Monday, May 25, 2015

bird sculpture, 1st ave.

Here's another item to file under the "gone" tag. Until recently, the big office complex at SW 1st & Market was home to the Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance firm, and the building's main lobby featured this sculpture of a flock of birds over the front desk. I noticed it while walking past the building, and immediately figured it was a Tom Hardy sculpture, since it looks very much like a smaller version of his large flock of birds at Lloyd Center. I don't have actual confirmation of this, but his style is pretty distinctive. You could see the resemblance comparing the photos, if my photos of this one were better. Unfortunately I won't be able to get better photos; the lobby's been renovated since I took these and the sculpture's no longer there.

Old Wives Tales mural

The next stop on the mural tour is the former Old Wives Tales restaurant at SE. 13th & Burnside, which had a nice painting of Mt. Hood over the front door. The restaurant closed about a year ago when the building was sold to rapacious apartment developers. I haven't checked back recently but I'm told the old building has already been demolished, so I'm applying the "gone" tag to this post. Given the current state of the Portland real estate market, I'm going to be using the "gone" tag a lot going forward.

Death Industry mural

The next mural up is this somewhat gory design on the back of a building at N. Flint & Tillamook, overlooking Interstate 5. Wiredforsound23 on Flickr calls it "Death Industry mural"; I don't know whether that's "official" or not, but I'm going with it for lack of a better name. In any case, it's by Spencer Keeton Cunningham, who also did the cool snake mural that wraps around a building at SE 11th & Stark.

Andy & Bax mural

Our next stop on the ongoing, ever-growing Portland mural tour is the the Andy & Bax surplus store at SE Grand & Oak, where these painted outdoor scenes wrap around the outside of the building. The store's been around since the end of WWII or thereabouts, but this mural is pretty recent, created in November 2014 by Jose Solis. I gather the store gets repainted in a different design every so often, as a little Google-fu turns up photos of several previous designs.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

NE Morris & 37th

One of the many ongoing projects at this humble blog involves tracking down Portland's handful of traffic circles. I started this because there aren't a lot of them here, and the ones we have often have something interesting in the center, like public art or rose gardens or a fountain. I had an old note on my giant omnibus TODO list/map that there was one more circle to track down, located at NE 37th & Morris in the middle of the Alameda neighborhood. So when I finally got around to tracking it down, I realized it was just one of the little traffic calming circles the city likes to add instead of speed bumps. I normally don't bother with those because they're not very interesting, and there's a lot of them, so I'm not sure why I put this particular one on the list. I mean, I'm sure I would have looked at it in Street View ahead of time and noticed that. There must have been some other reason why a.) I knew this was here to begin with, and b.) then thought it was worth a visit. But for the life of me I can't recall what that might have been. The only thing Google turns up is a 2008 neighborhood effort to add more traffic calming widgets along 37th south of Morris, which the city politely declined to do. And I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be enough to generate a TODO item. I really need to start including a "why" when I put things on a list, or maybe even not put them on the list if there isn't a good "why". Although a significant chunk of this blog wouldn't exist if I'd had a rule like that before now...

Vending machine mural, SE 7th & Main

The next mural up is a picture of a generously-stocked vending machine, located outside the big vending machine dealership at SE 7th & Main. The building it's on is also home to a medical marijuana dispensary, so customers there are likely to run across these pictures of sandwiches, fruit, slices of pie, etc. on exiting. I'm pretty sure this would be a great place to put a real vending machine instead of just a picture of one.

William "Bill" Potts Rose

The next Weston rose mural on our occasional tour is the William "Bill" Potts Rose, next to a gas station at NE 33rd & Broadway. Like a lot of the other roses this also includes a big US flag, plus ads for the self-storage and property management arms of the Weston real estate empire. There's also a little "Under God" beneath the flag, which most of them don't have. A 2008 Stumptown Stumper in the Tribune mentions that this rose honors one of Joe Weston's close friends. To be honest I'm kind of surprised more people in commercial real estate don't do stuff like this, I mean, not rose murals per se, but little nods to close friends and family. Maybe the sort of people who prosper in commercial real estate don't often have close friends and family. I dunno.

Burnside Arts Trust mural, SE 9th & Madison

The next mural on our tour is just across the alley from the FAB PDX mural in the previous post. This one was created in 2013 by the Burnside Arts Trust. They're apparently defunct now and their website is offline, but one of the artists has a nice photo of the mural on their personal website. My photos aren't as nice, but (as I'm not exactly famous for chutzpah) they're the best I could do without scaling the fence or talking my way in to the building or something.

