So there's a year-end tradition here (by which I mean the last couple of years) in which the year's final post is just a batch of Instagram cat photos from the previous 12 months. I figured I'd go ahead and do that again for 2015, since people never really get tired of cute cat photos. Incidentally, this post also brings me up to 186 posts for the year, which isn't a lot by recent standards, but it moves 2015 into an exact tie with 2012 and 2009. Apparently this is pattern that repeats every third year, for whatever reason. *shrugs* Anyway, Happy New Year!
Thursday, December 31, 2015
Compass Junction, three berry-lined blocks from Cathedral Park, was first painted in 2009. Our Mariner's Mandala is a navigational aid, directing our gaze outward from the central compass to an Escher-like outer ring from which we see the Baltimore Woods Connectivity Corridor, the sparkling river that separates us from Forest Park, the titanic vessels that ply the working waters of the Willamette's North Reach, and the iconic green gothic arches of our beloved St. Johns Bridge, from which we can glimpse downtown, Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens on a clear day. This is The Crossroads.
We are on the Edge of Everything, and the edge is where the action is. Come look through our special window on the world for the day!
That description really captures why I have a soft spot for the whole painted intersection phenomenon. I'm an inveterate cynic (in case you hadn't noticed already), but there's a sense of goofy unironic optimism about the whole business that I just can't bring myself to sneer at; it would be like sneering at a box of puppies or something.
Next up on the painted intersection tour is "Jarrett Grove", at NE 28th & Jarrett. Like a number of the others I'm posting today, this is a recent one, first painted in summer 2015. The project description:
The Jarrett Grove intersection painting is the first of many natural building projects planned by the neighborhood. The community named the project Jarrett Grove as it is a celebration to pay homage to the amazing Douglas Fir trees, among many other evergreens, that fill the neighborhood. The trees are pointed in four different directions with faith houses at each base. The trees all stem from the same potent, lovely, and sacred geometry.
I'm no expert on "sacred geometry", but this design does look kind of familiar, as if we've seen a very similar design at some other intersection. I can't put my finger on which one, but it definitely rings a bell. In an early post in this series, I offered a few free ideas for intersection paintings, and I'd just like to toss them back out there for anyone who's got a city permit but needs a design. It's been almost 2 years and as far as I know nobody's used any of them so far, so you -- yes, you -- could be the first:
It's a shame there's nowhere to put one in my downtown neighborhood. All the streets around here are way too busy, and most of them have MAX or streetcar tracks running through them. It's a shame because I think I'd be pretty good at brainstorming designs. The moon, maybe, or a giant octopus, or a Deep Space Nine wormhole, or Pac-Man, or a crop circle, or maybe a Sarlacc pit, or a surreal Escher design to confuse passing motorists. Some of these might be a bit tough for amateur street painters to pull off in a weekend, though, and others might have trademark issues. Feel free to swipe any of these notions for your local intersection if you like though.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
The next painted intersection on our tour is the Rainbow Dragon at NE 32nd & Sumner. This is another new one, first painted in summer 2015. The brief project description:
Dragons symbolize strength in many cultures. Slide down the Rainbow Dragon and feel the force of neighborhood community. Rainbow Dragon honors the strength of our friend and neighbor, Brook Irwin, who lost a five-year battle to cancer. Rainbow Dragon infuses a playfulness into the intersection. Forget the crosswalk, just skip across the street on the stepping stones and admire the brook below.
The design kind of takes me back to junior high in the early 1980s, when roughly half of all school supplies were plastered with some combination of rainbows, unicorns, and dragons. I say half because anything with a rainbow was strictly a girls' item for whatever reason, and I recall a lot of my school supplies having an epic space battle theme instead. I didn't mind that at the time, but in retrospect it's weird that I missed out on a lot of dragons because of a few rainbows and the anxieties of a strange decade.
Some time ago, I did a post about the "Community Blooming" painted intersection at NE 85th & Milton, near Rocky Butte. While putting the post together I discovered it was the southern half of a pair of intersections, so I put an item on my big todo list to visit the one at 85th & Beech the next time I was in the area. So I finally got around to it, but ended up with a couple of subpar photos. Someone was having a house party right next to the intersection, and people kept arriving, and I didn't want to be mistaken for an uninvited guest and either confronted or (maybe even worse) invited in. It sounds silly now as I try to explain it, but it felt like a reasonable concern at the time. It's an introvert thing, I guess.
The next painted intersection on our tour is "Jade's Jewel", at NE 61st & Tillamook. The project description has a weirdly downbeat tone:
Jade's Jewel reinvigorated the vibrant community around NE Tillamook and 61st Ave. The neighborhood used to have block parties, Christmas parties, Easter egg hunts, and a plethora of gatherings annually. However, the community has dwindled in the past few years and there have been illnesses and deaths impeding upon community building. So, the community was brought back together by painting the streets rockin' colors! The drawing is Sponge Bob Squarepants inspired!
Identifying the SpongeBob Squarepants connection is left as an exercise for the reader. Mostly because I don't see it. I've watched an embarrassingly large number of SpongeBob episodes thanks to the magic of Netflix, and I don't recall seeing this in any of them.
Ok, it's been a while since we've visited any of Portland's ever-increasing number of artsy painted intersections. I have a few more in Drafts, though, so I think I'll run through those and post them as a change of pace from all the murals. I suppose it's not a huge change of pace, but at least we'll be looking at horizontal painted surfaces instead of vertical ones for the next few posts.
