Friday, August 04, 2006

My First Thursday

I was talked into doing the First Thursday thing last night, which is unusual for me. I figured the only way to really get into the spirit of the thing was to take lots of pseudo-artsy photos, while also drinking far too much. This post is the result.


This is not a gallery exhibit. It's the men's room at the Tugboat brewpub. We could argue about whether this toilet seat is art or not. It's obviously been "signed" by lots of people, although it's unlikely that Marcel Duchamp was among them. This photo, however, is art, apparently.

We've barely started with photos, but this may be a good spot to take a timeout and actually talk about the art for a moment. Our first stop after Tugboat was the Butters Gallery in Old Town. I was still taking notes on the Blackberry at this point, so I can report that I enjoyed several of the paintings by Sonia Kasparian, and the glassworks by Janis Miltenberger. Other visitors weren't so sure. I overheard a woman looking at a price tag and telling her daughter "I could buy a new cello for that". So apparently cellos are expensive as well, something I was not previously aware of. Also overheard, one man greeting another with "What up, dog? Can I get you a merlot or something?" Seriously.

My notes also mention a visit to the Elizabeth Leach Gallery, where much floor space was devoted to sculpture by Lee Kelly, one of the minds behind Leland One, a.k.a. Rusting Chunks No. 5. His stuff has the same basic look all these years later, but at least he's working in stainless steel and bronze now, which makes a big difference. It's the rust that offends the eye and the soul. I admit I may be biased here. As a longtime British car owner, the mere sight of rust fills me with horror and dread, and Leland One can aptly be described as "a hell of a lot of rust".

Another recent twist, apparently, is to weld "artsy" words and phrases onto the sides of the sculptures, which I don't think adds a great deal to the overall effect.

There was also exactly one object I liked at the Pulliam Deffenbaugh gallery, a small sculpture called Black Flame, by Peter Millett. At first I thought it might be by the same guy who did Columbia River Crystal, but it isn't.

There was some other stuff I liked too, but I'd quit taking notes, and now I don't recall what else I liked. My wife mentioned I looked like a total doofus tapping away on the Blackberry, so I stopped, because I knew she was right. So anyway, back to the photos:


The art marketplace lining 13th Avenue, with people milling about doing the art-walk thing.


Another sidewalk scene, a few blocks and a few drinks further on in the evening. In case it wasn't obvious.

It was actually kind of tough getting people to talk to me, even after all that booze. I happened to be wearing a ratty old t-shirt for an obscure minor-league hockey team, and I don't think people knew what to do with me. If this had been, say, the Last Thursday event up on Alberta St., I think people would've assumed I was being a trendsetting ironic hipster, and at the subsequent month's event everyone would have a t-shirt just like it. In the Pearl, it just made people nervous. They couldn't place me. Maybe I was a construction worker who just wandered in to load up on free cheese cubes. Maybe I was a rube from Gresham, wandering around lost here in the city's cultural heartland, not getting any of it. Or maybe I was the artist who painted the piece they were just about to make an ignorant comment about. I don't know how many times I got a very obvious once-over: Look at the face, look at the chest, look back at the face, look confused, look away. I suppose the bit with people's eyes constantly flicking down to chest level is something women deal with all the time.

The funny part is that I only had this shirt on because it's what I wore to the office that day. And I wasn't wearing it just to be ironic, either. People just don't seem to get me, so much of the time.

passion flower, first thursday

A passion flower, in the shrubbery between two galleries. I was actually trying to take a normal, non-blurry photo, but it was windy. I think it still turned out ok though. It's hard to take a bad photo of one of these.


Detail of one of the underground garage entrances at the Big Pink building.


A dog, happily ignoring the art frenzy occurring all around it.


A black and white photo of a Vespa, in the Pearl District, on First Thursday. You can't get much more artsy than this. Really, someone ought to give me a big pile of money for this photo. Also, I should be famous.

gas meter face

The human brain is wired to see faces everywhere, including in this gas meter. This pic was actually taken a few days earlier, but it's attached to a building containing an art gallery (IIRC), so it sort of fits here. Now, I understand that pictures of things that look kinda like faces are officially "cutesy" and therefore Not Real Art, but there's also a lot of money to be made pandering to the Thomas Kinkade crowd. Let's not ignore that point here. Also, I really loved the work Kinkade did on Ralph Bakshi's Fire and Ice. I'm totally serious about that.


A ghost ad on the side of an old warehouse building on 13th, now filled with ultra-ritzy condos. Mmmmm.... Bacon.....


A beautiful but decommissioned marble drinking fountain in the basement of some old building we were in, at some point late in the evening. It's somewhere downtown, I know that much. Beyond that, it's anyone's guess, and I don't recall why we were there, even.

disco ball, aura

At Aura. We ended up here after the galleries closed for the evening. Like most things in Portland, they close surprisingly early, and then there's nothing to do but go find another drink somewhere. The disco ball's going, the R&B's playing, and nobody's dancing. I think it was just too early in the evening yet. We left before it was even midnight, and the place was starting to fill in as we left. Food's pretty good, and their cilantro martini is far tastier than you might think. If you're like me, you don't spend a lot of time thinking about cilantro, but it consistently shows up in various favorite dishes of mine (like bánh mì and khao soi) , so I guess I must be a huge fan of it, apparently.

Anyway, I'm not really into trendy clubs, and I'm not useful on the dance floor, but I had a good time here. It felt, somehow, like we'd left Portland. Maybe it was the smooth R&B music, or the majority black audience, or the feeling of velvet-rope exclusiveness. I would expect to see this in Atlanta, or maybe DC, but here it's surprising. Despite the sleek, upscale modern decor, the club wasn't pulling in a lot of First Thursday types this evening. Oh, well. More tasty miniburgers for me, that way.


The candle on our table at Aura. Yes, this was taken after drinking the cilantro martini, in case you were wondering.

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