FAB PDX mural

The next mural is in a gated alley at FAB PDX on SE 9th, between Madison & Main. The company does custom wood and metal fabrication, for retail displays, exhibits, etc. The mural was painted in 2011, and apparently modified/added to since then, since the photos in that Facebook post don't quite match mine.

Aquatic Maintenance mural

Here's a small mural outside an aquarium shop on NE 42nd, in the Hollywood District. If you look closely, it's signed "Jade" and dated "9-00".

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Levitated Light

The next stop in the ongoing public art project takes us back to Portland State University campus, this time to the 1980s-era business school building, where Levitated Light hangs in the large atrium facing SW 6th Ave. It's visible from outside, and I just sort of assumed it was a fancy chandelier. Although as you can see here, the lights are actually mounted in the atrium ceiling, and it's not a chandelier at all. It turns out this is a large sculpture by Dale Eldred, who I gather was quite a well-known artist. This is the part where I explain once again that I'm not really an art critic or much of an expert, and my unfamiliarity with his work is not an interesting data point.

I haven't figured out how PSU ended up with a large (but very obscure) sculpture by an apparently famous artist. The Oregonian apparently never reported on in when it went in, nor have any of the paper's art critics mentioned it in the decades since then. So... I dunno. It did show up in someone's interesting list of Portland-area glass art. (I say "interesting" because I may want to track down a few of the other entries on the list at some point.)

After All

The ongoing art tour takes us back to Gateway Transit Center again; this time we're looking at After All, the trio of rounded stones outside the Oregon Clinic building. This was created in 2010 (when the clinic building went in) by artist Jonathan Bonner, who also has what might be the world's silliest Twitter account. Here's the RACC description of the sculpture:

Working with the confines of the triangular landscaped area, the artist created three identical granite ellipsoids that emanate from a single point underground. The forms suggest several things: flowers, seeds, or a sitting figure. It is not intended to be conclusive, but rather leaves the viewer to draw his or her own meaning from the piece.

As you can see here, at least one viewer saw it and drew the meaning "park bench". It's about bench height, in an area where people expect benches, so I bet this isn't rare. And no, I didn't try to shoo the guy away so I could get a better photo. That would be a fun conversation: "Hi, I run a weird little blog you probably haven't heard of, and I'm going to need you to move so I can take some photos of the art you're sitting on. Ow! Ow! Stop punching me!"

bongo dog mural, se pine

And then there's this mural of a cartoon dog playing bongo drums, on the back of a building on SE Pine between 9th & Sandy. I don't know anything about this one; it's not signed, and searching the interwebs about it comes up with precisely nothing. It's on the back wall of a commercial printing company, not a veterinarian or dog day care or anything, so the business isn't an obvious clue either. There's bound to be a weird and funny story behind this, but I have no idea what it is. If you know, or you have a theory about it, feel free to leave a note down in the comments. Thx. Mgmt.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Geometric Windmill

This is going to be a somewhat unusual art post. Geometric Windmill is a sculpture that sat in Lake Oswego's Millennium Plaza Park back in 2007. I was relatively new at blogging back then and neglected to get a photo showing the name of the thing, so the photos sat around unused in iPhoto for aeons. Well, internet aeons, but you get the idea. So I dug the photos out some time last year and started digging around looking for a name. Mostly, I admit, because it seemed like an interesting and non-trivial internet search problem to work on. I actually ended up doing some Google image search, looking for anything similar to my photos here, and/or any art from Lake Oswego taken during the right time period. This eventually led me to an old city arts page with a little info on it, crucially giving the name and artist. It's by Minnesota sculptor Tom Brewitz, who specializes in kinetic art like this. A page on his website includes a video of Geometric Windmill doing its thing (though note that it's a 14mb QuickTime download, not just something you can watch on YouTube). The sculpture has long since left Lake Oswego. At one point it was included in the Port of San Diego's Urban Trees 3, a rotating exhibition along the San Diego waterfront. More recently, the city of Mount Dora, Florida purchased it around 2013 or so and installed it to spruce up the city's downtown. So that's the story. I suppose it's not really much of a story, and I realize probably nobody besides me cares at all, but The Case of the Geometric Windmill was a longstanding (albeit minor) mystery here at this humble blog, and I'm a little pleased to have finally sorted it out.