Anyway, the next stop on the ongoing "intersection repair" tour is the North Tabor Mandala at NE 53rd & Everett. This is one of the newest ones, first painted in summer 2015. The City Repair page about it describes it:
North Tabor Neighborhood Association in conjunction with South East Uplift was overjoyed to bring an intersection mandala into the heart of the neighborhood. In the spirit of their long term goals to bring life, culture, and vibrancy to the community, they worked with the local Portland Montessori School, whose upper elementary school children produced a design of geometric shapes, angles, and patterns. With the help of a generous grant from South East Uplift, partnerships with neighborhood icons Folktime and Community of Christ Church, and - most importantly - the help of volunteers who call North Tabor home, something unique and beautiful was created to be enjoyed and celebrated by all for years to come.
For what it's worth, I tend to quote from City Repair pages instead of just linking because these pages have a nasty habit of vanishing when the next year's crop of projects rolls around.
Sunday, December 20, 2015
Just a quick note that today is this humble blog's tenth birthday. I don't really have any remarks prepared; for various reasons it's been kind of an off year, blogwise, and I honestly hadn't given the big anniversary a lot of thought. As it turns out, this is also the 25th anniversary of the very first web page going online, so this blog's been around for 40% of the modern interwebs.
At this point I'm probably supposed to have nuggets of wisdom to share or something, but I can't think of anything off the top of my head. It certainly doesn't feel like it's been a decade, although when I first started this thing I still had dialup, had just bought my very first digital camera, and had just moved into downtown Portland from the wilds of westside suburbia. So I'm forced to admit this has been going on for a while now.
I'm not going to venture any predictions about a possible twentieth birthday. It would surprise me if Blogger and Flickr both exist in their current form a decade from now, since one's an increasingly neglected backwater of the vast Google empire, and the other currently belongs to Yahoo. It's also possible (even probable) that I might lose interest at some point without my hand being forced, or I might just get hit by a bus or something. So no promises on that point.
If I have time and get around to it, I may put together a list of personal favorite posts from the last decade. Seems like the least I can do, in lieu of having any pearls of wit or wisdom to pass along. It's just that there are close to 3000 posts to sort through, so this is going to take a bit of thought. I'll try to have something put together before New Years, unless work intervenes again.
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Next up is a small mural near SE 6th & Oak, painted on an industrial building's rolling steel door. A Flickr photo caption by wiredforsound23 (who's the source for a lot of my mural posts) says this is called Blinded by Science, and says it's by local artist Klutch, who also did the big mural next to Buckman Field. I keep thinking this looks like a hop cone, wearing awesome 80s shades like it's beer's answer to the old California Raisin commercials. But that's just me.
The mural tour continues with another stop on NE Alberta; the next mural is at the Riggins Remodeling shop, facing the alley between 27th & 28th. I wasn't able to find out anything about this one, which happens a lot with art on Alberta for some reason. The local booster association has a murals page, but they only list a handful of RACC and Forest for the Trees ones, which is no help since I've already covered all of those. Oh, well.
Next up is the mural outside Binks, a hipster bar on NE Alberta at 27th. A June 2014 Oregonian article indicates it was painted around that time, thanks to a grant from the Portland Development Commission, but doesn't say who it's by. Which is a shame because I like linking to the actual artists when I can.
I do think it's weird that NE Alberta still gets PDC money, though. If you looked at the area just 15-20 years ago, there were empty storefronts everywhere, buildings in disrepair, potholes in the street, precisely the sort of thing the PDC was supposed to be targeted at. And they did it: Over the next few years, they were able to gentrify the area, first into an edgy-artsy district, and then into an upscale retail street lined with luxury condos (though "Arts District" lives on as an effective real estate sales slogan). You'd think that at some point the street would finally be on its feet and able to fend for itself, and the PDC could declare victory and go elsewhere. It's not that I'm in favor of them going to Lents, or Cully, or Portsmouth, and giving the neighborhood the Alberta treatment, displacing existing (mostly minority) residents in favor of the usual hip artisanal pumpkin spice pod people. I'm totally not in favor of that; I'm just surprised the PDC isn't doing it.
Next mural on our tour is Dream into Reality, at the McCoy Academy alternative school on NE MLK near Failing. Other than the Kay's Bird Club post in the first link, I couldn't find any info to share about this one. I would guess this is from the mid-90s or so, going by the faded paint and the inscription "Peace in the Hood".
Next up on the mural tour we're visiting Monarca Sunrise & Monarca II, a pair of butterfly murals on SE 49th, just south of Division. The latter of the two has an RACC page and description:
This mural is an extension of the mural “Monarca Sunrise” painted by the same artist on the front of the building. The butterfly pattern that extends through the two murals adds continuity and unity with the next door mural “Urban Wellness,” also by Hernandez, in which the butterfly images continue playing an important role as a symbol of transformation. In this way the use of butterflies in this mural reinforces the metaphor of transformation at the dawn of a new day, and the wellness that such a new day could bring.
(And yes, I already posted about the Urban Wellness mural mentioned in the description.)
