Sunday, March 06, 2016

sunflower mural, se 9th & ankeny

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

mural, 2424 n mississippi

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?

SE 130th Place & Ramona

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.

SE 37th & Bybee

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.

SE 86th & Glenwood

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.

SE 28th Pl. & Pardee

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.

rhino mural, 1308 se morrison

Rhinoceros mural on SE Morrison, outside a trendy cocktail place a bit e. of SE 12th. This was painted in August 2015 by Josh Keyes, for the annual Forest for the Trees mural event.

Monday, February 29, 2016


This is another of those posts in which I complain I've been way too busy at $REAL_JOB this month to put together any real blog posts. And so, once again, I'm doing a placeholder in order to not mess up my unbroken at-least-one-post-per-month streak that dates back to December 2005. Which is important because of reasons. In retrospect I probably ought to have skipped a month early on so it wouldn't matter later, but how was I to know? On a more positive note, this is the very first time I've ever posted anything here on February 29th. It's true. I went back and checked and everything.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Alumni Fountain, OHSU

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.

Colonial Soldier, SW Barbur & Huber

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

The Bearer

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.

Scribner II

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.

Cherry Trees @ NW 19th & Lovejoy (2016 Edition)


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:

  1. We're seeing the combination of three independent factors: Early-blooming variety, weird microclimate, and global warming.
  2. 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.

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Thursday, January 07, 2016

Ristretto Bound

Back when I was taking photos of the Scrap Mural and Machinery for this humble blog's ongoing mural project, I noticed a cool painting of racing bicycles hanging outside a building at N. Williams & Shaver. I took a couple of photos of it since I was in the area anyway, and filed them away in case I ever ran across any info about it. Later, while I was researching a different post, I ran across a 2012 BikePortland article that mentioned it in passing. So this is called Ristretto Bound, and it's by artist Amanda Houston. I like it a lot.

The BikePortland article was about a proposed mural honoring Major Taylor, an early 20th Century African-American bike racer. The proposal hasn't moved forward yet as of early 2016.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

El Pajaro Cantor

Next up is El Pajaro Cantor ("The Songbird"), on the side of a building in the 2900 block of NE Alberta. The old Murals of Portland site said this was created by Judee Moonbeam and Dave England in 1998, around the time "Alberta Arts District" first became a real thing. (It's just a luxury condo marketing term these days, but that's a whole other story.)

Elsewhere on the interwebs, a Waymarking page for the mural has a less obstructed view of it than my photos, from a better angle. I'm not sure what the mural's original context was, but as of 2015 it faced the outdoor patio of an Iraqi restaurant.

Peace Mural, SE Belmont

Next up, we're visiting the Peace Mural at SE 30th & Belmont, outside Two Rivers Aikikai (an aikido studio). This was created by artist Christa Grimm; her website has a copyright notice of 2012, but I'm not sure whether that's for the mural or the website itself.