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.

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