The concept for this mural is based on the idea of wellness and well-being in an urban environment. The composition is rich with symbolic imagery, from the lotus as the achievement of health in an urban context, to the butterflies as a representation of change, to the images of the buildings and Mt. Hood as a sign of strength and a hopeful future. The mural integrates these different elements with the architecture of the building and creates a landscape that flows and connects to the next building featuring a second mural by Hector Hernandez, Butterfly Horizon. The subject matter of this neighboring mural is that of hope, and the Urban Wellness mural the blooming of wellness from that hope.
So yeah. Perhaps you're familiar already with my periodic disclaimer: Writing about someone's mural doesn't mean I'm endorsing the business itself. Even if I like the mural, which I do in this case. I'm not saying I thought you personally were conflating the two things, but somebody might, hence the disclaimer. In this case I'd also like to point you at Respectful Insolence, a blog by a doctor who pokes holes in alternative medicine and related woo. It's a good read. Enjoy!
Next up on our tour is the Community Energy Project mural at NE MLK & Alberta. The RACC description:
The Community Energy Project (CEP) empowers people to maintain healthier, more livable homes, control the utility costs, and conserve natural resources through education, hands-on training, and distribution of weatherization materials. The mural for CEP depicts the positive actions and services they provide to communities, portraying people who are setting an example for others through their daily activities. The imagery reflects both interior and exterior local residential environments involving many factors that make a house sustainable.
This was painted in 2010 by artist Esteban Camacho Steffensen with help from community volunteers. The Community Energy Project itself has since moved to offices on SE Stark, but the mural was still there on the empty building the last time I checked.
The next mural on our tour is the Tabor Commons mural on a small community center building at SE 57th & Division. This one has a brief RACC description:
The SE Uplift Neighborhood Association mural combines large color fields with imagery relating to gardens and nature in the surrounding community. Contemporary folk art is referenced through thematic content, asymmetrical shapes, and color arrangements that create a lively sense of rhythm, friendliness, and light.
The building his home to Cafe au Play, which describes itself as "a nonprofit coffeehouse and community center with play areas for children and activities for children, caregivers, and the community". Their history page explains that the building was originally a gas station, and was home to a used car dealership, a convenience store, and then a coffee shop / deli. In 2003 the deli was seized by the feds; apparently the owner was making a little extra money on the side selling bulk Sudafed to meth labs. (I'm generally skeptical about federal drug wars and asset forfeiture, but that's a whole other subject.) In any case, eventually the local neighborhood association bought the "blighted" building, and they landed an RACC mural grant to help with the building's transformation. The mural here was created by Laura Bender & John Early, who also did the very large Tapestry mural at the Barbur Transit Center in SW Portland.
Ok, next mural up is in Old Town, on NW Flanders between 6th & Broadway, outside the Musgo art gallery. The only show listing I can find for this place is from May 2012, so either they're defunct or they have a really bad PR person. The name is the Spanish word for "moss", btw. (As in regular moss, not Spanish moss, which is a whole other thing entirely.) I gather that in the late 90s & early 2000s there was a New Agey shop & gallery here, which might be where the murals came from.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
Sometimes when I think I've gotten a little too esoteric here, I remember somebody has a Tumblr (and a Google Map to go with it) that are just about Portland murals of roses and nothing else. You probably know about this already because I, uh, link to this Tumblr a lot. Still, I'm reasonably sure that this humble blog is less esoteric than that Tumblr. I like to think this is a fascinating and eclectic corner of the interwebs, at least if viewed over a sufficiently long time scale, e.g. if you want to see something other than murals, just go back to somewhere prior to last August or so, and there's all sorts of other stuff. Ok, it was mostly public art then if I remember right, but there were a bunch of bridges before that, plus vacation photos now and then. And after murals it'll be something else, though I'm not sure exactly what just yet.
Anyway, the aforementioned Google map included a couple of painted roses somewhere around SE 48th & Hawthorne, so a while back I went to track them down. They apparently didn't merit a post of their own on the Tumblr, so I wasn't sure what I was looking for, but eventually I found the one you see here. It was quite the thrilling adventure, as I recall. Although it was a while ago, and it's possible I'm misremembering, and the whole middle part with the tigers never actually happened.
But I digress. Turns out the rose here is identical to a couple on a different building further west on Hawthorne. So maybe it's a sort of corporate logo, though PortlandMaps shows different LLCs owning the two buildings (yes, I checked). Or maybe there's an obscure local rose artist who works in stencil and doesn't sign their work. Dunno.
The next mural up is at Second Nature Design at SE 47th & Clay, just off Hawthorne. This was created in 2013 by J.Shea, who also did a number of the Forest for the Trees murals that have appeared here before, e.g. the one at Kidd's Toy Museum, and ones at SE 8th & Sandy, and SE 9th & Oak. I think I ran across this one while paging through the artist's website for one of those previous posts. I rather like the others, so I figured I should track this one down too. It's because of stuff like this that I use the word "ongoing" a lot when talking about the, uh, ongoing mural project.
The next mural on our tour is a large design on the Rite Aid drugstore at SE Chavez & Division. It seems kind of weird that there'd be a community mural on a big corporate chain drugstore, even in SE Portland, but this one actually has a long history. Before it was a drugstore, this building was a Kienow's grocery store (a long-defunct small Portland-area chain), and they let some local residents paint a mural on the store circa 1984. It faded over the years, and the building changed occupants, and by 2003 the people who decide these things felt a new mural was in order, and local artist Rin Carroll Jackson was selected to create the new one you see here. Her website calls this the "Creating Community Mural", so that's the name I'm going with.