Sr. Ilene Clark Rose

The next Weston rose on our mini-tour is the Sister Ilene Clark Rose, on the Weston Plaza building (i.e. company headquarters) at NE 22nd & Broadway. It's dated 2013, and like a lot of recent Weston roses it's mounted on the building and isn't really a mural, per se. I think they do this so they can take a rose down and relocate it when they sell a building; I've already seen one instance where they did exactly that. Anyway, I'm not really sure who this is named for or why; a quick search comes up with a teacher in Seattle by that name, but it may or may not be the same person. So no links, in part due to a residual Catholic school fear of angering nuns.

Walgreens mural, SE Chavez & Belmont

The next mural up is a very large nature scene on one side of the Walgreens store at SE Chavez (39th) & Belmont. I haven't been able to find out a lot about this one. I ran across it on a Kay's Bird Club post and went to check it out. A post about it at the short-lived, erstwhile PDX Murals blog (which was only active for 2 months in 2007) tells us it's been there since at least 2007, but I don't know exactly when it was created or by whom. The store itself dates to some time in the 1990s (at least according to a Vintage Portland comment thread about the 39th & Belmont intersection), so that gives us a rough time window, at least.

A Tumblr called "Art Wall of Shame" ranted about this mural a couple of years ago, invoking both Thomas Kinkade and Bob Ross. Which, I dunno... I mean, nobody goes to a Tumblr called "Art Wall of Shame" looking for nuanced art criticism, but that's just plain cruel, that is.

Persistent Parabola

The next mural on our tour is Persistent Parabola by DALeast, a prominent Chinese mural artist. It's located on the north side of the East Side Central Garage building at SE 6th & Yamhill, and was created for Portland's 2014 Forest for the Trees mural-palooza. An article about it at Street Art News includes a quote from the artist:

The new mural titled “Persistent Parabola”, this is the moment of the wave playing with a cargo ship and the falling crates. There is a old Chinese saying: Water can carry a boat, it can also turn it upside down.I imaging my life journey is like the cargo ship carrying all the crates on the ocean, as well as the plans, wishes, relationships and the things that I've attached with as the importance. By thinking of the capacity and impermanence face to the ocean, I feel I am the most insignificant one in the entire world. It brings me more appreciations towards what I have right now. I guess that’s where the idea come from behind this work.

A Hypebeast article about the mural includes a short making-of video, because Portland murals always seem to have making-of videos, or at least all the cool ones do.

Keep Our Rivers Clean

The next mural on our ongoing tour is Keep Our Rivers Clean, on the Pacific Motorsports garage at SE 10th & Powell, across the street from the famous Original Hotcake House. This one isn't on most of the lists or maps of Portland murals for some reason, but I ran across it on a page at PDX Street Art and tracked it down from there. The mural was created in 2011 by a group of artists known as SubM2. The garage's Twitpic account has a bunch of photos of the mural being painted, which may or may not be available now based on how the ongoing Twitpic soap opera turns out: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] and more here.

Glyph Singer No. 3

The next stop in our mini-tour of VanWa public art is Glyph Singer No. 3, in the city's Broadway St. sculpture garden. It's a 1976 piece by James Lee Hansen, a prominent Vancouver sculptor who was a key part of Portland's mid-20th Century art scene. Hansen's work has appeared here a few times before, including a couple of sculptures on downtown Portland's transit mall. If you visit the tag and look at the other examples, you'll quickly notice that he has a consistent and very distinctive style. It's always struck me as a sort of 1950s pulp Sci-Fi book cover look. I have no idea whether this resemblance is intentional or not, though.


The next stop on our mini-tour of VanWa public art is Phrogy, the goofy carved redwood frog at E. 11th & Broadway. As the story goes, back in 1981 a local businessman and his wife were on an anniversary trip to Carmel, California, a coastal town on Monterey Bay that's been an artist colony and tourist trap since time immemorial. Carmel elected Clint Eastwood as mayor for a few years back in the 1980s, if that gives you any idea. Anyway, the couple ran across this frog somewhere in Carmel, fell in love with it, bought it, and then donated it to the city, as one does. And the city took it, because the Pacific Northwest of 1981 didn't have today's annoying hangups about being tasteful and highbrow. They don't even seem to have kept track of who carved it originally, since I can't find that tidbit of information anywhere.

In any case, it's graced the streets of downtown Vancouver ever since, originally at a prominent spot at 11th & Main. By the early 2000s, time and the elements had taken their toll on the frog, and concerned citizens wrote letters to the local newspaper calling it an eyesore. It was restored a few years later (and no, I don't know how you restore a carved redwood frog), and was unveiled at its current location in March 2014. It even has a Facebook fan page with a few dozen likes, which is a few dozen more than most public art can muster.

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.