Saturday, February 28, 2015

Everything is Everything

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

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

Sunday, February 15, 2015

United Finance flag mural

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

Salvation Army Rose

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

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

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

Union Market mural

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

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

Floral mural, NE 21st & Broadway

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

Dreaming Realities

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

Koken Market mural

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

Frank Dekum & Birds

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

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

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

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

The Scrap Mural

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

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

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

Saturday, February 14, 2015


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

The Exalted Ruler

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

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

Mean Greenies

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

30 Seconds Over Portland

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

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

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

Art Fills the Void!

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Prestige Motors mural

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

Green Hammer Mural

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

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

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

Swift Lounge mural

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

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

Monday, February 09, 2015

North Tabor Mural

The next mural up is the North Tabor Mural at NE 47th & Burnside, on the Penumbra-Kelly Building, home to the Portland Police Bureau's traffic cops. The artists must have realized that traffic enforcement would be an unpopular theme for a mural, and went with a cheerful past-n-future neighborhood design instead. The RACC description:

The mural’s purpose is to fulfill the third part of the North Tabor Identity Project, the intent of which is to define North Tabor within the eyes of the community. On the west wall, the composition depicts modes of transportation in the neighborhood’s past, present, and possible future--old and new streetcar, Max line, old truck, and future car. The mural corner portrays the old fuel station that once stood at the site. As the corner turns to the south wall, residents of various cultures gather around to socialize, walk dogs, and enjoy the soapbox-derby down Mt. Tabor. Through these scenes flows a ribbon of fabric coming from women sewing in the historic Shogren House. The mural then depicts residents commuting on longboard and bicycle with one cyclist tows trees for public planting, beginning the municipal scene of firemen, place, public transit, and postal workers. The scene pulls away into a view of urban farming, and then opens into local farmlands of the past. Leaflets of paper fly through the composition on which neighborhood children contributed images of their own design.

Cthulhu, East Burnside

The next mural on our tour is the big Cthulhu mural in a gated alley next to the Sizzle Pie pizza place on E. Burnside. This is by Bay Area artist Skinner, who describes his style as

Influenced by 80’s pop culture, human struggle, myths and violence, dungeons and dragons and the heavy metal gods, Skinner’s mind is one of psycho social mayhem fueled by a calculated chaos.

This is the part where I have to admit I walked right past the Cthulhu mural a few times without noticing, even after I'd started in on this mural project. I even had lunch at Sizzle Pie at least once while I was looking for some other mural nearby, not realizing there was a giant Cthulhu on the side of the building I was in. I'm going to blame this one on the eldritch emanations of the Great Old Ones combined with the building's non-Euclidean geometry, instead of my uneven powers of observation for a change.

Anyway, I'm kind of pleased we have a Cthulhu. What would be really great is if had an enormous life-size Cthulhu statue, rising out of the river if possible, but the mural's a good start. Anyway, here's a nice inspirational video from the internet:

Tree mural, Failing St.

Here's a small mural of a tree, located on N. Failing St. at the little alley between Mississippi Ave. & Michigan Ave. (Aside: North Portland's "States That Begin With 'M'" thing is possibly the dumbest street naming scheme ever invented.) A photo by wiredforsound23 says this was painted by someone who goes by "Yourself". Who, as you might imagine, has proven to be quite impossible to google. Or bing, for that matter, and yes, I tried that too. So the pseudonym is not what I would call a successful personal branding effort. Maybe that's the entire point of the name, I dunno. At any rate, it's a cool tree.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Lloyd Corporate Plaza Roses

The next stop on our tour of Weston roses is at the Lloyd Corporate Plaza office complex at NE 19th & Oregon, just south of I-84. The Lloyd Corporate Roses appears to be a large printed photo instead of a painting, so I don't know if it really counts as a mural or not. It's a decent flower photo, though, and I'm certainly not arguing that paintings are a higher form of art than photos. In any case, it's a Weston rose, and we can't say we've seen them all unless we visit this one too.

For what it's worth, the building here is home to a number of county offices, including county health inspectors, public defenders, and the headquarters of the Multnomah County library system.

butterfly, sw 2nd & washington

Downtown Portland's Historic Postal Building, at SW 3rd & Washington, has a blank wall on the back side of the building facing 2nd. There may have been an adjacent building at one point, but right now it's home to a surface parking lot, and since the blank wall faces traffic coming off the Morrison Bridge, it hosts a couple of very large billboards. Look below those billboards, though, and you'll see a blue butterfly that someone's painted. Google Street View indicates it's been there since at least April 2014, and it's obvious that graffiti near it has been painted over while it's been left alone, so I imagine it's supposed to be here. It's not signed, though, and I haven't come across anything at all to share about it.

If I had to guess, I'd guess it's supposed to be a Fender's blue butterfly, a local endangered species. The butterfly in turn relies on one rare subspecies of lupine, which is threatened by invasive species and habitat loss. This is all just speculation on my part though.

Broadway Building Rose

The next Weston rose up is on the second story of an office building at NE 10th & Broadway. The Portland Roses Tumblr just calls it the Broadway Building Rose, since this one doesn't seem to be named in anyone's honor, unlike the ones we've visited before. Or at least there's no visible caption on this one. These photos are from the Safeway parking structure across the street, which is probably the best view of it unless you have a roof key to the building next door.