The interesting part is that this happened right at the height of City Hall's anti-mural paranoia, after the city lost a court case with an aggressive billboard company. It turns out that under the state constitution, the city can't distinguish between capital-A art and mere commercial speech, and anywhere murals are allowed is fair game for advertising too. So for a few years the city prohibited new murals entirely, and sent work crews around to paint over any illicit wall art they could find. This mural was grandfathered in, though, due to the previous mural. So long as you were painting over something that was there before 1998, and you made sure to paint in the same exact spot and not cover a single additional square inch with anything that looked like Art, the city could allow that without also letting the barbarians through the gate. Eventually the city came up with a couple of maybe-clever legal dodges involving permits and easements that let them re-legalize mural painting, while keeping the nefarious billboard companies at bay, at least for now.
Ok, continuing today's Foster Road theme, the next stop on the mural tour is outside O'Malley's Saloon & Grill, a bar at SE 66th & Foster, just east of the previous three posts here. Their Facebook page includes a 2009 photoset of a few people painting mural panels. I mean, if you're interested in photos of people painting stuff, which I realize is sort of a niche interest. Also Lcscss.com has an interview with one of the artists, mostly concerning a much larger mural he did on Hawthorne... which, as it turns out, I already have a long-delayed draft post about. Hopefully I'll get around to posting that at some point.
Next up on the mural tour takes us to Bar Carlo, at SE 65th & Foster. If you're following along at home, you might have noticed this is just a couple of blocks east of the last two tour stops. I'm still trying to make a dent in my ginormous draft posts folder, and my latest semi-brilliant plan is to go through my remaining draft mural posts roughly oldest to newest, and worry about the non-mural ones -- which do, in fact, exist -- once I'm done with that. Given that the last few posts involve photos from December 2014, I'm not going to predict any sort of ETA on when I'll have this sorted out.
Anyway, going back to the topic of the current post, this is one I ran across in an old Kay's Bird Club post. It looks like a couple of scenes from Russian folklore, but that's not really my area of expertise and I don't get the reference. The restaurant itself isn't Russian, but the surrounding neighborhood has a large Russian immigrant population, so I guess the theme sort of makes sense, maybe.
The next stop on the mural tour is outside Bar Maven, at SE Foster and what Google Maps calls "SE 63rd Ave-SE 62nd Ave Alley". It kind of looks like at least 3 people worked on different parts of this one. Searching the interwebs about it comes back with nothing, though, and I can't make out any of the signatures well enough to search on them. Oh, well.
Ok, the next Portland mural on our ongoing tour is at the Meticon Bikes shop at SE 60th & Foster. The old Murals of Portland website gave the artist's name as Stephen Williams, but that's all I know about this one. When I took these photos the shop was closed and I honestly thought it was defunct, and I had a few prepared remarks about how this was a sign that gentrification hadn't reached this part of the city yet, seeing as the neighborhood wasn't able to support a local bike store. Turns out I was wrong and the shop just keeps eccentric hours, so I had to toss all that earnest social commentary stuff. Still, Foster hasn't sprouted any luxury apartment towers yet, so I wouldn't have been entirely wrong.
Saturday, October 31, 2015
The next stop on the ongoing mural tour is at N. Albina & Killingsworth, where a building bears the inscription "Do Not Ignore the Humanity in Front of Your Eyes". I've found a lot of photos of this on the interwebs (see     ), but nobody (myself included) seems to know who painted this or why. Though I suspect that if this sort of sentiment has to be spelled out for people, the struggle is not going well.
Ok, the next post up is something I debated whether I was going to post at all. There's a guy on Flickr who posts a lot of Portland mural photos, and he geotags his photos religiously so they're easy to track down. (I used to tag and geotag my Flickr photos too, but it's kind of a hassle, and I stopped several years ago.) A while ago he posted several photos of elaborate graffiti on the back of a warehouse at SE 76th & Mitchell, just north of Foster Road and a short walk from the Firland Parkway blocks. I wasn't sure it was really blog material, but I put it on my great big TODO map just in case, and eventually I was in the area and tracked it down. Sure enough, graffiti wall. I don't usually do graffiti walls, but since I'd gone to all this trouble already, I figured maybe I should go ahead and post the photos anyway. So I went back and forth, and this post sank down into my vast Drafts folder, never to be seen again, until now. Anyway, just to be clear, this isn't a precedent. If all you do is tag buildings with your initials, you almost certainly won't get a post here, or receive the international fame and fortune that comes along with being posted about here.
Next up are a couple of murals outside the Hawthorne Ink tattoo place at SE 34th & Hawthorne. One mural's by Hunter Armstrong, who also did the giant snail mural at SE 22nd & Ankeny. The other one is by Jason Prouty of Garage31. I've said this before, I think, but I just want to thank artists who include a web address, Twitter handle, etc., in their work. This blog business is so much easier when people do that, and it helps me sound like I sorta-know what I'm talking about, which is nice.
