can see it's sort of a reference to Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam at the Sistine Chapel. I'm sure the mural's even harder to see when the vines have leaves on them, so if you're interested you might want to go now, before spring really gets going. The vines seem to kind of defeat the point of having a mural, but I dunno, maybe it's deliberate, for serious conceptual art reasons I'm not privy to. Anyway, here are a couple of other photos of it I ran across:

The Exalted Ruler

Here are a few photos of The Exalted Ruler, the big elk statue outside the OHSU Casey Eye Institute. It's by Troutdale sculptor Rip Caswell, and commemorates the local Elks Club's longtime support of the hospital's childrens' eye clinic. Caswell's work has appeared here a couple of times before, namely the goose at the Kings Hill MAX station, and the deeply weird 9/11 memorial on SE Belmont.

Portland Public Art did a post about this elk back in 2006, and an unusually mild post by that site's standards. I assumed it would compare this elk unfavorably with the famous Thompson Elk statue in the downtown Plaza blocks, but it didn't. Then I got to looking at the two side by side, and it struck me that the OHSU elk is actually better than the famous downtown one. Or at least it's more realistic and lifelike, which would seem to be the main criteria for evaluating elk statues. I should note that the local Elks refused to have anything to do with the Thompson Elk, calling it a "monstrosity of art", and I'm starting to think they had a point; it looks a bit like the artist grafted elk antlers onto a small and slender type of deer. I'll just note that Roland Hinton Perry was an East Coast artist, so it's possible he'd never actually seen a real, live elk when he took the job.

Mean Greenies

The next stop on the ongoing mural project takes us to the back side of a warehouse on N. Page St, between Vancouver & Flint. A Flickr photo by wiredforsound23 calls it Mean Greenies, and notes that it's by local artist Charlie Alan Kraft. It's located on a west-facing wall between the warehouse and an adjoining house. Somehow I didn't notice it the first time I looked for it, and I figured it had been painted over or something. Later I checked Street View and realized I'd walked right past it, but going the wrong direction so I wouldn't have seen it. I'm sure I'll get better at this "noticing stuff" business eventually, someday.

30 Seconds Over Portland

The next mural up is 30 Seconds Over Portland (aka Love Bomb), the WWII bomber dropping parachute hearts at SE 82nd & Woodstock. The mural's located on the back side of the McCollum Automotive building, facing a church parking lot. A Tribune story explains that it was created by Tim Janchar, based on an earlier painting of his, for an ongoing neighborhood revitalization effort called "Our Happy Block". A Culturalogique post has a story about the design. I haven't seen any other sources mentioning it, and I don't know whether it's accurate or not, but here's the story:

Commissioned by the son of a WWII veteran who’s father had flown this exact type of airplane bomber during the war. The son later witnessed his father’s tremendous guilt and loss over the destruction and death he had caused and commissioned this mural on his behalf.

Carl, Pastor of the Calvary Lutheran Church shared with me that the father was able to see it while still alive and it had brought him great joy to know that one of these bombers was now dropping ‘love-bombs’ all over Portland.

Art Fills the Void!

The next mural up is Art Fills the Void!, the giant banana mural at SE 12th & Division. It's not the most elaborate mural in town, and it obviously needs a touch up, but there's a story behind this one. It turns out this banana dates back to 1982, which makes it positively ancient by mural standards. PDX Street Art explains that it was created by a group of artists calling themselves "Gorilla Wallflare", and the banana was meant as a protest against the Reagan-era guerrilla wars raging across Central America.

A Portland Public Art post about it went with the common theory that it's a riff on Andy Warhol's cover art for a 1967 Velvet Underground album. The PDX Street Art article includes an interview with one of the artists, who mentioned Warhol as one of a long list of inspirations, so I imagine there's at least a kernel of truth to the idea.

A September 1982 Oregonian article "Fruit looms on blank wall as first sign of attack on blandness" explains that the building was then home to an office supply company, rather than the assorted hipster businesses it hosts in 2015. Although the banana appeared without the company's involvement, employees immediately fell in love with the thing, and it quickly began showing up in sales presentations and the company newsletter. This undoubtedly helped it survive over 30-odd years. Gorilla Wallflare painted a number of other murals around town during the 80s, but apparently this is the only one left. The others have all been lost to time, the elements, periodic crackdowns by City Hall, and developers' bulldozers.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Prestige Motors mural

The next mural on the tour is the a small painting of a Vespa against the Portland skyline, located on the Prestige Motors building at SE 6th & Madison. (The company is, or maybe was, a scooter dealer.) The mural's signed "Zak", and dated 2008, but that's all I know about it. All I've found are Flickr photos of it by ohhh_yeah808 and Squid Vicious, which doesn't really help. Oddly enough there's a "Zak's Prestige Motors" located out at SE 82nd & Liebe, but Street View doesn't show any scooters, and as far as I can tell it's a completely separate and unrelated business. It's as if guys named Zak are somehow magically drawn toward prestige and motors. I agree this really isn't a high quality theory, but if you have a better one I'd love to hear it.

Green Hammer Mural

Here's a slideshow of the large new mural on the Green Hammer building on SE 6th, just north of Madison. It was painted in October 2014 by Stefan Ways, who posted a short "making of" video about it to YouTube. The video caption describes the design:

A hand holds a wood scribe, carving a half circle - contained within it in grayscale are city landmarks including the abandon factory at Fields Park, Hawthorne Bridge, and Union station.Outside the circle are images I referenced while hiking "The Gorge" east of the city. Swallows fly about transforming from the wood chips pulling the viewer toward "OR7", the lone wolf, introduced into western Oregon for the first time since the 1940s, and now has a mate and offspring - showing the importance of how vast, preserved wilderness allows for even the most endangered of species to thrive once again. All in all, this mural depicts a city, Portland, surrounded by natural beauty and wonders.

The Green Hammer company also posted several times on Facebook about the mural as it was being painted, if you can't get enough of "making of" photos: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Swift Lounge mural

The next mural up is at Swift Lounge on NE Broadway around 19th, sort of across the street from the building with the Mary Stephens Rose, which is what I was actually looking for when I bumped into this. It was painted in 2012 by Ashley Montague, and features (among other things) a bunch of Vaux's swifts, which are the weird little birds that roost in the Chapman School chimney every fall.

Swift-watching has become a popular activity in Portland since the birds adopted the Chapman chimney some time in the 1990s. Crowds gather at the school at dusk to watch vast clouds of strange little birds swirl and vanish into the school's chimney. A friend who's an avid birdwatcher dragged me along to watch the swifts several years ago, so I can attest that it looks just as bizarre in person as it does on YouTube. The high point of the evening, though, was when a hungry peregrine falcon showed up, looking to pick off one of the countless swifts for a meal. This seemed to generally distress the crowd, and there were even a few scattered boos here and there. I was a distinct minority in rooting for the falcon. If I was more of an extrovert I would have tried explaining that we were witnessing the world's fastest bird in action, and I would have mentioned the inspiring comeback story about DDT and eggshells and the Endangered Species Act and urban falcons. And if that failed, maybe resorting to the "Circle of Life" song from The Lion King would do the trick. I mean, it's not as if swifts are gentle vegetarian birds either. But, as I said, I'm not quite extroverted enough to try all that with strangers, even when they aren't self-righteous Subaru-driving Portlanders.