Vern Hansen Rose

The next Weston rose on the mini-tour is the Vern Hansen Rose, on a building in the big Hollywood District U-Store complex next to I-84, not far from the Melvin Weston Rose we took a look at earlier. I'm not sure who this one is named for.

The photo on the Portland Roses Tumblr is better than mine. Mine was taken looking down from the west side of the 28th Ave. overpass, and I imagine the Tumblr pic was taken from a car on the freeway or from a MAX train, since I'm not sure how else you'd get that angle. It also looks like the rose was repainted recently (i.e. since the December 2010 Tumblr post), since in my photos the rose is on a dark background, and the letters are now lighter than the background. It still has a big security camera poking out of the middle of the rose, though, so it looks like it's at least at the same place on the same wall as before.

N. Dekum & Borthwick

The next painted intersection we're taking a look at is at N. Dekum & Borthwick, a block east of Albina. A City Repair project list from 2006 describes it:

This community project will include an intersection painting designed to bring the values and culture of long-time and newly rooted residents together at the crossroads in celebration. The community chose the penguin theme for the design after the penguins that once lived down the block at Peninsula Park.

The design isn't very clear from these photos, I'm afraid. I didn't include anything about penguins in my todo list item, and when I got there I happened to be looking at it from the wrong angle and didn't clue in on what it was supposed to be. At least one of the red triangles is a beak, attached to a spiral that's really a penguin head. It's a lot more obvious if you tilt your head or rotate your monitor, whichever's easier.

smoking cat, mississippi ave.

North Portland's Mississippi Ave. is generally a commercial street, with upscale condos rapidly crowding their way in, but there are still a few old houses along the avenue here and there. Just south of Mason St. there are a couple of hippie-fied houses with an elaborately painted fence out front, featuring a large cigarette-smoking cat. The captions to a couple of Flickr photos by wiredforsound23 claim that the cat was painted by Trent Gibson, while the wizard design around the corner is by someone who goes by "Acid Wizard".

Incomplete Field Guide for Time Travel

Here are a few photos of Incomplete Field Guide for Time Travel, an art wall in the basement of Portland State's Student Rec Center. The brief and rather unhelpful RACC description:

This is a conceptual drawing utilizing visual elements of the surrounding neighborhood and abstracting them into unusual forms. The piece comments on the development of architectural concepts in relation to modularity, transparency, multi-valence, and asymmetry.

When the rec center opened in 2011, PR about the new art in the building focused primarily on Intellectual Ecosystem, the building's video art installation. That sort of makes sense, since permanent video art is pretty rare in Portland, but the press release also briefly mentions "a cut and painted steel work 'Incomplete Field Guide for Time Travel', by Damien Gilley, installed in the auditorium lobby.". The artist's website merely offers a photo of it, without further explanation.

PDX Pipeline interviewed Gilley in 2010, and this piece got a brief mention there:

Your public art piece, ”Incomplete Field Guide for Time Travel”, was recently unveiled at PSU. What wit like to move from an ephemeral installation to a permanent, commissioned framework?

My approach remained simple similar to my temporary projects. I used simple materials (aluminum, auto paint, wood) that translate well in a line art, graphic look. But because I have been a graphic designer and know the process of using digital files to output hard materials, it was the same process of translating the digital into physical, a very predictable result.

Intellectual Ecosystem

Here's a short YouTube clip of Intellectual Ecosystem, a video art installation on an outside wall of the Portland State Student Rec Center building, facing the Urban Plaza. The university's PR describes it as:

...a video work that uses imagery of PSU student performances, faculty work, and archival holdings that were researched and filmed over a one year period.  Nearly forty faculty members and student groups were engaged by the artists.  
“Intellectual Ecosystem” contains a total of 160 minutes of original video content, projected in a custom programmed sequence to remix the clips.  The work is viewable from inside the ASRC and also animates the busy Urban Plaza from a 12’ x 16’ transparent holographic screen that, even when the projector is active, allows the activities of students inside the building to become another layer of the composition.  The title of the work is inspired by PSU Environmental Studies Professor John Reuter, who has called for the creation of new metaphors and the identification of characteristic patterns to allow people to grasp the immensity of natural processes.  

The installation was created in 2010 by artists Fernanda D’Agostino and Valerie Otani; you might recognize both names from other Portland public art projects that have appeared here previously. D'Agostino created Urban Hydrology and Patterns May be an Action, or the Trace Left by an Action along the MAX line at PSU, Icons of Transformation at North Portland's Overlook MAX stop

Otani created Voices of Remembrance and Prowform & Propform along the Yellow Line, Money Tree at the SE Powell Green Line station, and Folly Bollards at the downtown Peforming Arts Center, I mean, "Portland'5 Centers for the Arts". (Yes, that's an apostrophe-five, and it's there on purpose. It's a terminally silly name, and some marketing consultant probably made a ton of money thinking of it.) The two artists collaborated on the Flows and Eddies sculptures around the Smith & Bybee Wetlands nature area.

purple creature, sw 2nd

This little creature is painted in a downtown Portland doorway along SW 2nd near Taylor, next to the hyper-trendy Lúc Lắc Vietnamese place. It's been there for a couple of years without anyone painting over it, so I imagine it's supposed to be there. I have a sneaking suspicion it's from an anime or a video game, and I ought to be embarrassed about not getting the pop culture reference. If you know what it is, feel free to make fun of me in the comments below.