Ok, our first stop today is the set of murals outside the Don Pancho Market & Taqueria, at NE 20th & Alberta. I don't know anything else about the murals, and I also haven't tried the tacos here, so I don't have a lot of material for a proper blog post. That's sort of the problem with a lot of stuff I have in drafts right now. I feel like I ought to say something and not just post photos, and I sort of hit a wall at that point. I could probably fill a few paragraphs snarking about Alberta St. gentrification, but I feel like I've covered that topic a lot already. So anyway, enjoy the photos, I guess.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Sunday, August 16, 2015
Every June-or-so, a few more City Repair painted intersections pop up here and there around Portland. To be honest I haven't put a lot of effort into locating this year's crop of new ones; given the size of my Drafts folder right now, I wouldn't say I'm in desperate need of new material, and Real Job stuff keeps absorbing what would otherwise be free time to pursue this. In short, I've found precisely one of them so far, and only because I stumbled across it. So with that intro out of the way, we're at freshly painted SE 9th & Yamhill, where a big hops-and-barley design graces the intersection. This intersection's kind of an unusual case in that we're in a light industrial area, not a residential neighborhood. One corner of the intersection is home to Rogue's Green Dragon Pub, while diagonally across is a large Rogue warehouse. So the relevance of the design to its surroundings is kind of obvious here. (And yes, I noticed the thing when I came by for lunch and a beer or two or so.) So this is the bit where I tell you I told you so: A year ago, in a ranty bit in a post about the NE 12th & Beech intersection, I predicted that companies would eventually get in on the act, and the painted intersection thing would evolve away from being a community volunteer effort. I figured tech companies would do it eventually. I didn't figure it would happen the very next year or be arranged by a local brewery, although that kind of makes sense in retrospect. Still, when it comes to predicting the future, when you have a chance to take partial credit, take it.
Speaking of hops, this summer I tried my hand at growing a hop vine for the first time. You can assume by the lack of gardening photos here that it's not going that well. I don't believe I've ever seen that many bugs on a single plant before. Tiny little pinhead-sized bugs, clinging to stems and the bottoms of leaves, sucking the life out of the poor vine. After investing in this plant, I came across a Michigan State extension document about "Hop Insects and Diseases", which begins with an old Kentish proverb about hop growing: "First the flea, then the fly, then the mould, then they die". The remainder of the document is equally encouraging. Still, hops are a perennial (assuming they survive), so maybe I'll have better luck next year.
Last summer, a colorful snail mural appeared on a City Liquidators building in industrial SE Portland, as part of the 2014 Forest for the Trees event. A few months later, a second mural appeared next to it, full of bright colors and swirling eagles. This new one was created by artist Yatika Fields for a Native arts event called Native+Portland. If you look closely, the mural includes an "#FFTTNW" hashtag even though it was painted months after the festival. The official festival Instagram also has a photo of Fields painting the mural, so I'm tagging this post accordingly. I figure if they're not going to get all pedantic about it, I probably shouldn't go there either.
Next mural up wraps around the outside of the EuroClassic Furniture store at SE 66th & Foster. (I don't get out to SE Foster a lot, so I first heard of this place in a Kay's Bird Club post.) It's got vignettes of Venice, London, and other European cities, surrounded by painted-on arches and columns and whatnot. On the east side of the building, a large sign reads "русский мебельный магазин", which just means "Russian furniture store". Which isn't too unusual given the surrounding neighborhood's large Russian immigrant population. Going by the store's website it seems like a regular (and well-regarded) US-style furniture store that welcomes Russian speakers and has a loud wacky mural outside. I dunno, I guess I was expecting something a little more flamboyant given the exterior.
It's been a while since we've done any Weston rose murals, but I found another one recently, so another of this humble blog's ongoing projects is still ongoing, it seems. The Manuel Levenson Rose is located on the Columbia East office building, on SE Division at 100th, just north of spooky, mysterious Kelly Butte. I'm not entirely sure who the rose is named for, but it's dated 1974, and a quick search comes up with someone by that name who lived in Portland and died in 1974. So that seems like a reasonable guess.
I occasionally wonder what future archeologists might think if they stumbled across a few of these rose-and-flag designs. Like, maybe the Portland area saw a renewed Lancaster vs. York civil war spanning the last quarter of the 20th century and the first couple of decades of the 21st. If they kept digging around the city they'd eventually bump into someone's discarded SCA/cosplay armor, too, and we'd go into the textbooks all wrong. I mean, unless this humble blog survives centuries into the future to set the record straight(ish). (Hey, this site does get archived by the Wayback Machine, so I can't totally rule that out. Howdy there, future historians!)
Next up we're visiting the second mural at the old gas station at SE 23rd & Morrison. This one was created by artist Paige Wright for the 2014 Forest for the Trees, and you'll notice that it includes a large ceramic face in addition to the painted bits. The festival's Tumblr calls it a "ceramic mural", which is an odd-sounding term even if it's basically accurate.
Our ever-ongoing mural tour is paying a visit to a former gas station at SE 23rd & Morrison, where a pair of murals were painted for the 2014 Forest for the Trees event. This is about a block due north of the warehouse on Belmont where we looked at The Fall and another unnamed mural earlier today (well, the posts went up today. I took the photos months ago.) So the first one here on Morrison is this giant robot mural, created by local artist Blakely Dadson. A big Forest for the Trees photoset at Empty Kingdom has lots of photos of last year's crop of murals being painted, including several of this one. I gather, from this, that you want to color in the laserblasts first thing. Rembrandt neglected to do this, and viewers barely even notice his laserblasts.
The next mural up is outside the Hawthorne Fish House restaurant on SE Hawthorne near 44th. This was painted by Portland artist Matt Schlosky, sometime before November 2013 (since some of his photos of it are dated then.)
My usual policy here that posting about someone's mural isn't an endorsement (or otherwise) of the business inside. Or at least I've intended to say that, whether I actually have or not. I'm going to make an exception this time, however, because tasty Wisconsin-style fried fish (oh, and deep-fried cheese curds). Happily endorsed, for whatever that's worth.
Next mural up is the Hawthorne Literary Mural, a collection of author portraits on the side of a building at SE 33rd & Hawthorne. This was painted back in 1997 by New Orleans artist Jane Brewster. The building it's on used to be a large, rambling used book shop, but it's evolved into more of a general vintage store in recent years, so the connection with the mural isn't as clear as it once was. I've seen this called the "Sylvia Plath mural" more than once as hers is one of the more prominent (and spooky) portraits. Turns out that it and many of the other portraits are now available in t-shirt or coffee mug form via Cafe Press.
The next mural up is at SE 23rd & Belmont, on the same warehouse building as The Fall. This one's on the opposite (west) side of the building, facing the La Calaca Comelona restaurant. I didn't see a signature on this one and I don't really know anything about it.
The next mural on our ongoing tour is an autumn-themed one on SE Belmont near 23rd, on the side of a small warehouse building. The Fall was created for the 2013 Forest for the Trees event by Australian artist Reka One. A 2013 Vandalog post has a few photos of it and a larger Reka One mural in San Francisco, along with a TV interview clip about the latter.
Next mural up on the tour is the OR-7 mural outside the Alleyway Cafe & Bar on NE Alberta at 24th. The design's based on the famous Oregon wolf OR-7 (a.k.a. "Journey"). Here's a blog post about the mural by Roger Peet, one of the artists.
This mural was painted by Concordia University students. It prominently displays an open book with the words transformation, integrity and community under a flowing tree. The mural is physically situated where the campus meets the community.
Tuesday, August 04, 2015
The mural tour is still on its extended visit to NE Alberta St. -- I thought that for a change I'd do a few in the same area instead of hopping randomly around the city. This time we're checking out the bright design outside Ciao Vito, an Italian restaurant at Alberta & NE 22nd. This is directly across the street from the To Oregon With Love mural we looked at a couple of posts ago. The old Murals of Portland site mentioned that this is by Tom Cramer, who also created the Machinery mural on Williams Ave. that we looked at recently. I don't know the exact date on the mural here, but a 2012 Willamette Week profile of Cramer seems to indicate it's at least as old as Machinery, and is much older than the current restaurant. So technically I probably shouldn't be calling it "Ciao Vito mural", but I haven't seen any other name for it, so I'll have to go with that.
Monday, August 03, 2015
The next stop on the mural tour is on NE Alberta once again; in fact it's on the opposite side of the same building as the last installment (To Oregon With Love), and the artist behind that mural co-created the subject of this post too. So this is Keep Your Chin Up, painted for the Forest for the Trees event by Portland artists Blaine Fontana & Zach Yarrington, and Tokyo's Jun Inoue.
So there's sort of a local mural subgenre centered on upbeat, inspirational phrases: This one, obviously; the huge Everything is Everything in industrial SE Portland; the phrase "You are confined only by the walls you build yourself" on To Oregon With Love, and probably a few others I'm forgetting offhand. I have to say I have mixed feelings about this subgenre. I can't quite put my finger on what it is, but Alberta was the core of a historically black neighborhood that's now gentrifying at warp speed, displacing many longtime residents in the process. In this context, murals coaching people about unlimited personal achievement seem a bit... problematic, if you ask me.
The ongoing mural tour returns to NE Alberta St. again (and not for the last time), and this time we're looking at To Oregon With Love, at the corner of NE 22nd & Alberta. This was created in 2014 by Blaine Fontana, who also did the cool Koi mural on SE Hawthorne (which has since been partially painted over, unfortunately). The RACC description:
This mural represents many of my favorite aspects about Portland and Oregon, but is collectively a quilt representing our independent spirit, our vibrant attitude and tremendous pride we all carry as Oregonians.
If the title sounds vaguely familiar, you might be thinking of "From Oregon With Love"/"Oregon kara ai", a 1980s-1990s Japanese TV drama set in Central Oregon. Some sort of corny heartwarming thing about an orphan from Japan who comes to live with his aunt and uncle in America. YouTube has part of a 1992 episode in which the now-teenage kid tries his hand at logging and driving a semi. I'm not actually recommending it, but here it is:
Sunday, August 02, 2015
The next mural up is on SE Foster again, this time at the Tango Berretín dance studio at SE 63rd & Foster. The mural on the building was created in 2010 by artist Remedios Rapoport. (A short video of the mural being painted is on Vimeo here.) Its RACC description:
Tango Berretín is one of the only all-Argentine tango studios in the US and exists not only to teach the dance, but doubles as a cultural museum. Argentine filete, an art style native to Buenos Aires, and Argentine tango are culturally inseparable. The idea of this mural is to showcase this connection. Also, as both art forms are descendant from European traditions, and as the Foster-Powell neighborhood becomes more culturally diverse with many European immigrants, it seeks to embody the essence of the community. The mural with tango dancers’ feet on the dance floor and a bandoneón—an accordion-like instrument—playing tango shows what is happening inside the building. The colors and faux Buenos Aires look will create an enjoyable cultural exchange within the neighborhood by putting the vision out for all to see.
This mural, located on a popular Korean market, is the first mural in Portland designed specifically on behalf of the Korean community. The artist, Una Kim, chose the image of a dragon because it is a powerful and positive symbol of good luck in Eastern art. Recognizing the role public art can have in recognizing specific communities, Kim sought out artists from differing minority groups residing in the surrounding neighborhood to complete small vignettes on the dragon using text and images to represent their cultures. She also invited a graffiti artist to contribute an element of street art to the mural.
The next stop on the mural tour is at the Bridgetown Aikido building at NE 28th & Flanders, where we find a "monkey king" design created by Portland artists Jessie Weitzel & Brianna Farina. The RACC's old, defunct Murals of Portland website said there was a mural here, so I came looking for it, but I gather that one was replaced by the current mural at some point, since the listed artists are different.
A while back I was putting together a post about the big Arch Angel mural at SE 12th & Madison, and noticed a brief aside in a writeup about it by Meggs, one of its co-creators: "Also had extra time to Jam with Gage Hamilton on a quick Skull piece on the side of the Jolly Roger Dive Bar, opposite the main mural!" (links added by me, btw.) I completely didn't notice this skull at the time. I would have noticed if only I'd turned around and looked behind me when taking Arch Angel photos. But I didn't, so I had to make another trip to go find it. And voila, here it is.
The mural tour is visiting NE Alberta again, and this time we're taking a look at the ginormous rabbit mural on the side of a building between 18th & 19th. This was painted by LA-based Brazilian artist Mateu Velasco for the 2014 Forest for the Trees event.
Given the subject matter, I have to put in a plug for an old blog post of mine about the movie "Night of the Lepus", a not-very-scary 70s monster movie starring DeForrest Kelley (Star Trek's Dr. McCoy). This was from the short period of time when I thought this might evolve into a blog about bad movies. Eventually I realized that writing about bad movies was a lot of work, or at least I made it into a lot of work, and this humble blog eventually morphed into today's photos-of-stuff format. The current all-mural thing is not a permanent feature of this blog, by the way; it's just the current project, which turned out to be a bit larger than anticipated. Eventually I'll move on and do something else, though I'm not sure yet what that might be. Maybe historic buildings or something like that. Dunno.
The next mural up is another Forest tor the Trees one, located on SE Belmont just east of 34th, at the far end of a parking lot facing Belmont. This was painted by The Lost Cause for last year's edition of the Forest for the Trees festival. The 2015 edition is coming up in a few weeks, with a whole new batch of murals to cover. I still have several unfinished posts about previous years' murals sitting around in Drafts. Hopefully I'll have those done & dusted before the new batch arrives, but you never know.
Next mural up is this whatzit on the D&J Imports building on SE Alder, between 11th & 12th. wiredforsound32 says it's a dragon, and was painted by Klutch (who also did the large mural at Buckman Field). I think it looks more like a firebreathing Left Shark, but what do I know?
The ongoing mural tour takes us back to the Hollywood district again. A few weeks ago we visited the Velo Cult mural, which faces a parking lot near NE 41st & Hancock. The same parking lot is also home to the smaller mural shown here, on the back of the Nectar Cafe, an artsy/healthy neighborhood coffee place. The mural's signed "Notes", which is basically impossible to Google (or Bing, if you prefer). Luckily the cafe's Facebook page had a couple of photos of the mural being painted, back in October 2013, and the captions explain that it was painted by artist Derek "Notes" Leitch. If I was in a grumpy mood (which I'm not), I might complain about people choosing more distinctive artist nicknames, but hey, I managed to follow the breadcrumbs this time, and I actually kind of like a little detective work now and then.
Saturday, August 01, 2015
The next Portland mural on our tour is one of the oldest ones I'm aware of. Machinery, at N. Williams & Shaver, was painted wayyy back in 1989 by Tom Cramer, and restored in 2003 just as gentrification started to take hold along Williams. Cramer later painted a similar mural at Ciao Vito on NE Alberta. (I have a draft post about that one, so it'll show up here eventually, but I couldn't begin to guess when.) Somewhere around town there's also an 80s-era vintage BMW that Cramer painted to look like Machinery.
If I hadn't known the date, I would have guessed it was from the late 1980s, or more likely inspired by the 80s. There was a common aesthetic in the 80s that involved lots of jumbled angles and primary colors (think Keith Haring for example), and it's kind of fun to run across a surviving example in the wild.
A bit about the design, from the 2003 Tribune article about the restoration project:
[Cramer's] original vision was to make something bold and colorful that could stand up to the neighborhood, he says. In the 1980s the area was harder-edged, and there was a lot of gang activity.
What Cramer continues to like about the mural today is that it's not trying to sell anything, either commercially or politically. But it still has an 'upbeat edginess.'
'It's improvised. It's like jazz, and it just kind of goes for it,' he says, adding that given its absence of a larger message, the mural probably wouldn't stand a chance of being approved by an officially sanctioned public art committee today.
Ok, our next stop on the mural tour is on NE 28th near Davis. This abstract design is signed "Seak Joker Daim" for the trio of artists who created it. The RACC's defunct Murals of Portland website [archive.org link] says it was painted back in 2003. That was during the time when City Hall was paranoid about allowing murals anywhere, for fear of having to allow billboard ads everywhere. So I'm not sure how this one came about in that climate. Joker is a Portland-based artist (interviews at Graffuturism & Futurism 2.0), while Daim and Seak are German and I gather are fairly prominent in the street art world over there. So maybe that's our answer: I could easily see 2003 Portland bending the usual strict rules a little if an artist was famous enough, for fear of getting a bad reputation in the art world.
The main focus of the mural is a child-powered apparatus, accompanied by a range of locomotion machines for children of all ages and varying physical abilities. The machines form a parade that includes a tandem bicycle, wheelchair, reclining bicycle, tricycle, unicycle, and other various bicycles. The imagery in this mural is inspired by the Community Cycling Center’s dedication as a non-profit service organization that teaches bicycle safety and provides bicycles to those in need.
Next up on the mural tour is the huge BARK Mural, the jam-packed nature scene at the Firestone store at 4601 SE Powell. I ran across this in a Kay's Bird Club post, though I'm sure I would have noticed it on my own eventually if I was on Powell more often. A 2011 Tribune article about it interviewed lead artist Robin Corbo (who also created the MIKE mural near Lloyd Center, and a couple of others I haven't posted yet). The article explains that the mural was created in conjunction with BARK, a nonprofit that works to protect the Mt. Hood National Forest, which explains the subject matter here. I imagine "created in conjunction with" means the group supplied volunteers to help paint it. Here and there you can kind of tell that community volunteers were involved, and the sorta-infamous 'Art Wall of Shame' Tumblr ranted about some of the mural's more uneven details. Ranting about well-meaning volunteers seems kind of meanspirited if you ask me. I suppose there's just no satisfying some people.
A tire store on Powell may sound like a weird location for a saving-the-world nature mural, but this was a deliberate symbolic choice; Powell doubles as highway US 26, which (eventually) is the main road to Mt. Hood and points east. (You could keep going on US 26 all the way to Ogallala, Nebraska, if you were so inclined.)
The next stop on the mural tour is in Portland's Old Town, on NW Flanders near 6th. This large Art Nouveau-styled mural was painted in May 2015 -- I ran across it while it was being painted, in fact -- by artist Lydia Emily, as part of a national awareness campaign for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Lydia Emily (who has MS herself) painted similar murals in Los Angeles, Austin, and Louisville, KY as part of this campaign. A 2014 LA Weekly interview discusses some of her other work in the LA area.
A while ago, I drove out to SE 72nd & Harold to track down the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood's community mural, and I happened to park near a small neighborhood pet supply store. The entire front of the store was painted with a design full of cute animals. I figured since I was there anyway, I might as well take a couple of photos, so here they are.
Next thing on the mural tour is this design on a wall at Cartopia, the food cart pod at SE 12th & Hawthorne (which is home to a fantastic poutine cart, among other things). This was painted sometime in early 2015 or late 2014 by artist Dominatah, replacing a previous "Cash For Your Banksy" sign. I have photos of the old sign too but haven't posted them yet; murals seem to come and go faster than I can post about them. I suppose there are worse problems to have, blogwise, but it certainly isn't helping with the size of my Drafts folder.
The next stop on our ongoing mural tour is at SE 25th & Clinton, where a bike-themed mural graces the side of a small commercial building (which apparently is not a bike shop, oddly enough). This was painted in 2014 by artist Stefan Ways, who also created the Green Hammer mural at SE 6th & Madison. The "Shop Small" on the bike basket is the key detail here: This was painted as part of a national campaign to promote Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday when you're supposed to do some holiday shopping at local small businesses.
In 2013, Ways painted another mural for the Shop Small campaign in Baltimore; that article mentions that the national campaign is actually sponsored by American Express, the huge global credit card company. (Their corporate Tumblr (which exists) has more photos of the Baltimore mural.) This is probably a way for them to try to reach millennials, who (it's widely believed) have less of an interest in "prestige" credit cards and other traditional status symbols than their elders did. The small business thing probably also reflects a desire to get more small businesses to take their card. Many businesses don't accept AMEX due to the higher merchant fees compared to Visa & MasterCard.
Anyway, long story short, when I started this post I figured this was yet another mural promoting our fair city's bike-based smug superiority, and/or a hip local bike store. I had no idea it was part of a national marketing push.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Here are a few photos of the painted sign outside the International Meat & Sausage / Overseas Taste market at SE 64th & Foster, next to Laurelwood Park. Business signs usually aren't part of this ongoing mural project, but this one's cute, and includes a cute cat, so I bent the rules for it, just this once. Sadly, until they invent Smell-o-Vision you won't get to enjoy the full effect; the whole surrounding neighborhood smells like spicy Eastern European sausages. I maintain this smells amazing, and the scent is a valuable public service, freely provided at no charge. Though I can see how non-carnivores (or people on diets) might beg to differ.
I stopped at SE 72nd & Harold to locate the Mt. Scott-Arleta Community Mural and noticed this tropical design painted on a building across the street. I don't know anything else about it, but it's kind of pleasant and I thought it was worth sharing.
Saturday, July 04, 2015
The next mural up is at NE 81st & Halsey, outside the JOIN homeless services agency. The agency moved to this location in 2010, and the mural was painted shortly afterward by artist Rodolfo Serna, with help from a couple of local youth programs. (The RACC's now-defunct Murals of Portland site [via archive.org] lists the credits as: El Programa Hispano students from Madison High School p:ear youth, JOIN staff, and Jakub )
Serna also created a mural in the 4600 block of SE Hawthorne in 2009, but I'm afraid you won't be seeing it here; the entire block is now home to a shiny new apartment building, because gentrification